Travel Tips For A Happier Vacation
There are few things more exciting than the thought of enjoying a week or two away from work and home. You plan, you book, you are ready to hit the road! How do you make the most of your vacation time and come home with that rested glow? I am an avid traveler and have learned a few things along the way to help you have the vacation of your dreams.
Give yourself some rest during your vacation. You may only have a week in a beautiful European City but don’t overdo. Remember you are taking a break from the 9 to 5. Don’t treat a vacation like work.
Figure out what is really important for you to see. Which attraction would make you sad if you missed it? Is it a museum? Eating at a fabulous restaurant? Book that. But please, have a morning or two where you don’t have to be anywhere. Allow yourself sleep-in time, a day to walk around and discover the place. Part of the joy of vacation is to take a break from the daily grind of up and at ‘em. Unplanned days give you that chance to discover the small tea place on an unmarked street or stumble upon a museum that isn’t in the guidebooks. You can lose your sense of discovery if every moment is planned.
If you need naps or rest time in your day, plan them in. Go out early but come back to your hotel after lunch and put your feet up. Many countries have their version of a siesta. Take advantage of it.
If you are doing a multi city tour please please please don’t put too many cities on your schedule. Enjoy each city. You can go back. When taking a driving vacation, the drive is the vacation, hitting cities that lie along the way. A day in each one works perfectly. But trying to fit 4 European cities in a week is exhausting and doesn’t do justice to the cities or the treasures they hold
Editing is vital to a happy vacation.
Know where you are going
I have been on both sides of the vacation spectrum: I have planned too much so every day had things crammed into it, and planned nothing and thought we’d figure it out as we went. It is up to the kind of person you are. I like it a bit in between. We recently spent 10 days in Ireland and I had a few things planned. I read a fair amount so I knew where things were. I had an idea of each town we were staying in and a place or two I wanted to visit.
We went to Barolo once and I did no planning except booking a hotel. We wandered around lost, and a bit irritated, because we were looking for a tourist office and it wasn’t apparent. Even though there were arrows pointing to it we found ourselves walking around in circles. Turns out it was a computer kiosk inside the tiny Corkscrew Museum. Luckily the guy at the counter knew wine and offered to take us on a tour the next day. His English was great and he knew wine. In fact he introduced us to a few wine makers whose wine we carry in our shop today, including the renowned Chiara Boschis and her Barolo and Dolcetto. He has remained our friend and we follow his wine adventures on Facebook. That instance worked out beautifully which is a recommendation for hoping for the best now isn’t it? But I decided after a few “no planning” trips to at least read up on the area, be aware of where the better restaurants are and any attractions that might interest us, so that once I got there I had a better lay of the land and could make good choices for dinner and such.
Just a few pointers:
I prefer to get a room with a view either via spending a little more when I reserve or asking at the desk.
When spending a few days in Victoria Canada I reserved a larger view room and it was well worth it. It is a beautiful town and gazing at it and the water from our balcony was one of the highlights. I didn’t feel the need to rush out to experience it. It helped me relax. We would come back in the afternoon and put our feet up and have a cup of tea while taking in the vista. When we got back at night we could see the city lit up. It made it one of the nicest stays ever. No restaurant in the city had the views we did. It was well worth it. The extra cost was not much at all, maybe $15/night.
Tell the front desk about your preferences when you check in. Don’t assume they know what you want. They probably don’t even think about it, a room is a room. By asking you put their attention on it.
Don’t Like Your Room?
If you don’t like your room ask to change. BUT (and I mean it ) be kind and gracious. Ask for a room with more space, light or just something that is quieter (note that rooms that face the street in a busy city may have great views but can be noisy. It is why I ask for a higher floor). Don’t demand it. I rarely have it denied. We were in Kinsale Ireland and our room was okay but a bit small and dark. We asked. We got a big room with lots of light and a seat in the window with a cushion so I could sit and look out over the charming town. It became comical because one reason we asked for the change was there was no table or space to work in the original room. The big one didn’t have a table either but we had other furniture we could use. They insisted on bringing in a small table which we didn’t really need. They were so kind we just gracefully accepted it. It is better to ask for a room you prefer than keep quiet and be disgruntled. You can’t hold it against them if you didn’t give them a chance to fix it.
