photos by Karen Steinwachs, winemaker, Buttonwood and Bob Dickey
story published in the Santa Barbara News-Press on 6/18/15
|Enjoying Red, White & Blues by the Buttonwood vines (Steinwachs)|
The Red, White & Blues Concert – the annual fete that blends two of our area’s top wine labels with some of blues music’s top talent – is easily one of Karen Steinwach’s favorite events of the year.
“It’s really casual,” the winemaker at Buttonwood Farm tells me, as we reminisce about the July 4th-inspired concert we’ve both attended in years past. This year’s event, slated for Saturday, June 27th, from 2 to 6pm at Buttonwood, marks its 20th anniversary. “People bring these elaborate picnics, families comes together and spread out a big blanket, and we all drink wine and eat and listen to music by the vines.”
The venue has certainly been part of this party’s appeal over the years: a rolling green lawn flanked by Buttonwood Farms’ blooming grapes, swaying trees and a shimmering pond. Set on a plateau above the tasting room off Alamo Pintado Road in Solvang, it’s a beautiful portion of this expansive and fertile property that visitors rarely get to see.
|The music stage is cradled by the vines and the pond (Steinwachs)|
The wine is a draw, too, of course. This event has long been a partnership between Buttonwood and Rick Longoria, the celebrated Lompoc-based winemaker who is also a big blues fan. His Blues Cuvee red wine blend sells fast each vintage, in part, because of the label; since 1993, it’s been the canvas for an artist series of commissioned paintings celebrating blues artists, making it a yearly collector’s item for many wine lovers. “Rick is also the one who picks the band” for the Red, White & Blues Concert, Steinwachs says. This year, local favorite The Stiff Pickle Orchestra will open for the celebrated Arthur Adams and His Blues Band, which is back by popular demand.
|Karen Steinwachs (Dickey)|
As the blues play, guests can buy Buttonwood and Longoria wine. Steinwachs is still finalizing her three selections for the afternoon but is leaning toward two of her latest releases: a malbec and a grenache, estate wines that each take an acre of growing space on Buttonwood Farm. “The Malbec is a classic carnivore wine,” Steinwachs tells me. “But it’s a lot fruitier than our other Bordeaux wines, with a great blackberry character and tannins that are not so assertive.”
|Rick Longoria (Dickey)|
Buttonwood’s recent release of these two reds is no coincidence. The winery always puts wines on the shelf based on the calendar. “And this is definitely barbecue season,” says Steinwachs, who’s been making Buttonwood’s wines for the last eight years, following stints at Fiddlehead and Foley.
Her third latest release is the ever-popular Zingy, a zippy, tangy, acid-fueled rendition of sauvignon blanc that screams summer; it’s a favorite in our household year after year.
This month’s 20th anniversary concert will be a welcomed respite for Steinwachs, who’s been tackling growing season curve balls wrought by California's drought. Critter influx is on the rise – from coyotes who like to nibble on drip lines to ground squirrels who like to nibble on stems to deer who like to nibble on leaves. But her vineyard team has successfully managed to battle the water shortage with aggressive pruning and by taking the cover crop all the way to the dirt.
“We have these beautiful shiny green leaves now,” Steinwachs says. And while “grape clusters aren’t looking as big” as in the past three years, the optimistic winemaker says, “that’s ok with me!”
The Red, White & Blues Concert is a family-friendly event that will draw about 250 wine and music lovers. Tickets are $54 for adults and $22 for children, with free entry for kids six and younger. For your tickets, click here.