Carl Kanowsky | Tasting Torrin and Lagom with Scott Hawley

Carl Kanowsky on Wine

Following up on our August visit at Torrin Winery with owner Scott Hawley and David Newell, his director of sales and hospitality: 

Despite its virtual cult reputation, Torrin and its sister label, Lagom, produce a minuscule 3,000 cases annually. So, it’s gained its status not by flooding the market but by the quality of its offerings. 

Let’s talk about some of those offerings. 

Our tasting began with the 2018 Lagom “Spanish Springs” chardonnay. Lagom, a Swedish word, means not too little, not too much, just the right amount. That’s quite an exacting title to put on your bottles. Terry’s ability to discern odors is much more refined than mine. She can recognize “just the right amount” of scent from better wines. On this, she picked up lemon, jasmine, gardenia and stone fruit. Now I did detect notes of lemon and overall citrus on the taste. The Spanish Springs has a fine balance of acid and fruit and is rather tasty. $70/bottle. 

Next up was the 2016 Lagom Santa Barbara County Pinot Noir. Scott told us about how he began bottling pinot in 2014 after Torrin had sold out for the year. He and his wife, Viquel, both like pinot, so they visited Bien Nacido, a legendary Santa Barbara County supplier of grapes as diverse as syrah, grenache, chardonnay, pinot noir and viognier. Using pinot from three regions, Bien Nacido, Solomon Hills and Duvarita, Scott aims to produce a wine that possesses balance, finesse and grace. Terry enjoyed this pinot, its nose of strawberry and cherry, and the tastes of licorice. It’s not heavy, with an excellent finish. 

Some wines age well, some don’t last longer than a few months in the bottle. A tasting acquires a special dimension when you can judge different vintages of the same wine side by side, to see if time has added or detracted from what was put into the bottle. Scott gave us the opportunity to taste both the 2016 Pinot and the 2018. I found the 2018 to be more robust, with baking spices in the aroma and strong dark cherry tastes. Both pinots are $70/bottle. 

Scott says he’s been told that there is a Hawley signature to his wines. He believes that the “signature” is linked to texture, to experiencing a wine that is both massive and ethereal at the same time, a wine that is consistent from front to back with excellent structure. 

Winemaker Scott Hawley. Courtesy photo.

Then we moved from Burgundy to Rhone, beginning with the 2018 Torrin “Le Devoir,” a syrah/grenache blend from Willow Creek and Adelaida AVAs in Paso Robles. There is a “kicker” of graciano, the result of “a happy mistake,” as Scott likes to call it. He thought he was planting a Spanish version of mourvedre but it turned out to be graciano. Apparently, several vineyards planted this as well, believing the same thing. Justin Smith of Saxum actually got it tested and discovered the truth. Rather than taking it out, Scott really liked it and decided to go with it. He found a home for it with this syrah blend. It has a strong acidity (courtesy of the graciano) but balanced with the berry and pepper characteristics of the syrah. I also got licorice and coffee notes. By the way, Le Devoir means The Duty. Scott, in his mind, had a duty to find a place for the graciano, which he did here. 

We finished with the 2018 Banshee. A mix of 36% syrah, 36% mourvedre and 28% grenache. It’s a core Torrin wine, one of the first three Scott made. It is thick and unctuous, with dark fruit. Both sweet and savory, this was my favorite of the tasting. Both it and Le Devoir are $85/bottle. 

COVID-19 has put a crimp on connecting with his followers, but Scott’s relatively new wine tasting facility (constructed in 2018) was busy when we were there. Tastings are by appointment only. Don’t miss Torrin/Lagom the next time you are in Paso. 

Carl Kanowsky is an attorney, a fledgling baker, an enthusiastic cook and an expert wine drinker. 

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