Somm in the city

Published on June 29th, 2018

Winery Spotlight: Frog’s Leap

Sometimes I meet with winemakers and realize just how much I still don’t know about wine, although I’ve studied it, lived it, consumed it for well over 10 years. The study of wine is like studying the whole world—you can never reach the bottom.

 

Hearing Jonah Beer’s (of Frog’s Leap Winery) revelations of the Napa Valley felt like one of those humbling experiences where you just accept that you know nothing, but someone out there knows something. He’s the guy that does. Just when I felt like I was in a Napa rut–bored, uninspired, along he came and blew my mind.

 

We spoke about geology (did you know Napa Valley used to be the top of one mountain range, and the little knolls that dot the landscape were the peaks?), about history, about bio-chemistry. Lots and lots of biochemistry. Turns out, we know a lot about what is happening on the cellular level when it comes to winemaking but we still don’t know everything. In fact, there’s more that we don’t know than we do. For example, why does wine physically change in bottle while aging? Of course, oxygen plays a role, but we really have no clue why new flavors and nuances develop. (at this point he started talking about esters and chains of polyphenols and my eyes glazed over a bit).

Jonah’s diagram of how the 6 Carbons are broken down during fermentation.

Armed with all this knowledge, I asked him if he relies on the science of it all to produce the wine, or does he go by his gut, his instinct? Being a true romantic, he answered that it was the mystery of wine that inspires him.

 

Speaking of romance, Frog’s Leap Winery is about as romantic a place as they come. Situated in prime-real estate territory in Napa’a Rutherford Valley, the story starts in 1972 when owner John Williams fell in love with wine. (read the whole story and explore their beautiful website HERE) In 1981 the winery is bonded and produces its first wines. Since then, they’ve been committed to making real wines of distinction. No trends, no gimmicks. Just real Californian wine.

 

DEP’s Top Picks:

2016 Chardonnay Jonah waxed poetic about reductive vs oxidative, pulling in hydrogen, heat exchange and blah blah blah, the wine is just really, really good. Even if you’re tired of Chardonnay-try this one!

2016 Merlot “Merlot should be like mom” he said, “authoritative and tender, supple and powerful.’ This bottling certainly fits that description, it is beautiful and hyper-individualistic.

2017 Sauvignon Blanc Done in 100% stainless steel, this is crisp and bright and offers gorgeous minerality not offer found in Napa bottlings.

 

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