Hook & Ladder Vineyards and Winery
2009 Russian River Valley Cabernet Sauvignon
California: Russian River Valley
What we say
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Mission Codename: Friends Among Wine
Operative: Agent White
Objective: Revisit Hook & Ladder Vineyards and Winery to secure an exclusive allocation of their 2009 Russian River Valley Cabernet Sauvignon.
Mission Status: Accomplished!
Current Winery: Hook & Ladder Vineyards and Winery
Wine Subject: 2009 Russian River Valley Cabernet Sauvignon
Winemaker: Jason De Loach
Winery Backgrounder: Two generations and 30 years after entering the wine trade, the De Loach family are still making extraordinary wines. Cecil, a retired San Francisco firefighter, and his wife, Christine, purchased their first 24 acres of grapes in the Russian River Valley. When the tired of seeing others making award-winning wines from their grapes, they launched their own wine label, under the De Loach family name. The De Loach Winery became synonymous with the Russian River Valley. After selling the De Loach label, the family launched the Hook & Ladder winery, whose purpose it is to “craft exceptional wines, from the highest quality grapes, that people love to drink.”
Regional Backgrounder: The Russian River Valley, in Sonoma County, produces a range of wines of of remarkable distinction. The cooler maritime conditions of the region make the RRV ideal for growing a variety of grapes. This AVA was officially designated in 1983, but many of the wines in the region used the designation as early as the 1970s (early in California’s wine history) with the many of the vines having been first planted in the early 1900s.
Wine Spies Tasting Profile:
Look – A deep and dark garnet robe that remains deep to the very edges with a dense but clear heart. When swirled, this wine settles quickly leaves slow fat legs many of which hang on the side of the glass for several moments before descending as thin streaks to the wine below.
Smell – Rich and redolent with abundant ripe dark fruit including dark cherry and blackberry framed by toasted oak and a touch of vanilla toast. Notes of both hot and baking spice, soft earthy undertones and savory hints invites a sip.
Feel – Plush, rich and generous this dry and full-bodied wine is smooth until mid palate when its finely textured but sturdy tannins, vibrant acidity and softly textured minerality adds structure. As this wine opens it smooths but retains its structure long into the finish.
Taste – Ripe and sweet dark black and red cherry, blackberry, currants and other dark fruit and blend with toasted and vanilla toasted oak flavors. Soft earthy undertones along with bittersweet cocoa, sweet baking and hot spice linger with a subtle savory component that lays just underneath the fruit flavors.
Finish – This wine’s ripe and generous fruit lingers long into the finish, and while the fruit gentle fades, the well structured tannins and soft earthy minerality lingers and dries the palate.
Conclusion – Once again, The Wine Spies are impressed with this selection from winemaker Jason DeLoach. The 2009 Hook & Ladder Vineyards and Winery Russian River Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. A delicious, and value oriented Cabernet Sauvignon with an inviting nose, a smooth but well structured palate and plenty of great dark fruit and complexity on the palate. Enjoy this wine with a grilled hanger steak and potatoes au-gratin. Enjoy now or cellar for the next five years.
WINEMAKER INTEL BRIEFING DOSSIER
SUBJECT: Jason DeLoach
WINE EDUCATION: This year will be my 15th harvest, I just turned 31. Most of my education is all hands on experience, I also did an internship in Chile, took viticulture at the Santa Rosa Jr. college and I did a winemaker course with the UC Davis Extension program. I also worked at a custom crush winery for almost 4 years as a cellar master.
CALIFORNIA WINE JOB BRIEF: Head winemaker at Hook and Ladder winery
WINEMAKING PHILOSOPHY: Make the best wine you can with the tools that are given.
WINEMAKER QUOTE: “Too much oak in a wine is a crime”
FIRST COMMERCIAL WINE RELEASE: At Hook and Ladder – Spring 2010
AGENT WHITE: Greetings, Jason. We are thrilled to be showing your 2009 Russian River Valley Cabernet Sauvignon today. Thanks so much for taking some time to answer questions for our Operatives today.
JASON DELOACH: I’m glad to be back on another covert mission with The Wine Spies!
WHITE: Was there a specific experience in your life that inspired your love of wine?
JASON: I was lucky enough to grow up in the wine industry. When I was 14 I started working for my Grandfather Cecil DeLoach every summer for half my summer vacation – but I couldn’t start working in the cellar till I was 18. So as soon as I turned 18 I started working in the cellar full time. I really liked the controlled chaos of harvest. I really like to work hard, I like team work and I love science. My dad got me hooked on science early on. So really at the time I just figured I would work towards someday being a cellar master..
WHITE: What wine or winemaker has most influenced your winemaking style?
