Pixel Tracker

Wednesday, January 23 , 2019, 8:23 am | Fair 39º

 
 
 
 

Laurie Jervis: Buttonwood Winemaker Karen Steinwachs Blends Two Passions with Hop On

Her hops-infused sauvignon blanc wine is one of the first of its kind to gain federal approval

Karen Steinwachs, longtime winemaker and general manager at Buttonwood Farm Winery & Vineyard in Solvang, would be the first to tell you she’s a big fan of craft beer. Beer is even in her blood: Steinwachs is a direct descendant of the Pabst family brewing company via her great-great-grandfather.

So, after nearly two decades in Santa Barbara County’s wine industry, including stints at Foley, Fiddlehead and, since 2007, the family-owned Buttonwood, Steinwachs has combined two passions into one: Hop On, a sauvignon blanc wine infused with locally grown beer hops.

She notes that her decision to join Buttonwood was partly because of her desire to work on a combination farm/vineyard and create symbiotic relationships between the grapes and the farm’s other offerings, among them stone fruit trees — and more recently, a “hop yard.”

“It’s just under one acre in size but has four long rows planted to three different kinds of hops and is just outside the peach orchard,” Steinwachs said. “Brewers have been aging their ales in used wine barrels for some time now, among other crossover production techniques, and I figured maybe it was time to experiment with what could be considered the opposite process. I am myself both a beer person and a wine lover, and Hop On really takes signature elements of both and asks them to play well together.”

Like many craft beers, Hop On is produced in small batches in both kegs and bottles. Steinwachs and her crew just released the third batch, “the largest (of three) yet at about 100 cases.”

“(After the first batch), we were cautious about whether people would like it, and we want to keep the hoppy aromas fresh,” Steinwachs said.

The first batch, quietly released last fall, used Galaxy and Glacier hop pellets, while batch two included Crystal, Cascade, Chinook and Citra hops, all grown in Lompoc, and Pacific Valley Hops. Batch three is made up of Chinook, Cascade, Crystal and Columbus hops. The base wine blend of Hop On is sauvignon blanc (93 percent) and sémillon (7 percent) grapes; all are grown on the Buttonwood estate vineyard.

I asked Steinwachs if the federal approval process for Hop On differed from that for wines.

Hop On is a blend of estate-grown sauvignon blanc (93 percent) and sémillon (7 percent) with an infusion of dried beer hops.
Hop On is a blend of estate-grown sauvignon blanc (93 percent) and sémillon (7 percent) with an infusion of dried beer hops. (Buttonwood Farm Winery & Vineyard photo)

“Well, it shouldn’t have been different, but because no one has done one (a hopped wine) before, we had to go through some hoops we don’t normally jump through,” she said. “First, we had to do a ‘formulary,’ which is basically a recipe of how the beverage is made. I tried to explain to the TTB (Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau) that the hops don’t stay in the wine, and that it really is no different than a winemaker who would use oak chips and then remove them, but they were unconvinced.

“Then, once we had the formulary approval, we had to go through a label approval,” which is a normal step for acceptance of a wine, Steinwachs said. “But it was also different, because there were many restrictions on what we could call our product.”

After “a number” of label rejections, the TTB approved Hop On “as a white wine with natural flavors,” but it declined to allow any label reference to an appellation (the Los Olivos District, in
this case) or a vintage, she noted. However, the latter restriction has worked in Steinwachs’ favor: She can create batches of Hop On as needed instead of just once per year, which vintage rules dictate.

While the nose on Hop On is reminiscent of an IPA, the sauvignon blanc holds its natural acidity without the bitterness often associated with IPAs, Steinwachs noted. She and her winemaking team allow the fresh hops to dry slightly in Buttonwood winery’s “cold room,” infuse the wine with the hops for a few weeks, and then allow the Hop On to continue aging in neutral French oak barrels for a few more months.

This year is Buttonwood’s 50th anniversary as well as 35 years since the vineyard’s planting, and Steinwachs and the owners plan to celebrate with a remodeled tasting room and expanded outdoor bar area and, just possibly, a growler program for Hop On. For more information, click here or 805.688.3032, or visit Buttonwood on Facebook by clicking here.

— Laurie Jervis blogs about wine at www.centralcoastwinepress.com, tweets at @lauriejervis and can be reached via [email protected]. The opinions expressed are her own.

Support Noozhawk Today

You are an important ally in our mission to deliver clear, objective, high-quality professional news reporting for Santa Barbara, Goleta and the rest of Santa Barbara County. Join the Hawks Club today to help keep Noozhawk soaring.

We offer four membership levels: $5 a month, $10 a month, $25 a month or $1 a week. Payments can be made using a credit card, Apple Pay or Google Pay, or click here for information on recurring credit-card payments and a mailing address for checks.

Thank you for your vital support.

Become a Noozhawk Supporter

First name
Last name
Email
Select your monthly membership
Or choose an annual membership
×

Payment Information

Membership Subscription

You are enrolling in . Thank you for joining the Hawks Club.

Payment Method

Pay by Credit Card:

Mastercard, Visa, American Express, Discover
One click only, please!

Pay with Apple Pay or Google Pay:

Noozhawk partners with Stripe to provide secure invoicing and payments processing.
You may cancel your membership at any time by sending an email to .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

  • Ask
  • Vote
  • Investigate
  • Answer

Noozhawk Asks: What’s Your Question?

Welcome to Noozhawk Asks, a new feature in which you ask the questions, you help decide what Noozhawk investigates, and you work with us to find the answers.

Here’s how it works: You share your questions with us in the nearby box. In some cases, we may work with you to find the answers. In others, we may ask you to vote on your top choices to help us narrow the scope. And we’ll be regularly asking you for your feedback on a specific issue or topic.

We also expect to work together with the reader who asked the winning questions to find the answer together. Noozhawk’s objective is to come at questions from a place of curiosity and openness, and we believe a transparent collaboration is the key to achieve it.

The results of our investigation will be published here in this Noozhawk Asks section. Once or twice a month, we plan to do a review of what was asked and answered.

Thanks for asking!

Click Here to Get Started >

Reader Comments

Noozhawk is no longer accepting reader comments on our articles. Click here for the announcement. Readers are instead invited to submit letters to the editor by emailing them to [email protected]. Please provide your full name and community, as well as contact information for verification purposes only.

Meet Your Realtor Sponsored by Village Properties

Photo of Patricia Griffin
Patricia Griffin
"I am very hands on and feel that each transaction is special and different. My clients goals are foremost in what I do to bring about a successful transaction and I maintain relationships for many years."

Full Profile >

Daily Noozhawk

Subscribe to Noozhawk's A.M. Report, our free e-Bulletin sent out every day at 4:15 a.m. with Noozhawk's top stories, hand-picked by the editors.

Sign Up Now >