Wine of the Week
Hook and Ladder
Back in 1970, a San Francisco firefighter named Cecil DeLoach bought a few acres of land planted in Zinfandel in the Russian River Valley with the goal of having something to work with on his days off. He eventually made wine, enjoyed some success, and kept plowingthe profits back into the company, finally creating a huge winery called DeLoach.
Three decades later, he sold the label and is now in the odd position of competing with a wine with his name on it, which he doesn't own. Instead, he retained the fruit from his 375-acre farm in the Russian River Valley and started a new winery, naming it after the fire truck he worked on, the hook and ladder.
The new winery is a much smaller operation. Each of the wines has a specific character and delicious concentration, and all qualify as bargains. Their most popular wine is a great red called the Tillerman ($15), a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Sangiovese. It's a good wine for Texas foods like grilled meats, burgers, and barbecue. The Russian River Valley Chardonnay ($15) is a nice, crisp white wine for quaffing around the back yard, one of the best I've tried lately.
True to the DeLoach heritage, Hook and Ladder also makes a big-boned Sonoma Zinfandel ($20). Given the skyrocketing prices of zins over the last few years, this has to qualify as a steal. With vines dating back to 1895, this wine is about as spicy as you get, with just the right amount of jammy fruit to make it work with big tomato-sauce dishes like pasta and meatballs.
You can find their wines at Grape Vine Market, Cork & Co., and at fine wine shops.