JASON: I worked with a lot of wine makers. The 3 years before I started working for Hook and Ladder I was a cellar master at a custom crush winery. Dan Goldfield of Dutton Goldfield, Jeff Mangahas of Hartford Court and Dan Cederquist which was the wine maker for DeLoach vineyards for a long time. He also was a consultant at the custom crush winery where I worked. The thing that was great about working at a custom crush winery is that you work with Winemakers that have really different styles/approaches to what they do and want. There are Winemakers that are super proactive and others that kind of just let the wine do its own thing. I spent the first 6 years of my time just working in the cellar, so I have a pretty good feel for what can be done at a realistic level. I guess I lean towards being realistic but also I’m proactive and expect a lot of what we can accomplish at Hook and Ladder. I know this doesn’t make any sense, but I consider myself a realistic perfectionist.
WHITE: Who do you make wine for?
JASON: I make wine for Hook and Ladder Winery ha ha ha. No, really, my goal at Hook and Ladder is to make the very best wine I can with the tools that are given. I want to show case the best wine I can make, so I guess I answer to myself first – then Cecil.
WHITE: Please tell me a little bit about the wine we are featuring today.
JASON: The 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon comes from our Los Amigos Ranch south of Healdsburg on the border line of the Russian River Valley and Chalk Hill. The wine was aged for approx. 17months in a combination of French, Hungarian and American oak 15% to 20% which is new; also incorporated into that is 2nd 3rd and 4th year old oak so we get a nice oak profile that is not heavy, but just enough to compliment the fruit. To round out the mouth and add some volume to the wine we add just a touch of Merlot which comes from the same ranch. This is a nice well rounded wine with flavors of vanilla, full cherry mouth, raspberry, black currant, cocoa, cinnamon spice, with hints of earth and leather and a long cherry and spice finish.
WHITE: What is your favorite pairing with today’s wine?
JASON: This is a wine that would go great with a classic steak & frites .
WHITE: In your opinion, what makes the Russian River Valley so special?
JASON: Being on the edge of the Russian River Valley is great for varietals like Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Merlot because it still gets the coastal fog in the morning which burns off faster then it does in other parts of the RRV. So we still get the extended growing season along with the perfect amount of heat, Los Amigos Ranch tends to be 10-15 degrees warmer during the hot summer days, which produces fruit that has awesome rich flavors perfect for wine making.
WHITE: What is occupying your time at the winery these days?
JASON: Blending , bottling , and wine maintenance is pretty much what will keep us busy all the way to the end of July.
WHITE: How would you recommend people approach your wines and wine in general?
JASON: Well for our wines, really like people to take their time and let the wine open up, really take in the nose and when you taste the wine try to let your pallet guide you through the wine. At Hook and Ladder we make premium had crafted wines and we really put our full focus on everything we do. When we build a blends, by design the wine should take your pallet on a little journey, from the front of the pallet, to the mid pallet and on to the finish and take note of all the things that you can pick up along the way. We spent a great deal of time building wines that have a pallet that isn’t one sided or strong in one way and weak in another. We want the pallet and noise to be complete and full of character.
WHITE: Is there anything else you’d like to share with our readers?
JASON: I just really hope everyone enjoys our wines. I encourage you to take the time to learn about Hook and Ladder winery and its history. We really do have a great story and I just want to continue to make the best wines I can. Our wines really just keep getting better every year.
WHITE: Thank you so much for your time. We learned a lot about you – and your wine. Keep up the great work, we are big fans!
JASON: Thanks I really appreciate it, here at Hook and Ladder our mission is to make the best wines we possibly can with the tools provided and for a great value, of course I can’t forget to mention that we have approximately 375acres awesome Estate grown fruit farmed by Cecil DeLoach for over 30years. We have a great hard working wine making team, we try to keep things as “real” as possible and I couldn’t do it without them…..hope you enjoy the wine.
Wine Spies Vineyard Check:
The Hook & Ladder Vineyards and Winery, in the Russian River Valley region, can be seen in this satellite photo.
What the winery says
About This Wine:
We blended this Cabernet with a small amount of Merlot from the same ranch, and it’s aged in a combination of French and American oak barrels for 20 months.
About The Winery:
GROWERS FIRST – In 1970, San Francisco firefighter Cecil De Loach and his wife Christine
staked their claim in the wine grape business by purchasing 24 acres of old-vine Zinfandel in the Russian River Valley of Sonoma County. In the early seventies, the De Loaches decided to acquire additional vineyard land.
For several years they watched others make notable wine from their grapes before making the decision to produce wine under the De Loach label in 1975.
More than three decades later, Cecil and Christine sold that label and have continued their winemaking skills at the helm of a small family winery that employs a simple philosophy – craft exceptional wines, from the highest quality grapes, that people love to drink.
