Gleason Family Vineyards Santa Barbara County Wine Regions Portfolio Announces New Sustainability Initiatives and Regenerative Agriculture Program


The Gleason Family Vineyards Santa Ynez Valley hotel brand group introduces Michael Vining as director of agriculture and sustainability, expands Roblar’s organic farm, adds flocks of sheep to Refugio Ranch vineyards and revives Roblar’s Buttonwood Farm. Solvang

July 14, 2022 – Santa Ynez, Calif. – The Gleason Family Vineyards Santa Ynez Valley brand portfolio (Roblar Winery and Vineyards, Refugio Ranch Vineyards, Buttonwood Farm Winery & Vineyard) has officially announced a series of new sustainability efforts for its Santa Barbara County vineyard and farm properties, as well as the introduction of Michael Vining as Director of Agriculture and Sustainability, overseeing all agriculture and sustainability initiatives for the entire portfolio.

Vining, which joined the Gleason Family Vineyards team in August 2021, has changed grape harvesting practices on the side of the companies’ wine operations by composting all vegetative waste from the cellar from the 2021 harvest in a new project located on the group’s Roblar Farm property in Santa Ynez. Grape pomace from Roblar Winery and Vineyards and Refugio Ranch Vineyards has been incorporated into the composting program and the company’s vineyard waste transportation contracts have been cancelled. Also part of the new composting program is all kitchen scraps from Roblar Winery’s tasting room, where Executive Chef Peter Cham creates farmhouse menus for visitors to the winery, as well as private menus for events at the Roblar Winery and the Roblar Farm.

At Refugio Ranch Vineyards, the Gleason family’s first property in the Santa Ynez Valley, the group returns the land to one of its former uses as pasture for farm animals, but this time, between rows of vines which cover 26 acres of the 415 acre Property. Before the start of the growing season, the vineyards of Refugio Ranch were covered and a flock of sheep joined the viticulture and grazing operation, along with a shepherd, with the guidance and services of Cuyama Lamb, based in Central California , a group of sheep engaged in regeneration. of California’s native grasslands and sustainable, ethically raised food and fiber production, which operates primarily in the coastal foothills of Santa Barbara County.

“We are building an agricultural team here, incorporating the vineyard and farmland into one regenerative system,” commented Michael Vining, Director of Agriculture and Sustainability for Gleason Family Vineyards. “We are a family-based business. And we want these lands we now steward to prosper, for our own families, for future generations, and for the entire Santa Ynez Valley community.

Santa Barbara native Michael Vining is no stranger to farming practices and their importance to various communities. In 1993, Vining completed his senior thesis at the University of California, Santa Cruz, titled “Growing Alternatives and Opportunity: Homelessness and Garden-Based Social Change in Santa Cruz”. After graduating and earning a BA with her degree in Community Studies, Vining maintained and managed several local community farms in the Santa Cruz area. His work on these farms has been featured in magazines like National Geographic, honoring his unique attention to design, color presentation and arrangement of locally grown fruits and vegetables.

Vining transitioned into a 15-year career in home planning, development, and construction, developing a successful construction business that operated in both Santa Barbara and Ventura counties. Vining draws on his dual experience in construction and agriculture in his new role with Gleason Family Vineyards, where he spearheaded projects such as the creation of a chicken coop and residence for the population of 200 chickens in Roblar Farm, all perched in a structure and yard made from reclaimed materials.

As part of Vining’s efforts, Roblar’s organic production farm, which previously occupied one acre, received a two-acre addition, which Vining planted as a “market garden” – a seasonal field containing more than 40 varieties of vegetables and herbs to supply the Gleason Family Vineyards kitchens, as well as the newly upgraded Roblar Farm stand which is located at the entrance to Roblar Winery and Vineyards at the corner of Roblar Avenue and Refugio Road. The stand regularly carries eggs and produce pulled directly from the Roblar farm for purchase by locals and visitors.

Additionally, beginning in June 2022, Vining and the Gleason Family Vineyards team have launched a new CSA program for Gleason Family Vineyards Wine Club members and residents of the Santa Ynez Valley, and the team also plans to launch community days where local residents are invited to walk the farm to glean produce, free of charge.

