Karen Steinwachs

Karen Steinwachs

Buttonwood Farm Winery (Winemaker)

Seagrape Wine Co. (Winemaker & Owner)

Karen Steinwachs earned a degree in Business Management and spent 20 years in the high-tech world. In 2001, after she’d had enough of gazing at a computer screen in a high-rise tower for 18 hours a day, she decided she needed a physical job—a job in the fresh air, and a job with a stress level several notches closer to earth. Karen wondered if she could possibly break into the world of winemaking.

During the years she spent based in Southern California, she had become a fan of wine in general and of Santa Barbara County wines in particular. She and Dave Robinson, her husband, took regular trips to Northern California and over time became acquainted with a handful of winemakers.

After being turned down by a few, she asked Norm Yost, then the winemaker at Foley Estates, for a harvest job. Norm was not at all encouraging, saying it would be hard work – not nearly as romantic as people think – he could only pay her $7 an hour, and she would be laid off when the harvest was done. She took the job, and although Norm was right about the work being hard, by the time harvest was over, Karen would never look back at her life of high-tech, high heels, and power suits. Her original six-week job at Foley stretched to three years before she was off to Fiddlehead Cellars and an assistant winemaking position working with Kathy Joseph.

While at Fiddlehead, Karen honed and expanded on the skills she learned at Foley, taking on the day-to-day responsibilities of looking after the wine, so that after three harvests at Fiddlehead, she knew she was ready to take the next step.

Karen first became acquainted with Buttonwood Farm Winery when she worked at nearby Foley Estates. Today, she crafts Buttonwood’s old-vine fruit into wines of character and distinction. As she produces each wine with care, Karen continues to build on her dream of working with a team that produces an expression of the land as well as her dream of crafting wine that will provide pleasure at the table and in the glass. Buttonwood Farm produces red and white varietals and blends, including Sangiovese, Merlot, and Sauvignon Blanc.

She has her own label, Seagrape Wine Company, which offers Chardonnay and Pinot Noir vinified at the Buttonwood facilities. Karen’s interest in Pinot Noir is reflected by her long-time membership on the board of World of Pinot Noir.