I discovered Hook and Ladder Vineyards by accident in the spring of 2006. On a one day trip through Sonoma, I stumbled upon the winery about a week after they received their tasting room permit. Owned and operated by the De Loach family (who used to own De Loach wines), Hook and Ladder makes a number of wines including Zinfandel (a Russian River Valley specialty), Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Gewurztraminer, and some red blends.
One of the best wines they make is Zinfandel. The 2006 “Third Alarm” Reserve Zinfandel is a big Zin (14.5%) alcohol that has cherry and ripe fruit notes on the nose. Tasted without food, there are notes of berries and consistently ripe fruit throughout the glass. Paired with tomato-based beef vegetable soup, the ripe fruit flavors persist but spicy undertones (think light pepper) also develop. Overall, this is an excellent wine that is easy to drink. It can be had for $30 from the vineyard. (Rating ***)
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