While Hook & Ladder Winery has only been in operation for a few short years, the winery's founders have been involved in the wine industry in some capacity for more than 40 years. In 1970, Cecil and Christine De Loach bought a 24-acre vineyard of old vine Zinfandel in the Russian River Valley region of Sonoma, Calif.
After several years of growing and selling grapes to various wineries, De Loach Vineyards began producing their own wines. Over a period of time, the De Loach family increased their land holdings to 375 acres of vineyards In 2003, the family sold the De Loach Vineyards label, but retained ownership of their vineyards. A few years later, the family again began producing wine under the Hook & Ladder label. Cecil and Christine's son, Michael is the president of Hook & Ladder and their grandson, Jason, is the winemaker.
Michael De Loach is one of many winery representatives who are in town this weekend for the annual Forks & Corks Wine & Food Festival. Michael will be pouring Hook & Ladder wines along with winemakers and/or representatives from six other wineries this Friday at Harry's Continental Kitchen on Longboat Key. The event is from 5 to 7 p.m., and Harry's will be pairing hors d'oeuvres designed to complement the wines being poured. The cost for this unique opportunity is $49 per person. For reservations, call 941-383-0777.
The 2009 Hook & Ladder Tillerman is an interesting red blend comprised of 51 percent Cabernet Sauvignon, with the remaining components split between Cabernet Franc,
Merlot and Sangiovese. This wine appears dark garnet in color, with the aroma of black cherry followed by flavors of black currant with the hint of raspberry. The Tillerman retails for approximately $16 a bottle.
The 2011 Hook & Ladder Russian River Valley Chardonnay also retails for approximately $16 and this wine will complement a skewer of grilled pink shrimp, onion and red bell pepper. One hundred percent of this Chardonnay is fermented in oak barrels and undergoes malolactic fermentation, with the result being a much more pronounced buttery and creamy feel to the wine in the mouth. This wine has citrus flavors, with some mineral notes on the finish.
In addition to the above wines, Hook & Ladder also produces Pinot Noir, Zinfandel, Sauvignon Blanc and Gewurztraminer among other varietals, with most of their offerings priced under $25 a bottle. Hook & Ladder was so-named because Cecil De Loach spent 16 years as a firefighter in San Francisco. After tasting several of their wines, I was not surprised to find that in just the few short years that Hook & Ladder has been producing wine, their popularity is on fire.
Jim Rawe, a family attorney in Bradenton, is an avid collector of fine wines. His column appears weekly. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.