When a hotel accommodates me I not only thank them profusely, I write a good review on any number of sites and often will eat or drink at their facility. I pay it back so to speak. They want you to be happy. They want good reviews. So it is a win win. Don’t pout if they can’t get you a better room. Make light of it and get out and enjoy the area. Sometimes hotels are booked up and they only have what they have.
Tourist Town Good or Bad?
I’ve been told to avoid certain cities because they are tourist traps. One person even told me to cut my trip to Venice, Italy short because, “it is so touristy.” I get it. Many tourist towns seem to be a barrage of shops selling crappy souvenirs and mediocre food – if you don’t explore them. However, I have found that if I am getting off a long plane trip and am a bit jet lagged those towns can also have services that make it easy for me to relax. I am a tourist and don’t mind taking the easy way out sometimes. There are often easy to find Tourist Information Booths and people to help you find your way around.
When staying in Venice, our first stop on our first trip to Italy, we were thankful for menus in English that first day when we were wobbly with exhaustion. I didn’t have the energy to figure out where the small off the beaten path places were. We had two young teenagers who were also tired. I just wanted something charming and good. We found it. I asked the people at the hotel. Was is touristy? I don’t know. But I am a tourist so that is okay. Actually we ate at a place that gave us one of our favorite traveling stories. And Venice is so beautiful and there is so much to see I was glad we didn’t follow the bad advice to cut our stay short.
Airbnb versus Hotels
This is completely a matter of where you feel the most comfortable. I like hotels for short stays or at the beginning of a trip so if I am tired I can order room service and put my feet up. But If I am traveling around a lot I like to have an apartment with at least a refrigerator, a coffee maker and a toaster oven. Part of the fun for me in a city is to find the cheese shops and bakeries and bring things back to our place. Grocery stores in other countries are a tourist attraction for me. I don’t like eating every meal out. We prefer eating breakfast in and having coffee without having to run down the street. I find it more relaxing.
Airbnb and like places do a great job. Look closely at the photos. I usually won’t rent unless I’ve seen the bathroom. I read the reviews but many aren’t specific enough for me. I don’t care about the hosts communication skills (that seems to be in every review). We have used Airbnb a lot. I can only think of once where I didn’t love the place. By mixing it up on a long trip you get the living in the city feel and then can go to a hotel with nice sheets and maid service.
In Europe you often get more room using Airbnb than in a hotel for less money. On our last trip to Paris we landed a great place with a corner window that had a counter under it. We sat and looked at the Centre Pompidou and the streets of the Marais as we ate our brioche in the morning. We stayed in an apartment in Bath, England and it had a washer and dryer. Being able to wash my clothes felt so good. We also had remarkable views of the surrounding hills. After spending a few weeks on the road in hotels the space of a one bedroom apartment gave us a chance to spread out and get away from each other a little (a little space never hurt a couple)
A lot has been written on air travel but there is one trick I’ve been using for long flights that I love. We carry one-use moisture masks at our shop. They come in foil packs and are made of a non woven cloth you put on your face.
When we do a long trip I put this on my face during what would be sleep time or whenever I feel like I need it. I rub in the excess lotion when I’m done and my face feels great when I land. I put a little makeup on and I hit the town. It allows your fact to really absorb the moisture which we all need with the dry air of planes.
I also sometimes use Jane Eyesteas Put them in a little warm/hot water and put them on your eyes for about 15 minutes. You feel great, better than eye drops, and it helps the skin around your eyes.
I am lucky, Fancifull has allowed me travel while meeting producers and learning about food, wine and cultures from all over the world. It fuels my passion for great products and travel. Go explore wherever your fancy leads – near or far- and here’s hoping you enjoy every moment.
One Last Quick Tip
For a night light in a hotel room take a small flameless candle, votive size. It is small and lightweight and gives off enough light to make it to the bathroom without tripping over something.
Any tips for travel? Leave them in the comments below
Champagne: A Wine for All Seasons and Reasons
Fancifull Fine Food and Baskets
Sparkling wines are usually reserved for special occasions, but why wait? At Fancifull we suggest cracking it open when you are looking for something that can easily transition between different food flavors and textures. And while yes, bubbles add a festive touch; they also act as a perfect palate cleanser between bites. The natural acidity of these wines helps brighten food flavors instead of overwhelming them.
