Hooker Creek – What’s Behind the Name?

Blog Post

Our quest to find sites of true distinction and character has led us to yet another old vine zinfandel site in Sonoma County: Hooker Creek. Like many of our vineyard locations, Hooker Creek is one of those special places that, against all odds and opposition, has survived here in California for over a century. There have been phylloxera outbreaks, multiple changes in ownership, and America’s failed experiment with prohibition that have jeopardized the integrity of the vineyard, yet still it remains.

Hooker Creek (aka Bedrock) Vineyard at Sunset

The vineyard is located in the Sonoma Valley, just a few miles south of Pagani Ranch. On the property are numerous ancient plantings of Zinfandel and mixed-varietal blocks containing Zin, Petite Sirah, Alicante Bouschet, Mouvedre, Carignane, and more. The cooler climate, unique collection of interplanted varietals, and exceptional age of the old vines make for wines with complexity, personality, and delicious, ripe fruit flavors. For our first bottling from this vineyard, Ridge has sourced fruit from two field-blend parcels planted between 1888 and 1895 to create this exquisite Zinfandel-dominant blend. Today the vineyard is owned by Joel Peterson and goes by the name Bedrock, however in keeping with Ridge’s tradition of honoring the historic nature of the place and the pioneering individuals who helped establish the vineyards, we have chosen the name Hooker Creek.

Hooker Creek Vineyard Location

So, what’s behind the name?

Flowing through the old vineyard is a creek called “Hooker.” The creek is named for the original developer of the property, “Fighting” Joe Hooker. Hooker was a career Army officer who served in the Seminole Wars, the Mexican-American War, and the American Civil War. As a Union officer in the Civil War, Hooker became well known for his ferocity and boldness on the battlefield, quickly rising through the ranks and eventually attaining the position of major general and command of the Army of the Potomac. Hooker was fiercely proud of his command and the efficiency and cohesion of his army. Hooker is quoted as saying:

“I have the finest army on the planet. I have the finest army the sun has ever shown on…If the enemy does not run, God help them. May God have mercy on General Lee, for I will have none.”

Ironically, his most memorable moment during his Army career was his stunning loss at the Battle of Chancellorsville, in which a smaller Confederate force, led by Robert E. Lee, defeated Hooker’s Army of the Potomac. His poor performance led to Hooker’s drop in popularity amongst the Union government. He eventually lost command of his army, but still continued to serve as an officer until the end of the war.

It wasn’t always Hooker’s actions on the field of battle that made the headlines, however. The General became equally well-known for his reputation as a hard-drinking ladies’ man. Rumors of rambunctious parties and gambling at his headquarters in Virginia spread throughout the Union Army. A band of ladies was said to follow his troops throughout their tour of the country. Though the term “hooker” had been around previous to the Major General’s rise to fame, it is said the word only became popular after its association with Hooker’s unofficial battalion.

So…that’s where that came from…

Before his name became synonymous with revelry, Hooker tried his luck as a farmer. As a civilian, he purchased 550 acres of the Agua Caliente land grant from General Vallejo, built a house and settled down. The purchase was actually bankrolled in part by William “Tecumseh” Sherman, the soon-to-be infamous Union general who at the time was a successful San Francisco banker. The first vitis vinifera vines were planted on the property at this time, and the vineyard was born. The creek which divides the property in half became known as “Hooker Creek.” Before his entrance into the Civil War, Hooker sold the property.

Today, the vineyard stands as one of Sonoma County’s premier old-vine zinfandel / field-blend sites and a testament to the supreme quality of these pre-prohibition vineyards, which still have so much to give.

For more information on our wines from this vineyard, follow the link below.