Bottoms Up

Beer and wine in the Bay Area and beyond

I leap for Frog’s Leap

By asoglin
Monday, January 22nd, 2007 at 12:45 pm in Uncategorized.

I went to Napa this weekend and my experiences there now go something like this: Because I’ve been to so many wineries in the Valley (there are 400 total, mind you), these days I hand pick the ones I haven’t visited and make appointments. There’s no more driving down the Silverado Trail and holding up traffic by stopping every quarter of a mile. Another benefit of doing it this way is that you get a lot of quality time with a tasting room attendant and learn loads more about the fascinating history of the wineries and the Valley back in the day. Each story is a movie to me and fills me with such pride for the Valley. It harkens back to a time when pioneers were college graduates with $100 in their pockets, bussing it cross country to the Valley and bunking in abandoned barns with little more than two mugs and a jug of wine to their name. This is the case with my first appointment, which was at Frog’s Leap Winery. Stunning winery and equally beautiful wines crafted from organically grown grapes. While his wines are up to par with the best in the Valley, winemaker John Williams (the aforementioned barn squatter) is one of the only not charging exhorbitant prices for tastings. In fact, he charges nothing, Lodi and Paso Robles style. According to his staff it’s something he’s never going to change, and I truly admire and respect him for that. Ninety percent of their revenue comes from retail sales — as I’m sure it does for most top-echelon producers — so the bottom line is that they can simply afford to give some of the juice away. He’s a class act and it makes everyone else look silly. If you’re wondering about the name, it’s another way that John honors the history of the Valley: The Red Barn dates back to the late 1800s, when it was a Frog Farm that raised the little buggers and sold their legs for $.33 a dozen to San Francisco gourmets. The leap honors Stag’s Leap Winery, which is where John had his first job as an assistant winemaker. When you hit the Frog, ask for Lindsay. The young lady relayed the story of Frog’s Leap with such passion and grace, you’d think she was there. On to the wines. Two whites and a red continue to swirl in my dreams…….

— Yes, I take back the post from “What Women Drink” about hating chards. At least I don’t hate the Frog’s. I love it. Their 2005 expression is all apple and pear, not butter and vanilla. It’s crisp and fresh, like a Sauvingnon Blanc. Who knew chard could taste this way. I’m sold. $24.

— Speaking of food friendly wines, buy the Leapfrogmilch the next time you’re in the winery. It’s their signature Reisling (with a touch of Chard for body) and this is the last year they’re going to make it. It’s only $14 and heavenly.

— All of the Frog’s reds are silky and sophisticated, but I’m going to focus on the 2003 Rutherford Cabernet. It’s velvety yet bold (usually cabs are one or the other), and there’s a reason for that. “Rutherford Dust” is a term the legendary Andre Tchelistcheff coined to describe the terroir of that region of the Valley. The soils produce rich, balancing aromas of dark fruit and green olives. While I’m usually not thrilled about the exhorbitant amount of California cabs over $50, this one is $75 and truly worth it. Lay it down for 5 years and it will feel like silk going down your throat.

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