Champagne is made from three main grapes: Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier. If it is made with all chardonnay it is called a Blanc de Blanc – these will be your crisper champagnes often with green apple notes. If pinot noir is predominate you get a toastier body and flavor. Of course sparkling wine comes in many grapes, many you’ve never heard of, from all over the world Most popular (other than champagne) are Prosecco from Northern Italy and Cava from Spain. These are inexpensive alternatives to pricier French Champagnes. The sparklers from the Loire Valley are often made with Chenin Blanc and of course there are a host of sparkling wines from the U.S. Australia has a sparkling shiraz (syrah), which is dark and inky looking but is fun for a change. And Rosé pairs wonderfully with many foods (think chicken and pork and many cheeses) and is so pretty in the glass.
When thinking about pairing wines, we go with two rules: “like with like” and “opposites attract.”
Light, fresh dishes call for a light wine, and sparkling wine fits the bill. Think of classic pairings such as oysters, caviar or cheese.
But bubbly is also wonderful with salty, fatty or fried foods because the brightness of the wine balances out the richness of the dish. The bubbles in champagne will often cut through the fat in cheese and charcuterie. The wine leaves you with a refreshed mouth and prepares your taste buds for another rich spoonful.
Sparkling wines and Champagnes are food-pairing champions and provide both complimentary (like with like) and contrasting (opposites attract) notes. It is a perfect wine at Thanksgiving as it goes with all those rich foods and can be drunk throughout the meal. Open a bottle by a roaring fire for a quintessential romantic evening or pop some in a spring garden for a buoyant memory. It is safe to say, champagne is a wine for all seasons and makes any moment a celebration.
30 Fancifull Years A Learning Experience
It has been quite a journey, this Fancifull road we’ve been on for 30 years. From young whippersnappers with a gleam in their eye and an idea in mind, we set out to elevate gift baskets. Now here we are, older, one might say even old, but we like to think we are experienced.
We’ve seen trends come and go – we know what is a passing fad and what is authentic. This doesn’t mean we’re set in our ways with a, “been there done that,” attitude. No, we believe in staying current: going to trade shows to meet and see all the new innovations, traveling to meet makers in all parts of the world, and talking to our clients so we are sure we are offering them new product to keep it interesting. Fancifull is always evolving, as are we.
Along the way we have kept our eyes open and observed certain truths that have stood the test of time.
Research is Important
It takes effort to sift through all the marketing slogans, hype and cute packaging to find what is authentic and frankly, delicious. It isn’t about symbols, instagram followers or cool packaging. It is about people who care where their ingredients come from, who give back, and who make something that tastes great. Samples come to our shop almost daily. We taste test with all our staff and friends. Some are packaged beautifully but the taste just isn’t there. With some producers, once we investigate their claims, they come up short.
Taste is Personal
Everyone has their taste and it isn’t for us to enforce our taste on them. Taste goes so far beyond just good or bad. There are sense memories wrapped in smells and flavors that you have and others don’t.
We will always offer to widen someone’s view: taste them on our latest discoveries. All we try to do at our tastings is to get you to pay attention to the food, question what you think you like and what you don’t. But it never ever pays to be pretentious. I’ve been told by many they don’t like white wine. So we ask, “what whites have your tried?” Often it is overly-oaked California Chardonnay. We pour them something else and they are surprised, “wow, this is good.” Even if they don’t love the wine we poured, they tried it. Mission Accomplished.
Good Food is Universal
Starting with good ingredients – those grown in a sustainable and organic manner and made with care – is a great starting point. Our motto has long been, If we won’t eat it we won’t sell it. We all live on this planet and it is our role to take care of it. The taste and craftsmanship have to be there as well. You don’t want to waste your money sending a gift basket full of tasteless product.
Gathering around a Table with Food and Wine can be Magic
Well, we knew that all along, which is one reason we love sending baskets full of great food and wine – it’s the start of a party.
