Staff Report

Buttonwood Farm Winery & Vineyard and winemaker Karen Steinwachs have announced the release of the Solvang winery’s hops-infused Sauvignon Blanc, called Hop On.

The pioneering hops-and-wine fusion is one of the first wines of its kind to be federally approved.

Like a craft beer, Hop On is a small-batch wine. Buttonwood plans to keep case count – and keg count – low, and batch production only as frequent as necessary, aiming to retain the freshness of the local and estate-grown hops used in the winemaking process.

The grapes used for Hop On are all estate grown; the base wine blend includes 93 percent Sauvignon Blanc and 7 percent Sémillon.

Steinwachs is deeply rooted in the beer world. She is a direct descendant of the original Pabst Brewing Company family, through her great-great-grandfather. She also has had a 17-year career in the wine industry.

Steinwachs left the tech industry in 2001 to start over again in the working world, completing her first harvest with Central Coast winemaker Norm Yost at Foley Estates, the Solvang property now inhabited by Lincourt Vineyards.

In 2004, Steinwachs moved on to assistant winemaker with Kathy Joseph at Fiddlehead Cellars, eventually landing at Buttonwood in 2007 as winemaker.

Steinwachs’ affinity with both beer and wine drove her to test what a marriage between the two might look like, as did her musings over the craft beer and cider world, and what they were doing to involve wine and grapes in their processes.

“Brewers have been aging their ales in used wine barrels for some time now, among other cross-over production techniques, and I figured maybe it was time to experiment with what could be considered the opposite process,” Steinwachs said. “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.”

Steinwachs and her winemaking team slightly dry the fresh hops destined for Hop On in the winery’s cold room, infuse the wine with the hops for a few weeks, and then return the Hop On to neutral French oak barrels for a few months.

Buttonwood Farm Winery & Vineyard, established in 1968, specializes in Bordeaux and Rhone varietals, and all of its estate wines are sustainably grown. With the help of Brian DeBolt from Pacific Valley Hops, Buttonwood recently planted a hopyard on the farm property to produce the hops bound for Hop On.

“We hope that Hop On will appeal to those who dabble in both worlds, wine and beer, and that it might even make wine fans out of some of those previously not on board with the grape,” Steinwachs added.

Buttonwood Farm Winery & Vineyard’s tasting room is at 1500 Alamo Pintado Road in Solvang. For more information, visit