Frog's Leap Winery
Frog’s Leap stands tall in the heart of Rutherford, at home in its historically noted “ghost winery” Red Barn. This grand and welcoming building was built in 1884 as the Adamson Winery and renovated in 1994 as Frog’s Leap’s permanent home. A handsome bi-level barrel chai completes the state of the art winemaking facility. The winery sits surrounded by 40 acres of organically farmed estate vineyard. Frog’s Leap also owns 88 acres and farms 100 additional aces in the Rutherford appellation.
Frog’s Leap was founded by the Williams family, on a spot along Mill Creek known as the Frog Farm. At the helm of Frog’s Leap is John Williams, winemaker and former dairy farmer from up-state New York.
John Williams grew up in Western New York and originally attended Cornell University to extend his studies as a dairyman. A fortuitous work-study program at Taylor Wine Company and a few bottles of wine later, John entered the Enology and Viticulture Masters Program at UC Davis. Following Davis, he returned to the Finger Lakes as the start-up winemaker at Glenora Wine Cellars. Taking inspiration from his first Napa Valley winemaking post in the cellars of Stag’s Leap, John began making wine commercially in 1981 and named the new operation “Frog’s Leap.”
Frog’s Leap presents a relaxed approach to enjoying wine. An easy hospitality and warm sense of humor is juxtaposed with a more serious sensibility when making wine. Using the best of Napa Valley’s organically grown grapes and the most traditional winemaking techniques, the winemaking team strives to produce wines that deeply reflect the soils and climate from which they emanate.
Winemakers John Williams and Paula Moschetti hand-craft an annual production of almost 60,000 cases composed of Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Merlot, Sauvignon Blanc, Rutherford, and Zinfandel.
Frog’s Leap produces some of Napa Valley’s finest wines and, undoubtedly, has one of the world’s best mottos: “Time’s Fun When You’re Having Flies.”
The way we make wine at Frog’s Leap is fundamentally linked to the way we grow our grapes. We accept the premise that the greatest of wines are those that most truly reflect their soil, climate, and circumstance (collectively referred to as “terroir”.) It is the winemaker’s job to stand back and let the natural beauty of the grapes show through.
We have come to trust that less intervention on the part of the winemaker, generally speaking, is preferable to more. Accepting and practicing upon this premise takes us in a practical sense down interesting paths from a winemaking point of view. We pick a “natural” ripeness emphasizing the harmony of flavor elements. We use natural yeast and malo-lactic fermentations. We handle the wine minimally and we avoid unnecessary alterations. We use oak barrels to enhance, not disguise the wines. All of these practices help in allowing the full character of the fruit to come forward and to reflect the influences from their terrior.
Wines made to impress rather than to satisfy will ultimately do neither. A wine that respects its sense of place, its natural balance, and the glories of its natural flavors will truly give pleasure.
The first question almost everyone asks when they find out that Frog’s Leap grows all of its grapes organically is “What does that mean you can’t do?” However, we at Frog’s Leap believe that organic growing is all about what you can do and that when it comes to the taste and affordability of our wines anything less than organically grown is a compromise.
Growing a healthy vine organically is much like taking care of your personal health. Experience shows that having a balanced and nutritious diet, getting regular exercise, and burning the candle at one end instead of two contributes to good personal health in a way that modern medicine could not even begin to duplicate. The same holds true with the grapevine. Organic growers say, “a healthy soil produces a healthy vine” that resists disease and pests. By returning cover crops and compost to the soil it remains alive and through its incredibly complex microbial world produces nutrients for the plant and soil structure.
There are many reasons to incorporate the farming methods we collectively call “traditional farming” into the way we do business at Frog’s Leap. But by far the most important and most exciting to us is reflected in one word—quality. We know what is well-nourished is also more flavorful, better balanced, and longer lived. Wine made from fruit that is well nourished is exactly that: flavorful, better balanced, and longer lived. Something to think about with your next glass.
Every winter, we typically plant cover crops throughout the vineyards—crops such as oats, vetch, and winter peas that are complimented by the Valley’s native mustard. These cover crops provide the soil with organic matter, humus, nitrogen, and other nutrients, which improves soil structure and root growth in symbiosis with beneficial soil bacteria, fungi, and earthworms.
Cover crops also provide a habitat for beneficial insects (ladybugs, spiders) and birds (bluebirds, owls), which eat the vineyard pests. While beautifying and diversifying the vineyard, cover crops are the premiere investment for any soil or crop.
Frog’s Leap also practices dry farming, which is raising a crop without the addition of irrigation water, relying solely on rainfall and moisture. The soil acts as a sponge during the rains of winter and early spring, retaining water to slowly release back to the vines during the long, hot, dry summer. Dry farming encourages the root systems to plunge deep into the soil, producing healthy and vigorous vines with outstanding flavor and intensely colorful fruit.
Vineyards farmed responsibly. Serious wine presented with a warm sense of humor. This is Frog's Leap. Bring a bottle to your table. Stash a few in your Cellar. Lift a glass with friends. Drink it. We'll make more.