The Gleason Family Vineyards Santa Ynez Valley Group of Hospitality Brands introduces Michael Vining as Director of Agriculture and Sustainability, expands Roblar Organic Ranch, adds herds of sheep to Refugio Ranch vineyards, and revives Solvang’s Buttonwood
July 14, 2022 – Santa Ynez, California – The Gleason Family Vineyards Santa Ynez Valley group of brands (Roblar Winery and Vineyards, Refugio Ranch Vineyards, and Buttonwood Farm Winery & Vineyard) has officially announced a series of new sustainability efforts for Santa Barbara County vineyards and farm properties, as well as introducing Michael Vining as Director of Agriculture and Sustainability, where he oversaw all agriculture and sustainability initiatives for the entire portfolio.
Vining, who joined the Gleason Family Vineyards team in August 2021, is changing grape harvesting practices on the side of the companies’ winery operations by composting all vegetable winery waste from the 2021 harvest at a new project located on the group’s Roblar farm in Santa Ynez. Grape pomace from Roblar Winery and Vineyards and Refugio Ranch Vineyards has entered a composting program and the company’s vineyard waste transportation contracts have been cancelled. Also part of the new composting program, is all kitchen waste from the Roblar Winery tasting room, where Executive Chef Peter Sham creates farm menus for winery visitors, as well as special menus for events at both Roblar Winery and Roblar Farm.
On Refugio Ranch Vineyards, the Gleason family’s first property in the Santa Ynez Valley, the group is returning the land to one of its former uses as grazing land for farm animals, but this time, among rows of vines covering 26 acres of the 415-acre estate. Before the growing season begins, Refugio Ranch’s vineyards are covered and a herd of sheep join the grape-growing and grazing process, complete with a shepherd, with guidance and services from Central California-based Cuyama Lamb, a sheep group committed to the regeneration of California’s native grasslands and sustainable food production. and ethically raised fiber, which operates primarily in the coastal foothills of Santa Barbara County.
“We’re building an agricultural team here, integrating vineyards and farmland into one regeneration system,” commented Michael Vining, director of agriculture and sustainability at Gleason Family Vineyards. “We are a family business. And we want these lands of which we are now agents to flourish, for our families, for future generations, and for the entire Santa Ynez Valley community.”
Michael Vining, a Santa Barbara resident, is no stranger to agricultural practices and their importance to diverse communities. In 1993, Vining completed his senior thesis while at the University of California, Santa Cruz, entitled “Increased Alternatives and Opportunities: Homelessness and Park-Based Social Change in Santa Cruz”. After graduating and earning his BA with his degree in Community Studies, Vining took over the management and administration of several community farms in the Santa Cruz area. His work on these farms has been featured in magazines such as National Geographic, honoring his unique interest in design, display of color, and layout of locally grown fruits and vegetables.
Vining has moved on to a 15-year career in planning, developing, building homes, and growing successful construction businesses operating in Santa Barbara and Ventura counties. Vining is drawing on his dual background in construction and farming in his new role with Gleason Family Vineyards, where he has led projects such as establishing a chicken farm and residence for Roblar Farm’s chicken groups of 200, all perched in a structure and yard made of reclaimed materials.
As part of Vining’s efforts, Roblar’s formerly organic one-acre farm received the two-acre addition, which Vining planted as a “market garden”—a seasonal field containing more than 40 vegetables and herbs to provide the kitchens of Gleason Family Vineyards, as well as the Roblar Pavilion. The newly improved Farm is located at the entrance to Roblar Winery and Vineyards on the corner of Roblar Avenue and Refugio Road. The stand regularly carries eggs and produce pulled straight from Roblar’s farm, for purchase by locals and visitors.
Additionally, beginning June 2022, the Vining and Gleason Family Vineyards team is launching a new CSA program for members of the Gleason Family Vineyards wine club and Santa Ynez Valley locals, and the team also plans to start community days where locals are invited to walk the farm to collect produce at no cost. .