Everyone Loves to be Appreciated
Part of what we love about our job is we get to send out caring messages to people every day. Messages of Thanks, Happy Birthday, I’m Sorry, Congratulations, Condolences – all these lines going out from our shop letting others know someone is thinking of them. We see their faces when the gift arrives. It isn’t about the gift being big or small. It truly is the thought, the recognition. Don’t we all want to know someone cares? It doesn’t even have to be a gift basket. You can just send a card. It is the communication.
Working with your husband/wife is both a blessing and a curse
We have been married 38 years so it must be more of a blessing and we will leave it at that.
A Beau Visite to Beaux Frères Winery
Beaux Frères Pinot Noir from the Northern Willamette Valley in Oregon has long been one of our favorite wines at our dinner table. We decided we had to track down the distributor so we could bring it into our shop and share it with our clients.
Beaux Freres means Brother in Law in French and that is exactly how this started.
One Brother in Law, Michael G. Etzel, bought an 88 acre pig farm in Oregon and got his brother in law, Robert Parker Jr, renowned wine critic and publisher of the Wine Advocate, to join him in his venture of planting pinot noir and making wine.
It is done right: sustainable agriculture, low yields, natural yeast, grapes are sorted by hand to toss out undesirables, caps are hand punched twice a day so they can be familiar with the cuvee, the wines are not fined or filtered, they work hard to maintain the terroir of their grapes.
We visited in mid May and were able to walk among the vines, play with the soil, taste a gamut of wines and play with the dogs and the pigs that are on property. Because of the cold wet winter the vines are about 6 weeks behind in growth.
To introduce you to these wines we have the 2014 Willamette on sale right now for only $10 off a bottle at $50. 2014 was an outstanding vintage so grab some for yourself and lay it down for a few years. Perfect for Fathers Day and any gifting occasion. Bump up any of our wine baskets with this thoughtful bottle of wine.
Tasting notes from the winery
A medium ruby color. On the nose, this wine has a lush fragrance of sweet dark cherries, baking spices and sandalwood. In the mouth, it is very savory, plush, medium acidity and irresistible. is may be the best Willamette Valley cuvée that we have made to date. is wines sees about 33% new French oak.
Spread The Love | Valentine’s Day and Beyond
There are those who roll their eyes when Valentine’s Day comes around. They think, “Another invented holiday to make me buy stuff. “ I look at it differently; to me it is a day to spread love. It doesn’t have to be about red roses and chocolates. It could be the day to tell your best friend how much you appreciate her or call your mom and say I love you. Volunteering at an organization that helps others is a great way to pour love into society.
We tend to rush through life with our attention on all we have to do.
A day like Valentine’s Day makes us stop and think about Love. Hal David wrote the lyrics, “What the World Needs Now is Love Sweet Love.” Isn’t that sentiment is as true today as it was in 1965 when Jackie Del Shannon sang that song for the first time? How much better would the world be with an abundance of love and joy? Luckily we can each contribute freely.
Think about spreading the love this February, spread it throughout the year. At Fancifull we will sell our share of flowers and chocolates, nothing wrong with that. But we want to pour love into this world of ours so we are having a Tasting on Friday February 10th with proceeds going to Project Angel Food, a local organization that delivers meals to those in need. All that love going out to so many people. Their funding is being cut dramatically under the current administration so they need all the help and love they can get. We will start pouring wine at 6pm, it is only $10 and for that you will get to sample all sorts of cheese, chocolates and artisanal food in our shop on Melrose – soon to be the Fancifull Tasting Bar. You can check it out on our website www.fancifull.com or call 323/466-7654.
Fancifull was created because we loved the concept of sending love and joy out on a daily basis. I wanted gifts filled with amazing food and quality items that people would use and enjoy. It had to be personal. What keeps us excited, even after 30 years, is we spend our days sending messages of joy, thanks, and comfort. We deliver flowers along with condolences, a vegan basket to wish someone a happy birthday, or a bit of chocolate decadence to cheer someone up. It is all about letting people know they are being thought of, they are important to someone.
When one feels obligated to do something it takes the fun out of it. Valentine’s Day can quickly dissolve into, “I gotta find some flowers or I’ll be in trouble” which is just stressful and so not what it should be about. Since we at Fancifull are the gifting experts here are a few suggestions for making it lovely:
Order early so it is done and you can just enjoy the day. Chances are you will get better prices and exactly what you want if you order a week before the holiday
Think beyond red roses: the wholesale cost of red roses triples around Valentine’s Day. It is not us florists gouging you, we actually make a lower profit. You can say I love you with just about any kind of flower or gift as long as your message is sincere and some thought went into it.
