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Historic Hooker House to host local winery tasting room

A Hooker
House history

The wooden house came pre-cut from Sweden and was erected in the 1850s by Joseph Hooker, an Army Lieutenant Colonel who was stationed in Sonoma at that time. He soon sold it to Catherine Vasquez, and her husband Pedro, who lived in it for the next fifty years.

In 1973, the house was owned by the Lynch family who gave it to the League, who moved it from 117 First St. West to 404 First St. East. The house opened as the Vasquez House in 1976 and housed both historic records and a public tea room.

In 2009, the tea room was closed, and the name was changed to the General Joseph Hooker House. During its subsequent years, it served as a small museum.


The fruit from General Hooker’s vineyards will soon be served in his namesake Plaza house.

Bedrock Winery Co. co-owner Morgan Twain-Peterson, 36, produces wine from 150-year-old vines on the largest parcel of land that remains of the Joseph Hooker Ranch in Glen Ellen.

Twain-Peterson had no plans to open a tasting room, but when he heard that the General Joseph Hooker House on the El Paseo property along First Street East would soon be available for lease, the history junkie leaped into action.

“I really wanted to make sure it landed in the hands of someone who was going to be protective of its place in Sonoma history,” he said.

Months of paperwork followed, but – reached by the I-T as he was boarding a plane to Silicy on June 29 – Twain-Peterson confirmed that Bedrock’s lease of the old white building is now official.

Twain-Peterson has long been fascinated by the deep history of his 152-acre vineyard parcel off Madrone Road. His land was once owned by Gen. Mariano Vallejo, as well Hooker and William Tecumseh Sherman, who both went on to become Union generals in the American Civil War. When the grapes fell prey to a pest in the mid-1880s, the vines were replanted by Sen. George Hearst — a mining magnate and the father of publisher William Randolph Hearst.

Twain-Peterson grew up making wine at the knee of his father, Ravenswood founder Joel Peterson, and he’s been fascinated by California wine history ever since. He’s one of the founding members of the Historic Vineyard Society and this weekend he is putting the finishing touches on his master’s degree thesis on the history of old California vineyards.

While at college on the East Coast, Twain-Peterson worked part time for a small wine shop in Manhattan where he met his best friend Chris Cottrell, 31, with whom he founded Bedrock Wine Co. in 2007.

From its early days, Bedrock’s wine has been well regarded. Bedrock labels have been featured three times in Wine Spectator’s Top 100 List, placing as high as number 13. The winery has received a score of 90 points or higher in Spectator more than 60 times.

Still a small operation, the winery has five employees and produces just 20,000 or so cases a year. Most of their wine sales are direct-to-consumer via their wine club.

But access to the iconic downtown property opens up a world of possibilities for Twain-Peterson. He is excited by his initial meetings with contractors and architects, though plans are on hold while he travels in Italy with his father, brother and Cottrell.

A tasting room would be located downstairs and Bedrock offices upstairs. Beyond adding a much-needed air conditioning and heating system, Twain-Peterson said he plans to make as few changes as possible to the house.

“The interior was renovated when the house was moved onto the property in the 1970s,” he said, referring to the home’s 1973 relocation from its former site on First Street West. “But whatever we do will honor all of its authentic details.”

He hopes to be creative and to work with the Sonoma League for Historic Preservation in continuing to use the space to tell the story of Joe Hooker, perhaps by keeping on display some of their rotating collections of photographs as well as the timeline of Hooker’s Civil War battles.

A Hooker
House history

The wooden house came pre-cut from Sweden and was erected in the 1850s by Joseph Hooker, an Army Lieutenant Colonel who was stationed in Sonoma at that time. He soon sold it to Catherine Vasquez, and her husband Pedro, who lived in it for the next fifty years.

In 1973, the house was owned by the Lynch family who gave it to the League, who moved it from 117 First St. West to 404 First St. East. The house opened as the Vasquez House in 1976 and housed both historic records and a public tea room.

In 2009, the tea room was closed, and the name was changed to the General Joseph Hooker House. During its subsequent years, it served as a small museum.

“Maybe we can even help to drive interest to some of the their other historic properties,” he added.

Reached by phone on July 29, League board secretary Tracy Reynes said that the League will be completely moved out by July 3.

Earlier this spring, Reynes explained that when the League entered into a lease agreement for Hooker House in 1974, its officers agreed that at the end of the lease, the ownership of the 170-year-old house would be transferred to the owners of the land on which the building sits. El Paseo is currently owned by Mill Valley-based Redbird Investments LLC, which also owns the shopping center at Sonoma Highway and Verano Avenue that includes Palms Restaurant.

Reynes confirmed that the League would be terminating its lease because the organization had not had the resources to properly run Hooker House for some time.

The League lacked enough volunteers to run the house and Reynes said that the annual expense of operating the building totaled in the thousands of dollars each year, and fell short of revenue generated, causing the house to operate at a significant annual loss.

Commercial real estate agent Ryan Snow listed the quaint 1,160-square-foot house in early 2017 at a rent of $4,500 a month.

League President Prema Behan said that the board was unanimously thrilled that Twain-Peterson’s winery will be the new tenant.

“It was so important to us that a historically-minded person follow us into the house,” she said. “”We’re thrilled that some of the legacy of the League will live on there.”

The team at Bedrock Wine Co. will turn its attention to Hooker House when Twain-Peterson and Cotrell return from Italy next month. It’s too early to guess at an opening date, but Twain-Peterson expects sometime in 2018. The plan is to retain the Hooker House name in the nomenclature of the new tasting room. Perhaps Bedrock Wines at Hooker House.

Contact Lorna at lorna.sheridan@sonomanews.com.