Q&A with Riley Hubbard of Law Estate Wines

If you’re not familiar with Law Estate Wines you’re missing out. They are one of those Paso wineries have it all going on. Sure, the wines are great, but they also have great people working there, the facility is stunning, the views are Paso perfect, and to top it all off they are SIP (Sustainability in Practice) Certified (you can read more about what this certification means here.

I’m happy to present our latest Q&A with assistant winemaker, Riley Hubbard. We have known of Riley for some time, originally meeting her when she worked at L’Aventure Winery. The few conversations we’ve had over the years made this a fun Q&A to do. I learned quite a bit about her and her wine industry journey. Take a look below and let me know what you think.

Matt: How long have you been in the wine industry?

Riley: I started in the wine business in the tasting room at L’Aventure Winery in 2008.

Matt: What year did you first make wine?

Riley: I was working in the tasting room, but really wanted to learn more and get involved in the production side of things.  So I pestered Stephan to be one of his interns for harvest of 2008.  I didn’t even know how to use a pump.  I am very grateful he had so much patience with me and let me work with him for another two vintages.

Matt: Have you only been in the wine biz here in Paso Robles?

Riley: After working at L’Aventure for three years, I went to Australia and worked a vintage in the Barossa Valley at Torbreck Winery.  During this time, I was accepted into an International master’s program for Enology and Viticulture in Montpellier, France.  I packed up and moved to France and while I was there, I worked a vintage for Domaine D’Aupilhac in Montpeyroux (Northwest of Montpellier, in the Languedoc). All amazing experiences, but I love the wine, people and region of Paso Robles so much I couldn’t stay away for long.

Matt: Favorite aspect of making wine in Paso Robles?

Riley: My favorite? That’s hard..Probably the community and the people.  I started my career here and from that have met so many amazing people along the way.  All my relationships throughout the wine industry and what they bring to my life is what I cherish most about making wine in Paso.

Matt: Favorite aspect of the winemaking process?

Riley: I love harvest time! It is such a fun experience, from picking the grapes to barreling down.  The process of turning grapes into wine is such a positive, authentic experience. I love the feeling of being dead tired at the end of the day. That feeling of accomplishment is quite rewarding!

Matt: Can you name three other winemakers that stand out to you in Paso Robles? This can be because they have mentored you, you enjoy their wines, or they are really pushing the envelope?

Riley: I adore everyone at L’Aventure, where I first got started.  Stephan Asseo, Guillaume Fabre and Dave Debusk were the best role models I could have asked for.  Any winemakers that also manage vineyards inspire me (Terry and Jennifer Hoage, Matt Trevisan, Scott Hawley..)  Some of my favorite whites come from Amy Butler and Vailia Esh (not sure if the whites are all from Paso though.). I can’t choose only three!

Matt: What is your wine making philosophy?

Riley: I love making wine that is interesting.  To me, interesting wine could be in the nose, the mouth, the story, the vineyard, the winemaking technique or style.  I like when a wine sparks my interest in one, or more than one of these ways.  Personally, I like to make “terroir” wine and not “marketing” wine.  If you make wine from a specific place, I think it should show you where it was grown through its characteristics.   Wine that can tell you where it was grown or what year it was made in just from smelling and/or tasting, intrigues me.  A wine that is made to taste the same year after year, or made to try to fit some mold that the consumer will like, is kind of boring to me.  Wines that I appreciate drinking are wines with personality.  It doesn’t have to be a text book, “flawless” wine. It just has to bring something unique to the table.

Matt: Are you involved in the farming side of wine or strictly production?

Riley: At Law, mostly just the wine production.  I’m in the vineyard quite a bit during the season, but don’t do any farming really.  We have weekly meetings with the vineyard team to make sure everything that needs to happen is happening.  I’m hoping to be more involved in the vineyard as time goes on.

Matt: Favorite wine variety to work with?