Consider a Fireside Picnic with Champagne, Fresh Cheese and Candlelight (hint: Fancifull can provide it all for you)
Remember all the people who support you by sending a card or baking some cookies – it isn’t about the money spent but the love that goes into it.
Make being kind part of your everyday pattern: say hello to people you see, let that person into your lane while driving, find something to admire in those who irritate you, invest your time into helping others. If you want to support a non profit consider what is dear to you: Feeding others? The Environment? Literacy? Below are a few organizations we have vetted and they would be happy to have the help:
Project Angel Food – you can volunteer when you have time to help in the kitchen or delivering. They provide thousands of meals each week to those who cannot provide for themselves. They are currently experiencing a big cut in funding, so helping in any way you can is appreciated.
Natural Resources Defense Council – They are defenders of our planet: the NRDC creates solutions for lasting environmental change, protecting natural resources in the U.S and across the globe.
Fisher House – Helps military families with housing near their hospitalized loved ones.
Root Down L.A. – A phenomenal local organization that is bringing better food and nutrition education to the neighborhoods of South L.A.
They plant gardens, teach kids and their families about good food and how to prepare it, and help ensure better health to all.
WriteGirl – WriteGirl is a creative writing and mentoring organization that promotes creativity, critical thinking and leadership skills to empower teen girls. They can use help from writers to mentor girls as well as donations.
Whatever you do for Valentine’s Day, even if it is a day to love yourself by curling up on the couch and indulging in a little Netflix binge, do it with love in your heart and look for ways to keep that love flowing all year long. To quote one of my favorite authors Kurt Vonnegut: A purpose of human life, no matter who is controlling it, is to love whoever is around to be loved. It will be good for you and good for all of us.
Fancifull Fine Food and Baskets
5617 Melrose Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90038
Diet Terms Made Simple
Here are some very short and sweet definitions to help understand some of the diet terms used these days.
Our Sweet Vegan Gift Basket.
The difference is Vegetarians don’t eat meat, fish, or any animal. Vegans go a bit further and eat no animal products such as eggs, dairy or honey.
Our Gluten Free For All Gift Basket.
Gluten is a mixture of proteins that occur naturally in wheat, rye, barley and crossbreeds of these grains. The FDA defines gluten free as having a gluten limit of less than 20 parts per million of gluten in foods carrying that label. We are careful with the products we put in our gluten free gift baskets. Luckily there is a world of good food to use: Nuts, Cheese, Fruit, Tea and Coffee, Chocolates, Chips and so much more.
Our Happy Chanukah Gift Basket.
Kosher is an adaptation of the Hebrew word meaning “fit” or “proper.” Kosher foods are those that conform to the regulations of kashrut. These will carry the symbol of the rabbinical council that approved the item. Fruit is naturally kosher. The best known rules are: no pork, no mixing of dairy and meat, and the term pareve which means it is a neutral food that can be eaten with meat or dairy. This is a very short abridged definition. There is much more to be found in research and among those who keep kosher (many who have been very helpful with advice). We have an array of kosher products in our shop including wine, cheese, chocolates, cookies and more. We also carry Kosher for Passover during that holiday. You can call and check the symbols on the foods we have if you have any questions.
Note: These definitions above are by no means complete as each diet has complexities that we don’t have the space to go into here; and it varies by individual. For more data please research or ask the people you know who adhere to one of these diets to find out how they adapt it for themselves.
Is Big Always Bad?
Is big always bad?
We are ardent supporters of local businesses and love when we find a small batch maker who produces delicious product we can put in our baskets and bring to you. Our shelves are filled with their product and we are always finding more. The search is always on. Yet we don’t want to neglect the larger producers who are sustainable and do it right. Because of their production capabilities, they can often bring prices down for those who have a budget and yet can have a positive impact when they use good practices on a large scale.
