Scott Hawley was one of the first Paso Robles winemakers I met, in 2008, as Paso Robles was on the cusp of becoming a major California wine area. Scott was one of a group of young creative winemakers that would help shape and influence Paso’s future wine culture and reputation.
What Wine is All About
My wife and I met Scott through Anthony Yount, (then winemaker for Villa Creek, who went on to become winemaker at Denner Vineyards and establish his label, Royal Nonesuch Farm). We arranged to meet Scott for a tasting in the barrel room at Booker Vineyards, where Scott made his wine. We spent a few hours talking and sipping through his first release (2006 vintage), while Scott also climbed over barrels so we could also try barrel samples (we had never experienced that before); we were an enthused captive audience. Leaving, I remember remarking to my wife something like “Scott just spent several hours with us, taught us so much about wine, and made us look at wine in a whole new way, he was great; what an amazing experience!” There was an entire, exciting wine culture lifestyle emerging and Scott was eager for others to discover, explore and enjoy it.
As time went on, we realized that our initial meeting with Scott demonstrated to us what Paso was really about: Making new friends, introducing them to wine in a fun way, and exposing them to a special group of people that have changed so many lives, including our own. Following Scott on his journey over the last 15 years has been a window into his soul, one of passion and a commitment to community and family. Despite success and prestige, Scott is the same low-key guy as when we first met. Happy to share a glass and chat, he is humble, gracious, and most thankful for his life.
Scott grew up in the small Central California agricultural town of Porterville. At that time, (early 1970’s) the population was about 15,000. He describes his family as very conservative, kind of like the movie “Footloose;” there was certainly NO alcohol! Working while growing up, Scott loved being outdoors, in the dirt, especially smelling the scent and aromas of the citrus trees. Agriculture was in his blood. Attending Fresno State University, Scott stumbled upon an enology program as a junior. It was fun and hands-on, plus there was a winery on campus, so “why not?” Scott didn’t think of this as a possible career until he took a class field trip to the Anderson Valley and Russian River. That trip changed his life. Talk about an “A-ha” moment! The vines, dirt, wines, outdoors, people, the overall feeling, plus the mystique of wine, and being able to create something that gave pleasure to others made Scott realize THIS was something he would just love to do for the rest of his life.
A Lot of Work, Some Good Fortune, and Another A-HA Moment
After graduating from Fresno State University in 1997 with an enology degree, the next decade would turn out to be a whirlwind, propelling Scott into a position as part of a group of trendsetting Paso Robles winemakers that would lead and shape the future reputation of Paso Robles’ wine country.
Scott’s first job was with Fetzer Vineyards; this was where his real education began. Scott immersed himself, learning every aspect of the wine business and winemaking, developing his talent, and honing his skills. Working in Australia, France, and around the world in different vineyards, he learned about and was exposed to vineyard characteristics, harvests, and blending, in addition to the business and marketing side of the wine industry.
Scott also made friendships and connections, which would turn out to be what would jump-start his career and reputation as an independent winemaker, mentor, and leader of the Central Coast wine industry.
Scott’s second A-ha (or maybe OMG!!) moment also occurred in 1997, when he met Pebble Smith, a veterinarian turned grape grower. Pebble was a “home brewer” and when Scott was poured a glass of Pebble’s home-brewed syrah, he said, “it was a mindblower.” What Scott later learned, was that Pebble’s acreage was located in what is one of Paso Robles’ premier vineyard terroirs.
Another connection Scott made was Eric Jensen of Booker Vineyards. This friendship would be life-changing and the catalyst for Scott’s starting his own label, Torrin. Eric was instrumental in introducing Scott to bankers that paved the way for him to purchase some of Booker’s acreage in 2005; as the saying goes, “the rest is history,” but what a story was evolving.
Scott’s professional and personal reputation was taking shape. Doors opened for him to source fruit from the area’s top vineyards, while his estate vineyard was maturing. In 2006 his first vintage was picked, bottled, and then released in 2008. He had three wines at this time: Maven, Banshee, and Akasha. When we met for the first time, Scott described each of the wines, the terroir, and his journey as we tasted and then he poured some Akasha. It was amazing, 100% syrah, the mind-blowing grape he tasted originally with Pebble Smith. A few years later, all three of Scott’s third (2008) vintage received scores of 95+ by Wine Spectator Magazine. Scott had arrived on the Paso wine scene in a major way.
Who is Scott Hawley
Scott Hawley is an exceptional winemaker. After 17 vintages, Scott has two labels, Torrin and Lagom. His wines reflect not only terroir using a minimalistic approach, but his personality as well. Scott’s dedication and hard work has been rewarded with a loyal following and the highest industry praise.
But Scott is more than a winemaker. Humble and unassuming, always with a smile, he has helped influence Paso Robles wine country and the wines we love to drink. He has been a consultant for Alta Colina, Caliza, and Jada and was an integral part of the team at Law Estate Winery for their first ten years. Scott also gives back. He has mentored such winemakers as Amy Butler (Ranchero Cellars), Kevin Riley (Prolux), Nick Elliott (Nicora), Orion Stang (Emercy), Philipp Pfunder (Law Estate Wines), Riley Hubbard (Hubba Winery), and Steven Martel (Kaleidos), who have gone on to achieve a high level of quality and recognition.
Scott feels one of his most impactful contributions to the community was being one of the founding members of MUST! Charities, along with Eric Jensen, Terry Hoage, and Doug and Sabrina Kruse (Jack Creek Cellars).
Most of all, Scott is a dedicated husband and father, that’s what makes life so worthwhile in the profession he chose. Scott appreciates what he does. When I asked him his philosophy, he replied: “Do what is right and responsible and leave the world better than when we found it.”
Producer of elegant wines, part of a welcoming community, mentoring others, giving back, and love of family is who Scott Hawley is.
On the tasting room wall is a quote that succinctly describes Scott and his family:
“We are small but on the verge of something big. We are believers in sustainability. We are in awe of our children. We are optimistic, passionate, and curious. We are laborers, visionaries, and good dinner guests. We are aware we should be doing more. We are dedicated to creating beautiful wines from the ground up. We are up for the challenge. We are Scott and Viquel Hawley, and our two boys Reece and Gage. We are family, and together, we are Torrin.”
If you are not familiar with Torrin and their wines, you need to be. When you sip Akasha, Banshee, Maven, or any of the wines Scott creates, you will taste his spirit, passion, and love of the earth and people. Let Torrin Wines blow your mind. Cheers.
Don Sonderling is a freelance writer covering California’s Wine Country lifestyle, and culture. He and his wife are constantly sipping their way from Santa Barbara to Napa, focusing on Paso Robles and the Central Coast, where they have explored for about 25 years. Don has earned his WSET2 (Wine and Spirits Education Trust) certification, has completed the Bourgogne Masterclass through the Napa Valley Wine Academy, and is a member of the LA. Wine Writers.
Focusing on the people and unique experiences to be had, Don’s goal is to have people read about California’s amazing wine country adventures, seeing it through his eyes, and say: “I want to go there, try that, meet them,” and enrich the lives of others as his has been, by exploring California’s wine roads.