We consider each step of the winemaking process an opportunity to showcase the distinctive flavors contained within our carefully cultivated grapes. Every bottle of wine is a worthy representation of the best effort from each and every person at Hook and Ladder Vineyards and Winery.
OUR VINEYARDS TODAY – On 375 acres situated in Sonoma County’s Russian River Valley, our vineyards produce cool climate grapes widely recognized as some of the finest in the world. Grape growers of the early 1900’s recognized the sites of our vineyards as being uniquely suited for wine grape growing. Building on their knowledge and experience, we have matched the soil and climate of each parcel with the varietals most likely to achieve its full potential.
Cecil De Loach, owner and winemaster – For more than three decades, Cecil De Loach has farmed grapes in the Russian River Valley. He’s made wine from his grapes for just as long. There are those who have invested more time in the grapes of the Russian River Valley and made wine here for longer. But few have made such and impact on proving this region’s unqualified suitability for producing wines of world-class quality.
It was in the midst of a 16-year career as a San Francisco Fireman that Cecil discovered the Russian River Valley and grape growing. In 1970 he and wife Christine began looking for a vineyard where they could create a second career for themselves outside San Francisco.
They found Louis Barbieri’s twenty-four acre vineyard west of Santa Rosa. The vineyard held vines planted in 1905 and 1927, but Barbieri couldn’t entice his family to farm the vineyard. He needed a buyer and Cecil wanted a vineyard. This purchase would be the first of over 900 acres of Russian River Valley vineyards Cecil would farm over the course of the next three decades.
For the first six years Cecil sold his grapes to the Sonoma County Cooperative Winery in Windsor. At the same time he took classes in enology and wine chemistry at the University of California at Davis.
In 1975 he made his first wine, an old-vine Zinfandel. De Loach Vineyards would grow to more than 250,000 cases over the years and proved to be critical in introducing the name “Russian River Valley” to wine lovers world wide. The De Loach Chardonnays, Pinot Noirs and Zinfandels helped put the appellation on the map as one of California’s premier growing regions.
In the course of developing De Loach Vineyards, Cecil would build a state-of-the-art winery, build a second full-functioning winery designed exclusively to produce Pinot Noir, help start the careers of a number of now well-known winemakers, and become a leader in the industry serving as president of The Sonoma County Vintners Co-op, The Sonoma County Winery Co-op, The Sonoma County Wineries Association and Russian River Wine Road.
Cecil retired from the San Francisco Fire Department in 1982 after a 16-year career. His time as a fireman was as influential to forming his character as nearly any other aspect of his life. He chose the name “Hook & Ladder Winery” for his latest winery project to honor his years on the fire truck.
By 2003, Cecil and family sold the De Loach Vineyards brand, which continues today. Cecil moved on to found Hook & Ladder Winery in 2004. It would be a smaller project that allows him to showcase the best of his Russian River Valley estate vineyards.
Over the years, Cecil and Christine’s family have joined the effort. His oldest grandson Jason De Loach is our new winemaker; son Michael De Loach is the president of Hook & Ladder winery while grandson Joshua De Loach oversees West Coast sales. When not directing the progress of Hook & Ladder, Cecil is likely indulging his love of fishing, history books, or cooking for a large group, a talent he perfected during sixteen years of cooking for hungry firemen.
Jason De Loach – Jason De Loach was introduced to the wine industry in the customary way; physical labor. As a young man at De Loach Vineyards he eventually worked his way into the cellar. At the age of eighteen he became involved in harvest, crush, and later on became Production Coordinator as well.
After cutting his teeth at De Loach, Jason moved up to the title of Cellar Master for Balletto Winery, where he oversaw and operated a significant portion of the winemaking process. In his second out of three and a half years there, he also became the assistant Winemaker and lab technician under the well known Winemaking Consultant Dan Cedarquist. Also during this time under Winemaker Dan Goldfield he learned the importance of constantly monitoring oxygen levels amongst other things for quality control.
Keeping with the tradition of his grandfather, Jason attended viticulture classes, and then took courses in enology from the University of California at Davis. After helping produce a number of gold medal winning wines at Balletto, Jason returned to his family roots at Hook and Ladder in 2006.
At Hook and Ladder, Jason began as Cellar Master and soon became Winemaker. Jason has been producing outstanding wines ever since; having his pick of the very best fruit from over 300 acres of vineyards farmed by his grandfather Cecil De Loach for over 30 years, Jason continues to generate exceptional wines.
On the rare occasions when Jason is not overseeing the winery, you can find him at home on the family’s Los Amigos Ranch in Healdsburg with his wife Nicole and their German Shepard, Aspen. In the off season Jason will most likely be either flying real airplanes, or the models he builds at home, surfing, or training for his third degree black belt in Tae Kwon Do.
Aging: Aged in American and French oak barrels for 20 months