Riley: I think Syrah is interesting to work with, because it really shows a sense of place.  Syrah is so versatile and can show such extreme olfactory differences depending on where it is grown. Whether it was grown in a warm or cool climate, and/or in varying soil types, I like how Syrah really shows its sense of place.

Matt: Favorite wine variety to drink?

Riley: That is hard. From Paso? I’d have to say Mourvedre. The warm climate allows for a long growing season that gets Mourvedre ripe here, where as in some other cooler places, it might not get ripe enough to show its full potential. Chardonnay and Pinot Noir are probably my favorite varietals to drink right now.

Matt: When not drinking wine what is your go to beverage?

Riley: Probably beer. And water.  But I don’t really enjoy watery beer.

Matt: Some time ago I did a blog post on “female winemakers”. In it I wondered why a male winemaker is called a winemaker but a female winemaker is called a female winemaker…what are your thoughts on women winemakers? Do you get treated differently? Do you think female winemakers have it good or bad in the industry (specifically here in Paso)?

Riley: I think it is great that more women are making wine now! For me, I do get treated a little differently.  But I don’t necessarily think it is a bad thing. Nobody really suspects a female to be the winemaker.  But I kind of like surprising people.  I also think it doesn’t hurt to be in the minority within this industry to showcase uniqueness.

Matt: Favorite food and wine pairing?

Riley: Chardonnay (not too oaky) and triple cream brie! I could live off this.

Matt: What are your ultimate goals in the wine world?

Riley: I would love to have my own vineyard and make wine from it.  I really would love to have a self-sustaining property with chickens, pigs, bees, and a big garden. I also would like to make that triple cream brie myself.  Big dreams!

Matt: What are some of your favorite aspects of working at Law Wine Estates?

Riley: I was still in Europe when I took the job at Law.  I had never seen it or tasted the wine, and I when I got here, I realized I totally scored! The vineyard is amazing at 1800 feet, planted heavily to Grenache, which does extremely well in the Paso heat.  But we also get to play with varieties like Tempranillo, Carignan, and Cabernet Sauvignon.  The wines all have a good amount of natural acidity, and particular chalky tannins that also show in other winemaker’s “Law vineyard designate” wines.
Other than the vineyard and the wines, the facility is a dream to make wine in.  Scott Hawley designed the production flow and you can tell he has been making wine for quite some time because everything was thought out pretty perfectly. The people are great too! Orion and Scott make it fun to make wine!

Matt: Are you 100% estate or pulling grapes from elsewhere?

Riley: Law is 100% estate grown!  We do sell a small amount of fruit.  Locally, Guillaume Fabre of Clos Solene gets a couple tons and so does Nick Elliot from Nicora.

Matt: How many acres of grapes does Law have?

Riley: We have about 55 acres in total planted.

Matt: What varieties are planted?

Riley: A lot! Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre, Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot, Petite Sirah, Carignan, Tempranillo, Marsanne, Roussanne, Clairette Blanche, and a tiny bit of Viognier.

Matt: How many cases of wine per year?

Riley: Around 4000 cases/year.  I think we will probably get up to around 7000 max.

Matt: Law is SIP Certified, why was this important to the owners and the wine team?

Riley: We want to be responsible land/vineyard owners and do our part to help this area still be able to produce wine 100 years from now! Being sustainable and mindful of what we are putting in our earth is key to that kind of success.  From the social and economic side, we’re living out the Law’s family dream and there is a great sense of camaraderie with everyone working here.

Matt: Favorite Paso Robles wine event to attend as a winemaker and/ or as a wine consumer?

Riley: I don’t attend a lot of the consumer events, but I think Harvest Festival is probably the most fun and interactive.  All the wineries do a little something different and everyone is usually harvesting or making wine.  I think it is an exciting time to see Paso Robles.  I might be a little biased though.

Matt: Two favorite hangouts in downtown Paso Robles?

Riley: I like Artisan a lot!  I eat there more than I can afford.  Il Cortile has amazing food and a great wine list! The Pour House has great beers on tap and fun live music some nights!

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