Another one of the rising superstars in California’s wine scene is Paso Robles’s Scott Hawley. Scott and his wife Viquel created their Torrin Estate in 2006 with the release of three cuvées: A GSM blend (which also includes some Alicante Bouschet) called the Banshee, a Grenache-dominated Maven cuvée, and a Syrah focused Akasha release. I still remember tasting with Scott at the beginning when he was making wine at Eric Jensen’s Booker winery. We always tasted in the back barrel room where it was freezing, with the air conditioning running at full blast, and it was damn near impossible to taste or smell anything. Nevertheless, the wines were driven by their purity of fruit as well as their firm, structured profiles. It’s been interesting to see Scott’s wines evolve from this powerful, dense, blockbuster style to one of slightly more nuance and complexity. Nevertheless, he’s thankfully never lost sight of what makes this region so special; his wines never lack the fruit and richness that’s the hallmark of these limestone hillsides on the western side of Paso Robles. These are distinctive and singular wines that could come from nowhere else.
This small article looks at 10 vintages of his Grenache dominated Maven cuvée and the Syrah dominated Akasha. The Maven was one of the original cuvées (the lineup now includes numerous other releases) and is always 90% or more Grenache (the 2013 is 100% Grenache.) While the vineyard source was 100% James Berry Vineyard at the beginning, it included more and more of their Torrin Estate Vineyard fruit over the years, with the 2010 being all from the Torrin Estate Vineyard. Today, this cuvée is primarily from the Torrin Estate Vineyard yet can include varying amounts from the James Berry Vineyard. The wines have aged beautifully (I’d wager they’re fresher than many 12-year-old southern Rhônes.)
The Syrah-dominated Akasha cuvée has at times included small amounts of Grenache (it saw 5% Grenache in 2009) and like the Maven cuvée, has varied between the James Berry and Torrin Estate Vineyards over the past decade. This is a rich, full-bodied, powerful Syrah that’s up with the top examples of this cuvée in the world. It too has aged remarkably well, with more recent vintages showing slightly more purity and finesse, as well as polished tannins. As with a number of estates in California, Scott has experimented more and more whole clusters in the fermentation and this certainly shows in the new releases. I believe the goal here is to add another layer of complexity and while it’s certainly possible to go overboard with regards to stems, Scott has managed this beautifully.
As I hope these reviews show, these are singular, gorgeous wines well worth seeking out.
These wines were tasted at the estate in April 2018.