At 40 years old, Frog’s Leap may seem like a relatively young winery, but in the Napa Valley, a lot has changed during that time.
When John Williams, owner, founder and winemaker of Frog’s Leap, first arrived in “the Valley” with an interest in winemaking and an undergraduate degree from Cornell, things looked quite a bit different from the bustling tourist destination of today. “At the time, there were 28 wineries in Napa. Now, there are 600 wineries,” John recollects.
Napa Valley established an agricultural preserve of 32,000 acres in 1968. Since then, the region and its caretakers, mostly vineyards, have taken responsibility for the land. The respect for the land, the vines it feeds, and the grapes it produces, encouraged many farmers to continually explore responsible and sustainable practices to preserve not only their land, but also the future of Napa.
Rooted (literally) in the belief that it is the vine’s deep connection to its ecosystem that gives it the ability to produce fruit that makes wines of balance, restraint and terroir, fruit destined for Frog’s Leap wines has been certified organically grown since 1989 and grown without irrigation since planting.
Frog’s Leap has been a passionate advocate for organic farming. Introduced to the complex structures of biodynamic farming more than twenty years ago, Frog’s Leap has taken a more nuanced approach – adopting many of its principles based in the concepts of wholeness of nature and biodiversity, adapting some of its principles to already well-established farming practices.
When John speaks about his goal to build a legacy with the winery, it’s easy to start talking about family. “Our connectedness to each other is echoed in our approach to producing fine wines from Napa Valley. With three decades behind us and countless ahead, we have a multigeneration approach to farming our vineyards and honing our winemaking craft. To us, this allows for progression, innovation and refinement in pace with the natural world. I’m proud to say that we are a multi-generation winery,” John notes. “Many wineries are just starting to face decisions of successorship.”
His son, Rory, who took over vineyard operations three years ago, is continuing in his dad’s footsteps. “Rory grasped the grape growing part quickly. He understood the importance of it. At Frog’s Leap, we are a grown product, not a made product.” While his other children and wife are also involved in the business in various ways, John also recognizes the legacies of his extended winery family. “Pablo Polanco, our former cellar master, now a member of our winemaking team, has been part of the winery for28 years. His daughter Xochitl has recently joined our winemaking team, and cellar crew member Cesar Ortiz-Aviles’ sons are working with us in hospitality this summer. That’s a second generation for them.”
John notes that working with his son includes, “a lot of joking and pushing. It’s all built on respect. You shouldn’t be in it unless you’re 100% passionate. You have to have mutual respect for each other and the business. Rory and I are neighbors. This means a lot of early morning coffee and late afternoon glasses of wine. It’s critical to enjoy the time.”
At Frog’s Leap, wine is made with respect. “Ours is a balance of efforts, a discipline to do less, to support nature’s moderating forces. With this, we are rewarded with poised, inherently energetic wines.” John goes on to say, “we continue to look for more ways to be good stewards. We consider everything from climate change, dry farming, river restoration, biodynamics, and even biodiversity. With low input farming, the pursuit has to be constant. It comes from a passion to make great wine and do what’s right.”
New Hampshire is fortunate to have John Williams and his family as friends in the wine industry. The full Frog’s Leap portfolio is carried in the state and on occasion Frog’s Leap produces a bottling exclusively for New Hampshire Liquor & Wine Outlet customers. This year, through the Outlet Power Buy program, New Hampshire Liquor & Wine Outlets is offering Frog’s Leap 2018 Granite Red Blend. Look for the latest release, arriving in stores this fall.