Connecticut College Magazine · Fall 2007

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Through the Grape Vine: Scott Hafner ´80, Managing Partner Hafner Vineyard

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Through the Grapevine

Through the Grapevine
Scott Hafner ´80 will answer alums´ questions about wine during an online chat Thursday, January 3.

Scott Hafner ´80, Managing Partner, Hafner Vineyard, will host an online chat about wine Thursday, January 3, 2008 @ 8 p.m. EST.

The Jan. 3 chat with Scott is over.

Thank you to Scott and all chat participants!

by Jordana Gustafson ´01


Scott Hafner ´80 holds a juicy clump of Cabernet grapes away from the vine and uses his thumb to roll two small ones into his hand. He tosses them into his mouth, tastes them and spits out the seeds.

“Yeah, they´re getting close,” he says, licking his fingers. “We´ll probably end up picking this week, particularly if this rain passes.” The Cabernet and Malbec vines form bright and dark green lines against the overcast Alexander Valley sky. A chain saw buzzes in the distance. The season´s first rain has energized Hafner´s 82-year-old father, Dick; he´s somewhere behind the row of pine trees near Sausal Creek, cutting up a fallen tree for firewood.

Hafner and his older brother, Parke, are the managing partners of the family-run winery, Hafner Vineyard. The 250-acre farm in Healdsburg, Calif., has been in the family since 1967, when Hafner´s parents bought the land as an investment. They had hoped its fruits would help offset the cost of college tuitions for four kids. Hafner was nine years old at the time.

“It wasn´t until my younger sister — the last of four — was in her final year of law school that the business was no longer in red ink,” he says. “So it didn´t pan out as a short-term investment as [my parents] had hoped.”
It did, however, evolve into a decades-long labor of love. This year marks the family´s 40th year of growing grapes and 25th year of making wine.

Shortly after purchasing the land, the family set to work pulling out the prune trees and pear orchards that had been planted during Prohibition and planting in their place Malbec, Cabernet, Chardonnay and Petit Verdot grapes. On weekends, they drove out from Berkeley to work the land. They brought their friends and worked half the day. Hafner´s mother, Mary, would serve up a picnic lunch, and the children would have the rest of the day off.

Looking out over the 100 acres of grapevines today (the other 150 acres are made up of rolling, golden hills, dotted with oak trees and grazing cows), Hafner remembers the place as it was when his family first acquired it: he can still smell the rich, jam-like aroma of prunes at harvest time and the sweet scent of ripe pears on warm days.

“But grapes ...” he says, staring down the rows of vines. “It´s a different smell,” he says. “It´s rich and ripe fruit — berry-like. I make jam, so I equate it to that, too.”
Hafner graduated from Connecticut College in 1980 with a degree in European history. He worked that year´s harvest at Louis M. Martini Winery in St. Helena before heading off on a six-month solo “trip-of-a-lifetime” to Europe. Shortly after returning in 1981, he met his partner, Bill Glenn. (The two celebrate 26 years together this year). At this time, Dick and Mary were building the winery. It was decided that Parke, with his degree in viticulture and fermenting science from UC Davis, would run the wine-making and production side of the business. The family had already decided on a direct sales model, and Hafner was to be in charge of this.

To prepare for the position while the winery was still under construction, Hafner got a job in direct sales for The Sharper Image in San Francisco, then a thriving, four-year-old company. By 1984, Hafner was back in Healdsburg heading up marketing, sales and communication for Hafner Vineyard.

Hafner is passionate about working with people and particularly about working side-by-side with his family — both his immediate relatives and his extended farming family that has been cultivated over the years. Some workers at the vineyard have been there for more than 20 years. A few are following in the footsteps of their mothers, and in one instance, a grandmother.

On any given workday, the winery office — with its massive bay windows looking out over the vineyards — bustles with activity. Hafner´s parents are at the office every day — Mary is the bookkeeper — as is Parke, any number of nieces and nephews, and Hafner´s 12-year-old Airedale Terrier, Maude. With the addition of Parke´s two dogs, Lily and Sassy, the place can sometimes sound like a kennel, Hafner says.

This proud alumnus also keeps his Connecticut College family close-by. Many of the patrons he communicates with throughout the year are fellow alumni, and he keeps a framed photo of Professor Emeritus of History Helen Mulvey on his desk — a “brilliant, witty” teacher who engaged Hafner intellectually and taught him to love studying.

Not surprisingly, Hafner says his family — not the wine — is what draws him to the business.

“I love wine. I enjoy it and I drink wine every night. But if my brother was making ... furniture, I´d want to sell that.” Hafner says that if he had his pick of all the wines in the world to drink, he´d choose his brother´s Cabernet every time.

“Part of it is the joy of pulling the cork on a bottle of wine, knowing that your brother made it. How lucky is that?”

Still, Hafner says, spending so much time surrounded by family in a small town can feel, at times, “provincial … and isolating.” The volunteer work he and his partner, Bill, have done over the years is as important to him as his work at Hafner Vineyard.

In the 1980s, Hafner served as an emotional support volunteer for a local AIDS service provider in Contra Costa County. At the time, many of Hafner and Bill´s friends were finding out that they were HIV-positive, so it was “a pretty compelling reason to volunteer,” he says.

Losing these same friends to AIDS imbued Hafner´s life with a sense of seriousness and purpose. By age 30 he had decided that if life could be so short, then he didn´t want to waste a day of it. He wanted to make every day count.

He served 12 years on the board of Horizons Foundation, the nation´s oldest gay and lesbian community foundation in San Francisco. During this time he also joined the trustees of the Pacific School of Religion, a progressive, non-denominational seminary based in Berkeley.

Today, Hafner serves on the board of directors for the Connecticut College Alumni Association. Bill, a psychotherapist, leads a men´s group at San Quentin State Prison.

“I love being here. I love my family. I love selling wine. I love contributing and trying to make a difference, and all of these roles that I´ve had have satisfied that.”


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