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Hook & Ladder, “The Tillerman” White 2005

Hook & Ladder, “The Tillerman” White 2005

by Tim Elliott on August 17, 2006

Hook & Ladder, “The Tillerman” White, Russian River Valley 2005 ($16/sample provided by the winery)

Hook & Ladder Winery was started by former San Francisco firefighter Cecil De Loach who purchased an old-vine Zinfandel vineyard in the Russian River Valley. This was back in the mid-1970’s when the California wine business was much smaller and single varietal wines were not as popular with Americans as they are today. Flash forward 30+ years and Hook & Ladder has almost 400 acres of vineyards in Sonoma’s sought after AVA for Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. So it’s interesting that it has taken me until now, and a generous wine blogger sampling campaign spearheaded by PR wine blogger Tom Wark, to get me to try one of Hook & Ladder’s wines. I don’t really know why I never picked up a bottle as I’ve seen their wines in the store and the brand name certainly is catchy. At any rate, I’m pleased I did try their white blend, “The Tillerman”, and look forward to finding other wines to buy and blog/podcast here in the future.

The Tillerman is the name used on two blends the winery produces named in honor of the firefighter who steers the fire-truck from the back so the ladder doesn’t collide into buildings as the truck turns. The red version is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Sangiovese. Hook & Ladder is a bit coy about the blend of the white version only disclosing in the materials that accompanied the samples as a blend, “…of three varietals made from estate grapes.” Since the winery also grows and makes Gewürztraminer and Chardonnay, I deduced these being in the blend. After tasting the wine, I guessed that the third variety to be either Viognier, Verdejo or possibly Muscat due to the Rhone-blend aroma and flavor profile (think Sablet blanc without the banana). Whatever grapes are in the bottle, I really liked the result (disclosure: after tasting this wine I emailed Michael De Loach who disclosed the varieties and percentages of the blend; since these would likely cause the reader some undue bias, I will not post them… try the wine and comment here what you think it is made from and in what percentage).

Tasting Notes:

Light straw in color with a hint of green. Aromas of peach, lychee and grapefruit. On the palate the ripe peach flavors are joined by apricot and pineapple, finishing dry with nice acidity and some minerality. A delicious food wine and a great value.

13.8% ABV
Natural cork closure
Score: 9/10

  • denise marchant

    We are in Key West, today is August 14 at 5:08 PM, and a lively discusssion about the blend of the Tillerman white is going on. There may be money on the table soon.

    So what is it?

  • Tim

    What do you think the blend is?

    Hint: there are three grapes involved and they could have varietally labeled the wine.

    If you get it right, I will confirm… but I will not disclose the secret blend without your guesses. Order another bottle and get back to me 😉

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