User ID:

Remember me
Lost password?

Friday Fishwrap
Bourbon In Sonoma? The Grain and The Grape Have Hooked Up?

By Stephen Eliot

That good old advice—“never mix the grape and the grain”—may have finally been overthrown.

The Bourbon in question may have been born in Kentucky, but it was brought to finishing school in Sonoma and is better off for the experience. The “it”, in this case, is a remarkable new Bourbon with the title Hooker’s House Sonoma-Style American Bourbon, named for civil-war General Joseph Hooker who is apocryphally claimed to be responsible for all sorts of licentious behavior.

I stumbled across Hooker’s House last night while tracking down a few favorite Zinfandels, and, curiosity being the soul of my profession, a bottle made its way home with me. A new label, by its nature, will always catch my eye, but it was the bottle’s claim to be Sonoma-Style Bourbon that sealed the sale.

It turns out that the folks responsible for Limoncello di Sonoma decided to try their hands at finishing a selection of four-year-old single-barrel Kentucky Bourbon in used Pinot Noir barrels. Now, I have been wondering, given the proliferation of various wine-barrel-finished Single-Malt Scotches, just when would someone might try the same with spirits made closer to home, and, as this offering attests, the marriage of corn-and-rye spirits and wine-barrel spice can be a happy one.

With a mash bill of 54% corn and 46% rye, Hooker’s House is at once very rich and slightly spicier than its its Kentucky cousins that are typically more reliant on corn—very often closer to 70% with far less rye. Moreover, the effects of spending nearly a year in Pinot Noir barrels are hard to miss. There is a distinct undercurrent of cherries to the more classic Bourbon traits of maple and vanilla, and the whiskey smacks of Pinot by way of its almost velvety feel. It is bottled at 100 proof after having been cut with Sonoma spring water, and it is, quite simply, a unique spirit with a voice all its own.

It is so smooth and supple as to make drinking neat easy, but its depth and ongoing richness make for some intriguing possibilities in mixed drinks, and I could not agree more with David Driscoll, the spirits buyer for San Francisco’s K & L Wine Merchants, who touts it as one to try in a classic Manhattan. If there is a downside, it is that there is not a lot of it to be had, and its finding might take a bit of a search. On a cheerier note, its modest price of $36.00 will please the pocketbooks of those lucky enough to track down a bottle or two, and if, like me, you are interested in the very exciting new wave of innovative American spirits, it is one not to miss.


The CGCW Experience - Take the Tour

Meet the New CGCW

For thirty-five years, Connoisseurs’ Guide has been the authoritative voice of the California wine consumer. With readers in all fifty states and twenty foreign countries, the Guide is valued by wine lovers everywhere for its honesty and for it strong adherence to the principles of transparency, unbiased, hard-hitting opinions. Now, it is becoming the California winelover’s most powerful online voice as well. And, our new features provide an unmatched array of advice and information for aficionados of every stripe.


more from them
by John Kelly
Posted on:1/7/2012 9:39:03 AM

Keep your eyes peeled for more from these guys. Fred & Amy Groth started out wiht the Limoncello, then made Fig Cello (which started out as a project for Sondra Bernstein of girl & the fig). They make a blood orange liqueur called Bello Cello which is a delicious mixer. The Hooker's House bourbon suggests the direction they are taking Hello Cello. Look for more small-batch hand crafted spiritous beverages from these guys in the future. I'm working with them on a project or two of my own.

Leave a comment below, but please limit your comments to 1,200 characters or less. We find it helpful to make a copy of our comments to be sure that they fit. In that way, you can edit them if they run long.

(Please note: your e-mail address will not be visible after posting)



Note: Refresh your browser to see your latest comments.

Having technical problems with the comment system? Click here.