Roblar’s culinary platform also plays an important role in farm planning, with Chef Cham and Vining working hand-in-hand to plant what might be on a seasonal “chef’s wish list.” A stone’s throw from Roblar’s kitchens, Chef Cham selects fresh produce for his dishes such as beets that tint his smoked salmon deviled eggs, or Roblar Farm lettuces that support fresh salads like a black garlic Caesar , or radishes to garnish the avocado and seeded sourdough. toast, which also includes ricotta salata, puffed grains and a poached farm egg. More of these farm eggs can be found in a lunch offering, a tarragon egg salad sandwich with house-pickled mustard seeds, and Roblar Farm-grown shallots and celery. .

“It really is a dream to sit down in Roblar and eat the most amazing salad you’ve had in years, all with produce grown right next door. Although our main focus is still viticulture, it was a joy to work on improving our properties to showcase the additional riches that the Santa Ynez Valley has to offer, while being mindful of how we can use these outings as regenerative inputs for the continued health of this land,” said Matthew Bieszard, general manager of Gleason Family Vineyards.

In addition to Roblar’s bounty of fruits and vegetables, the Gleason Family Vineyards team also raises more spirited residents. Roblar Farm recently added a flock of Babydoll sheep, as well as Duroc-Hampshire pigs, both of which will add animal inputs to the farm’s soils and, in the case of the sheep, act as natural shearing tools. Beehives also dot Roblar Farm and Buttonwood Farm; powerful pollinators who are an integral part of the agricultural system of the Gleason family vineyards and provide the natural sweetness of honey to Chef Cham’s varied menus.

Over the next year, the Gleason Family Vineyards team will revitalize the 10-acre farm, two-acre orchard, small hop farm and 42-acre vineyard at the new Buttonwood Farm Winery & Vineyard in Solvang. . As part of a multi-year project, the entire vineyard trellis will be updated as the team works closely with vineyard management to monitor each block to better manage growth and yields, to produce the best possible fruit. The agricultural team also tends to Buttonwood’s agricultural crops, such as the property’s prized peaches, olives and pomegranates. A Buttonwood farm stand located in the tasting room offers these items for sale as they ripen, along with fresh sweet corn and popcorn, watermelon, squash, Asian pears, plums and apricots, as well as products from the Roblar farm. The restoration of Buttonwood’s famous peach lineup by Gleason Family Vineyards also means that canned peaches, mini peach pies and peach sorbet are available for sale.

The Buttonwood property, founded in 1968 on a principle of sustainability, is well placed to be part of the Gleason family’s plan to introduce agritourism programs for the public, essentially travel packages for those looking to learn more on regenerative agriculture methods in the food and wine industries in the Santa Barbara County wine region. Packages will include accommodation options at the Roblar Farm, dining opportunities courtesy of Portfolio Executive Chef Peter Cham, and of course, winery tours, vineyard walks and tastings with l Gleason Family Vineyards winemaking team of Chief Winemaker Max Marshak and Assistant Winemakers Kat Neenan and Brett Reeves.

Vining continued, “I use the term ‘sustainable fertility’ for what we’re trying to do with this land. We use organic methods to fertilize the soil, aiming for sustainable plant growth and optimal crop yields, while minimizing our environmental impact. It’s not just about ‘now’, it’s about cultivating this region for our future. »

Roblar Winery and Vineyards, located at 3010 Roblar Avenue (at the intersection of Roblar Avenue and Highway 154), Santa Ynez, CA, is open daily for wine tasting experiences and bottle purchases, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Advance tasting reservations are requested. Chef Cham’s weekly lunch menus are offered Monday through Thursday, full farm menus are offered Friday and Saturday, and a brunch menu is served on Sunday.

Buttonwood Farm Winery and Vineyard, located at 1500 Alamo Pintado Road, Solvang, CA, is currently open daily for outdoor wine tasting experiences and bottle purchases, from 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Advance tasting reservations are recommended. More information will soon be available on Buttonwood’s new dining options and menus.


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