A Visit To Frog’s Leap
Sophistication and Insouciance. Responsible yet Carefree. These pairs seem to be opposites, but they work together when there is a certain ease that comes from knowing what you are doing, of being so certain of what one is producing that you don’t have to worry. It seems simple yet it isn’t. Which lends itself to another dichotomy. Frog’s Leap Winery is full of them. After a relaxing afternoon tasting wines while lounging on their porch overlooking gardens, fruit trees, chickens, a pond, and of course grape vines, we felt a little in awe of all they manage while making it seem effortless. In addition to the chickens there are 5 acres of organic vegetable and fruit gardens. They do make their own preserves but this environment has been created because wine maker John Williams feels the grapevines feel the chickens, that the different crops bring birds and other life to his grapes and that make his wines more interesting. This is part of the bio diversity that Frog’s Leap embraces along with their organic and dry farming methods. It feels familial because it is; he keeps his grape pickers employed year round, with full benefits, because they know his vines, his grapes and he wants them to have security. Seems there are certain values that run deep at Frog’s Leap – through all the ranks. It is refreshing to visit a place that cares so much about what they produce and how they do it, yet they do it with such fun it can be deceptive.
It is easy to be a fan of Frog’s Leap Wines. Their Zinfandel is bright and pairs well with food, not the high alcohol Zin we are used to in California. The expression of Cabernet he gets from his Rutherford grapes make it a very sophisticated wine. Frog’s Leap chardonnay has echoes of burgundy while keeping the terroir of California. The opposites mentioned above abounds in their Merlot – assertive yet tender, full of the ripe flavors you expect, able to be drunk now but could be laid down for 10 years easily. If we are lucky this year we will get some of the La Grenouille Rouganté – the blushing frog – their Rosé which is made in very limited quantities. Refreshing, clean, full of flavor, everything you want in a great rose.
We would love them just for their wines and the fact that they contribute to the beauty of Napa and the health of our planet. They took a desolate farm filled with old tractors and turned it into a fertile garden with an abundance of flora and fauna. There is a definition of integrity that says, “Wisdom is knowing the right path to take, integrity is taking it.” That pretty much sums up what we know of John Williams and his team. Here is how he works: They’ve been producing a Rutherford Cabernet for some years now. John farmed on part of the Rossi Estate just north of Yountville ( he leased his share of the 52 acre vineyard). The story goes that when Louise Rossi, the owner of the vineyard, died at 99 she had a long list of people she wouldn’t allow to buy it and only one person who could. Yep, John Williams of Frog’s Leap. That land had been in her family for over 100 years. When her husband died Louise ran into trouble with some of the local winemakers who were taking advantage of her and not treating her with due respect. John stepped in and helped her out and kept an eye on her throughout her life. A friendship grew and because of the sale, the Rossi estate was able to donate 12.5 million to the U.C. Davis Wine program. John owns the land he felt was always perfect for his Cabernet, only now it is all his. Deservedly so.
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