Roblar’s cooking platform also plays a large role in the farm’s planning, with Chef Cham and Vining working side by side to grow what might be on the seasonal “Chef’s Wish List.” Just steps away from Roblar’s kitchens, the chef selects the freshest produce dedicated to his dishes such as beets that color smoked salmon eggs, Roblar Farm supporting fresh salads like black garlic, or radishes on top of his own avocado and seed. Toast, which also contains ricotta salata, puffed cereal, and poached farm eggs. More farm eggs can be found on the lunchtime show, a tarragon egg salad sandwich with house-picked mustard seeds, and Robler’s farm-grown shallots and celery.
“It is truly a dream to be sitting in Roblar and eating the most amazing salad I have had in years, all with produce grown right next door. While our primary focus remains on viticulture, we have had the pleasure of working on improving our property to showcase the additional riches that Santa Valley has to offer. Lenz, all while considering how these outputs can be used as regenerative input to the ongoing health of this. said Matthew Biszard, managing director of Gleason Family Vineyards.
In addition to rewarding Roblar for fruits and vegetables, the Gleason Family Vineyards team is also raising more enthusiastic 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 soil and in the case of the sheep, serve as natural mowers. Hives are also prevalent on both Roblar Farm and Buttonwood Farm; Powerful pollinators that act as an integral part of the Gleason Family vineyard’s growing system and provide the natural sweetness of honey for Chef Cham’s diverse menus.
Over the next year, the Gleason Family Vineyards team will revitalize the 10-acre farm, 2-acre orchard, mini-jump yard, and 42-acre vineyards at the newly acquired Buttonwood Farm Winery & Vineyard in Solvang. Under a multi-year project, all the vineyards’ trellises will be modernized while the team works closely with the vineyard management to monitor each block to better manage growth and crops, to produce the best possible fruit. The farming team also takes care of Buttonwood’s agricultural crops, such as peaches, olives and pomegranates. The Buttonwood farm stand in the tasting room displays these items for sale as they are ripe, as well as fresh sweet corn, sprouted corn, watermelon, squash, Asian pears, peaches, and apricots, along with produce from the Roblar farm. Gleason Family Vineyards’ restoration of Buttonwood’s famous peach programming, also means peach preserves, mini peach pies, and peach sorbet are available for sale.
The Buttonwood property, first founded in 1968 on the principle of sustainability, is set to become part of the Gleason family’s plan to offer agricultural tourism programs to the public, especially travel packages for those looking to learn more about renewable farming methods in both the food and wine industries in The wine region of Santa Barbara County. Packages will include accommodation options at Roblar Farm, dining opportunities courtesy of Executive Portfolio Chef Peter Sham, and of course visits to wineries, vineyard walks, and tastings with the Gleason Family Vineyards winemaking team made up of master winemaker, Max Marshak, and assistant brewers. Wines by Kat Ninnan and Brett Reeves.
Vining continued, “I use the term ‘sustainable fertility’ for what we are trying to do with this land. We use organic methods to fertilize the soil, with the goal of achieving sustainable plant growth and optimal crop yields, while keeping our environmental impact to a minimum. This is not just ‘now’, but It is about cultivating this area for our future.”
Roblar Winery and Vineyards, located at 3010 Roblar Avenue (at the intersection of Roblar Street and Highway 154), Santa Ynez, California, is open daily for wine tastings and bottle purchases, from 11:00 AM to 5:00 PM. Advance reservation is required. Chef Cham’s weekly brunch menus are offered Monday through Thursday, full farm menus on Friday and Saturday, and a brunch menu on Sunday.
Buttonwood Farm Winery and Vineyard is located at 1500 Alamo Pintado Road, Solvang, CA, and is currently open daily for outdoor wine tasting experience and bottle purchases, from 11:00 AM to 5:00 PM. Advance tasting reservations are recommended. More information will be available soon, on Buttonwood’s new food service options and menus.