2008 Hook & Ladder Vineyards and Winery Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

Mission Codename: Five Alarm Pinot

Operative: Agent Red

Objective: After a protracted surveillance, infiltrate Hook & Ladder Vineyards and Winery. Secure their 2008 Russian River Valley Pinot Noir.

Mission Status: Accomplished!

Current Winery: Hook & Ladder Vineyards and Winery

Wine Subject: 2008 Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

Winemaker: Jason DeLoach

Winery Backgrounder: Three generations and 30 years after entering the wine trade, the DeLoach 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 DeLoach family name. The DeLoach Winery became synonymous with Russian River Pinot Noir and other noble varietals. After selling the DeLoach 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 Pinot Noir of remarkable distinction. The cooler maritime conditions of the region make the RRV ideal for growing Pinot Noir. The Russian River Valley in Sonoma is particularly well suited to producing exceptional Pinot Noir. 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. Read Agent Red’s mission report and tasting notes below for the full intel on this exciting wine.

Wine Spies Tasting Profile:

Look – The unique hues of this wine intrigued our tasting panel! Viewed from the side, the wine shows off the deep red color of cherry juice. When swirled, hues of reddish pink show through. As the wine settles, chubby legs move quickly down the glass.

Smell – Rich and warm, the wine leads with bright cherry, young strawberry, green fig, soft spice and subtle forest floor. After the wine opens up, additional aromas of black cherry, subtle mushroom and soft spice emerge.

Feel – Soft and light-weight on the attack, then the wine reveals a medium weight at the rear of the palate. A tart dryness then spreads from the edges, moving inward. Eventually, this dryness spreads from the tongue, to the lips and cheeks.

Taste – Tart cherry and earthy blackberry lead the way. Caramelized toasty date and black cherry follow. When the wine opens up, after some decanting, the flavors smooth and become more rich, as dark strawberry, ripe plum, clean earth, soft spice and soft toasted French oak follow.

Finish – Long in length, with dark cherry, hints of blackberry, brown spice, soft oak and black pepper add a hint of minerality.

Conclusion – This is a classic Russian River Pinot Noir, with a hint of earthen red Burgundy. This wine wowed our tasting panel with its bold but balanced character and great flavors. The DeLoach family has been making wine in the Russian River Valley for generations, and their experience in the region shines through in this easy-drinking, budget-minded Pinot Noir. We enjoyed our review bottles with roasted pork loin, brown jasmine rice pilaf and a field salad with avocado and pears. The combination was perfection and this food-friendly wine was the stellar accompaniment to our meal.

Mission Report:


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 RED: Greetings, Jason. We are thrilled to be showing your 2008 Russian River Pinot Noir today. Thanks so much for taking some time to answer questions for our Operatives today.

JASON DELOACH: Glad I can help.

RED: 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..

RED: 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.

RED: 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.

RED: Please tell me a little bit about the wine we are featuring today.

JASON: 2008 Estate Pinot Noir – this is a great Pinot, I’m really proud of the work that went into this wine. I love the vanilla notes, and the smokiness of this Pinot. It’s really well structured, and complex, I feel like you get new flavors with every sip.

RED: What is your favorite pairing with today’s wine?

JASON: Grilled Salmon with wild rice and mashed potatoes. Honestly, I love this wine with a little Two-Rock goat cheese on my deck just as much

RED: In your opinion, what makes the Russian River Valley so special?

JASON: In the Russian river valley, most mornings have a layer of fog that blankets the vineyards in the morning, then the fog burns off and we have very nice warm afternoons. this is great because the grapes are able to have a longer growing season which produces fruit that is very rich in flavor and is has perfect balance of sugar and acid. So as a winemaker it is my job to take that fruit and do whatever I can to create a wine that shows all of those wonderful qualities. Lucky for us we have over 300 acres of estate grown fruit that Cecil DeLoach has been farming for the last 30 years.

RED: What is occupying your time at the winery these days?

JASON: Everything really, Harvest work and logistics, cellar work, wine maintenance, building blends, getting our wines ready for the bottle, bottling logistics and constant quality control. It’s really never ending. We stay very busy for the most part, there are only 4 of us that are in full time production. Ooh, and sometimes I have to travel to do some winemaker dinners. but I try to avoid that as much as possible. Just kidding.

RED: 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.

RED: 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.

RED: 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!

Wine Spies Vineyard Check:

The Hook & Ladder Vineyards and Winery, in the Russian River Valley region, can be seen in this satellite photo.

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