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Q&A with Frog’s Leap owner and winemaker, John Williams

Frog's Leap – a well-established and very respected winery located in Rutherford within the Napa Valley – is our wine alert today. We love Frog's Leap, both for its wonderful sensibility when it comes to growing good grapes and making great wine, as well as their lighthearted sense of humor that makes the wine – and winery – so approachable. We asked John Williams, owner and winemaker at Frog's Leap, a few questions. Make sure you also watch our video as we taste the 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon from the winery.

Q: Why the name, Frog's Leap?
A: It is a contraction of "Frog Farm", where I made our early homemade wines, and "Stag's Leap" where I had my first winemaking job in the Napa Valley.


Q: Your winery was organic before organic was "cool." Why did you choose organic farming?
A: When you come to the realization that we have, that the surest sign of a wine’s character is when it has the ability to transport you, captivate you and ultimately draw you back to its source of uniqueness, then you must also believe that the vines must be deeply rooted and nourished by their soils. To that end, the decision to farm organically was simple…nourish the soil, nourish the plant and capture the sense of place. No politics, no agenda, just good, honest farming.

Q: What is your favorite part of the vine cycle (or part of the year in the vineyard)?
A: Harvest. That time of year is filled with hard work, great promise and the rarest of opportunities to capture the sense of time, place and people into a bottle of wine. This is the essence of terroir to us. Harvest time represents all the possibilities of the year and all of our hope for how the wines we are making will age into the future for our kids and their kids to enjoy. There is something magical about a well-aged bottle of wine that carries the significance of history with it.


Q: What is your favorite grape to work with?
A:I would have to say Merlot. It is the hardest red wine to make (yes, even more so than Pinot Noir). Merlot is a cousin to Cabernet Sauvignon, so one must “work” the wine in the cellar to soften the tannins and smooth the rough edges…just like one has to with Cabernet. Yet, Merlot has an aroma profile similar to Pinot Noir…the very pretty red-fruits. If one “works” the wine in the cellar too much then the wine will end up smelling “weedy” just like you would with a Pinot. Merlot forces the winemaker to walk a very fine line between working the wine enough and knowing when to stop…it is a constant challenge and one that can reward you with a wine of extreme depth and character…see Petrus for an example.