So we are always researching the companies we buy from, checking their sourcing, especially important for our chocolate makers as there are still many bad practices going on in that industry. We are relieved when we find a giant like Cadbury now using Fair Trade Chocolate on all their products made in England. Sadly the items Hershey makes for them in the U.S (mainly those popular Easter Eggs) can’t make that claim. So, if you don’t see some of the more popular brands in our baskets, there is usually an explanation. A choice was made.
Being in California, we are fortunate to have a plethora of organic and sustainable producers within a day of us. California themed gift baskets will always be prominent on our site and are often the perfect welcome to someone at a hotel or to represent a business that is located in California.
It is a bit of a balancing act. We love our local cheese makers but don’t want to forget the fabulous Basque shepherds and cheesemakers whom we met recently in the Pyrenees. They, too, have families (and animals) to support. Many cheeses like Gruyere can only be made by in quantity with milk from cooperatives to get the designated origin status. I wouldn’t want to ignore this important cheese in our selections just because it doesn’t come from a small maker.
And shouldn’t we be celebrating the winemaker in France who converted his whole vineyard to organic as well as the guy down the street who came up with a great idea of coconut curry popcorn and managed to get it produced? Different size companies but both making positive impacts in the world.
The world is full of fragrance and flavor.
Searching and investigating is part of our job.
From taking your order, preparing your gift and deciding who to support – we take it all personally.
As I reflect on my 29 years building baskets and Fancifull I can’t help but think: “What is it all about? Why have I done this for so long? Why?”
Connections. Connecting people via a basket and a message, connecting our clients to the producers we’ve found over the years, connecting people to the truth of good food and why it is important.
It is a huge invisible but existent freeway system of lines going out – vectors arching across the U.S. with info, food, and warm messages. Our whole job is to send a message, to make people smile, to let them know someone is thinking of them.
When I started Fancifull back in 1987, I said to my friend, as we sat in the booth in my kitchen, drinking coffee and savoring the possibilities, that I didn’t want to just send stuff. The world was full of stuff: things that people didn’t want or wanted at some point but didn’t know what to do with now. I wanted my gifts to be joy bombs going out, making people happy, taking care of a need, sending a message.
I wanted to create delight in each person’s space upon receipt.
Letter from a Recipient
So I started the journey that is Fancifull. As that journey progressed there were detours, learning curves and terrific “ah-ha” moments. We evolved.
I threw myself into learning about cheese, wine, chocolate and how food is made. It became apparent to me that how we grow our food creates a huge impact on our planet. This wasn’t news to me, but the truth became more real, became something I couldn’t ignore.
I met many small artisans along the way and came to realize that by putting their products in my baskets I could help them find an audience. We began to do more tasting in our shop so we could indulge our passion for great food and finds and share them with anyone who was interested. This business of baskets got more and more interesting.
Our studio on Melrose near Gower in Hollywood has become a bona fide wine and cheese shop with all our offerings. We kept listening to our clients and created different packaging, some more sustainable some in a manner that would make shipping easier and more cost effective. Fresh flowers became a big part of Fancifull and making the baskets with fresh flowers along with gourmet food, became a signature design. They look like a still life.
Evolution and Connections. It keeps us expanding and growing. It allows us to daily create products that make us proud. We get to contribute back by buying from sustainable producers, encouraging the start ups, offering lots of advice (sorry to all whose ears we have bent), speaking to other retailers across the nation about how to succeed, holding fundraisers in our shop and sampling lots and lots of cheese, chocolate, salami and wine (those seem to be the favorite 4 food groups).
It keeps our love of Fancifull alive and burning. There is a vitality to sending out messages for people daily; knowing the gift is going to land on a desk and someone will smile, someone will feel acknowledged. Our clients’ business and personal lives will get stronger because their connections are stronger. We make life personal. We do it on many levels. We love doing it for you.
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.
In the United States we are used to wines being named after the grapes they are made from. Chardonnay, for instance is made from chardonnay grapes. In Europe the wines have been named for the region where they are grown. This is because where they are grown, the climate, rainfall, soil and other elements of the region result in completely different wines even when they are from the same grapes. Compare a French Chablis with a California chardonnay, for example. Both are made from the chardonnay grape, but are worlds apart in flavor. Then sample a French Montrachet. Same grape again, but a world of difference.
Need help picking a wine for your gift basket? Please call. We love to talk food and wine!