Frog's Leap Winery
Before we get started on this mini history of Frog's Leap Winery, we urge you to visit their website - it perfectly captures the culture of this estate and their wines! John Williams and Larry Turley set up Frogs Leap Winery in 1981.The two first met in Napa in 1975 and it was at this moment, after a few glasses of wine (the first bottle they shared was a '72 Zinfandel!) that they vowed to one day set up their own winery. John grew up on a dairy farm near Buffalo, and it wasn't until a university transfer programme took him to Napa that John realised the wine business was his calling. John got his first job in a winery, with the help of his friend Larry, bottling wine at Stag's Leap in 1975 and from here things were only onwards and upwards for John Williams. The winery acquired its name after Larry's family farm - which was once a frog raising farm - and because Stag's Leap played such an important step in John's winemaking ladder. Put those together, and Frog's Leap was born in 1981.
Frog's Leap Winery is located in the AVA of Rutherford within the Napa Valley in California. To begin with John and Larry purchased grapes from local growers. In 1987 they purchased their first vineyard which the following year became the first organically certified vineyard in the Napa Valley, 10 years before anyone else. Frog's Leap have always been believers in the benefits of organic and dry farming (without irrigation) and John talks passionately about the essentials of soils studies, slow fertility and encouraging deep roots. In the years of extreme drought in California John, his team and his vines have survived and flourished! John explains that a healthy, self-sustaining vine is more likely to fight off disease, repair and recover - just like humans. The Frog's Leap Estate now comprises 250 acres of vines and produces 55-65 thousand cases of wine a year. Their production levels have not changed over the past 20 years.
Balance. Restraint. Respect for Terroir. These are the rules that Frog's Leap are bound to. At the Oxford Wine Company, we stock the Frog's Leap Zinfandel. "The wine will never be 100% Zinfandel" explains John. The Zinfandel always undergoes co-fermentation with small quantities of varieties such as Durif (Petit Sirah) and Carignan. The biological structure and different growing and ripening calendars of these varieties when fermented together, result in a wine that shows great balance, depth, and freshness. Four more wines are also produced: Sauvignon Blanc (30% of production), cool climate style Chardonnay, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon - John claims that Rutherford is the "single best place in the world to grow Cabernet Sauvignon"!
John Williams and Larry Turley were the creators of Frogs Leap winery but in 1993 Larry sold his shares to John and went on to build the world-famous Turley Wine Cellars. Today John is still the winemaker at Frog's Leap and his son, Rory lends a hand too when he is not working on the wines of his own company, Calder Wine Co. John has always worked to make his wine accessible, his sense of humour and hunger for living life to the fullest is completely infectious; he is admired and respected throughout the wine world.