Gleason Family Vineyards buys Buttonwood Farm Winery & Vineyard

The sign at the entrance to the tasting room, and up a winding road, the vineyard and winery, is shown at 1500 Alamo Pintado Road in Solvang. By Laurie Jervis

Late land preservationist Betty Williams founded Buttonwood in 1968

By Laurie Jervis

Contributing Writer

Gleason Family Vineyards has announced its acquisition of Buttonwood Farm Winery & Vineyard, a 106-acre property on Alamo Pintado Road in Solvang.

Gleason Family Vineyards also owns Refugio Ranch Vineyards and Roblar Winery & Vineyards, as well as Roblar Farm, an organic produce farm.

In 2004, Kevin and Niki Gleason purchased a 415-acre cattle ranch off South Refugio Road along the northern edge of the Santa Ynez River. In 2006, the couple planted 26 acres of vines and, in 2008, released their first vintage from the estate as Refugio Ranch Vineyards, according to information released in a statement Thursday morning.

In 2017, the Gleasons bought Roblar Winery and Vineyards, Royal Oaks Wines and a former horse ranch called Royal Oaks Ranch. In 2018, that ranch was planted as an organic produce farm — now known as Roblar Farm.

Karen Steinwachs, Buttonwood’s winemaker for 14 years and one of Santa Barbara County’s pioneering women winemakers, will remain part of Buttonwood’s winemaking team, and the property’s winery will continue to operate, according to the statement from Gleason Family Vineyards.

The late Betty Williams, a founder of The Land Trust for Santa Barbara County who was well-known for her devotion to land preservation and community planning, founded Buttonwood in 1968 as an equestrian facility, according to the website.

Williams served on the Santa Ynez Valley General Plan Advisory Committee that helped shape Santa Barbara County’s General Plan for the Santa Ynez Valley.

Buttonwood Farm Winery & Vineyard features outdoor tasting in a sprawling, shaded garden area adjacent to fruit trees.
By Laurie Jervis

Focused on organic produce before it was common, Williams planted organic fruits and vegetables on her property, and, in 1983, started to plant the vineyard.

Buttonwood’s historic, sustainable vineyard showcases Bordeaux-style wines.

The vineyard has evolved over time, and small blocks of grenache blanc, chenin blanc, grenache, syrah, sauvignon musqué and malbec have joined the original plantings of merlot, cabernet franc, cabernet sauvignon, sémillon and sauvignon blanc. The entire vineyard is own-rooted.

Bret Davenport, president and managing partner of Buttonwood along with his wife, Barry Zorthian, and partner, artist Seyburn Zorthian, has continued Williams’ vision for the property.

Williams and Davenport first partnered in 1983 with the planting of the vineyard, followed by the building and bonding of the winery in 1989.

Seyburn Zorthian has designed all of Buttonwood’s labels since its founding, working from her studio on the property since the early 1970s.

The Gleason Family Vineyards’ winery facility on the Roblar Winery & Vineyards property at Roblar Avenue and Highway 154 in Los Olivos will serve as the winemaking hub for all three brands, led by head winemaker Max Marshak, according to a statement released Thursday.

Buttonwood Farm Winery & Vineyard includes a 42-acre estate vineyard, winery, tasting room and gardens, a two-acre orchard, small hop yard for the brand’s “Hop-On” hopped wine, and 10 acres of rotated seasonal produce.

“It’s been fascinating to review our family’s 50-plus years here on Buttonwood Farm,” said Davenport.

“We’ve observed the evolution of our wine region, partnered with wonderful people to create special occasions with the land as the backdrop, and enjoyed the wine and food that we grew. My partners and I feel that we are handing over the Buttonwood legacy to the right people, who share our philosophy of preserving the intrinsic character of this special land. We look forward to seeing this new chapter in Buttonwood’s history unfold.”

Kevin Gleason agreed. 

“Buttonwood farm and vineyard property is iconic, and the family behind it has such deep roots in this wine region, and in the area’s agricultural community,” he said. “As a family-owned and operated group, this resonated highly with us, and we look forward to becoming new stewards for this land to continue to prosper and evolve.”

Matthew Bieszard, general manager of Gleason Family Vineyards, called Buttonwood a good fit for the company’s existing portfolio due to Buttonwood’s “ideal positioning within the Santa Ynez Valley wine region,” the farm component of the property and the “hospitality for which Buttonwood is well known.”

Buttonwood Farm Winery and Vineyard’s tasting room is currently open for outdoor-only wine tasting and bottle purchases from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Reservations for tasting are recommended.

Laurie Jervis tweets at @lauriejervis and can be reached via winecountrywriter@gmail.com. The opinions expressed are her own.