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Wine to me is passion. It's family and friends. It's warmth of heart and generosity of spirit. Wine is art. It's culture. It's the essence of civilization and the art of living. - Robert Mondavi

Frog’s Leap Winery – The French Don’t Blush

Wednesday, November 17, 2010
I have long been a fan of Frog’s Leap wines. The catchy name along with the sleek black and white bottle label depicting a marsh reed and a lithe leaping frog are easily recognized andthe fun, elegant wines are just as memorable on the palette. The Frogs Leap team, headed by John Williams, believes strongly in the connection between the way grapes are grown and the resulting wine. The Rutherford terroir plays an integral part in Frogs Leap winemaking credo and the winery is committed to growing their grapes organically and has been doing so for 20 years. All 250 of the winery’s vineyards are also dry farmed, forcing the grapes to work harder to find water and to produce beautiful flavors and qualities in doing so.
This past August, Frog’s Leap Winery opened up Sunday’s to tasting for the first time – a secret that was not advertised and few are yet aware of (shhh!). Located on Conn Creek Road in Rutherford, FrogsLeap Winery and tasting room epitomizes country chic – elegant, yet quaint, with a staff that is poised, yet approachable. Entering the tasting room, I felt as though I had stepped into Martha Stewart’s wine country estate. Painted in a richspectrum of gray and sage green, the interior of the house-liketasting room is calming and elegant, and oversized pillows and living room furniture appeared sophisticated yet warm –a fact made clear by a marmalade-colored cat curled up in front ofthe massive fireplace on one of the plus armchairs. The large dining table, made of wine barrels, candelabras and even the magnetic spice jars in the kitchen that looked like a piece of artwork affixed to the wall made me feel like an esteemed guest, not a visitor. I was thrilled when we were invited to enjoy our tasting at a charming table outside on the back covered patio rather than the standard tasting counter, which you will not encounter here.

On the patio, our four wines were brought to us in a French“wine basket” and served with a delightful plate of cheese, nuts, crackers and dried berries. After each wine was poured for us, we were leftto enjoy the tasting on our own as we overlooked the lawn, organic garden and fruit trees on the property with the Mayacama Mountains framing the background. The wines were all true to their Rutherford terroir – the “Rutherford dust “ could be easily identified in the Merlot and the Cabernet – and I enjoyed each for its individuality and purity of style(see my tasting noted below). We

were able to taste several other varietals later when we were deciding what to purchase, so don’t hesitate to ask the friendly staff if you’ve missed a varietal. This winery is a great place to come for a relaxed, fun, enjoyable experience that goes beyond the wines and would be a great for a group tasting, yet is boutique and intimate and not inundated by the masses.

Although the winery does not have a license to hold private events, it is the perfect place to spend the afternoon, and with plenty or outdoor picnic tables, I would even recommend coming with a picnic basket of French cheeses and charcuterie to enjoy amongst the fruit trees out back. We concluded our tasting and then enjoyed extended our visit at the winery

playing a bocce ball-like game on the lawn, exploring the organic vegetable garden (with frogs croaking in the background), and relaxing near the coi pond and trickling fountain. Napa meets France at its best, Frogs Leap is charming and produces a beautiful assortment of red and white wines that can be enjoyed right away or cellared to enjoy in years to come. As quoted by the winery “To us it is simple; wines made to impress rather than to satisfy will typically do neither”. Do I agree? Oui Oui!

2009 Frog’s Leap Greneoille Rougante, Rutherford: $14
This wine had me at “pink” and was the perfect start to a tasting at a country French winery, with its own “French” style label to boot. Grenoille Rougante translates loosely into “blushing frog”, though the Frenc

h don’t have a word for “blushing” and this wine is nothing to be embarrassed about. Like a rose straight from Provence, it is filled with aromas and flavors of wild strawberry, bright cranberry, and white blossoms. With slight savory hints of sage, it would be a wonderful start to Thanksgiving Dinner.

2007 Frog’s Leap Merlot, Rutherford: $34
This wine begins with a beautiful fruit-filled nose, and big flavors of cherry and plum are promising and mouthwatering. But the wine is so light-bodied and bright, that the Rutherford Dust is overpowering and the wine taste chalky on the finish. This and the Chardonnay are the only two Frogs Leap wines I didn’t care for.

2006 Frog’s Leap “Rutherford”: $75
This bold wine is a classic Rutherford Cabernet; espresso cake with brandied cherries and a long finish. The wine boasts rich dark fruits, currants and blackberries has strong but balanced tannins, and the finish, while filled with “Rutherford Dust”, is elegantly muted by the bold fruit and the finish is layered with cedar, green tea, sage, and crushed dry herbs.

2007 Frog’s Leap Petit Syrah, Rutherford: $35
This wine reminded me of a Willy Wonka Blueberry explosion – with overwhelming aromas of ripe wild summer blueberries and toasted vanilla beans. The wine is fruit forward to the core, it has lingering notes of tobacco, smoke and even roast game making it a big, luscious, easy to enjoy now wine.

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