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Frog's Leap

Frog's Leap

The story of Frog's Leap is rather convoluted, but this is it in a nutshell and a story of belief and innovation. In 1972 John Williams obtained an internship at Taylor Wine Company in the Finger Lake region of New York State, and basically fell in love with wine. Two years later he visited the Napa Valley and met Larry Turley, and the story goes that after sharing a couple of bottles of wine, they decided to start a winery. Larry's friend Warren Winiarski was at that time the proprietor of Stag's Leap Wine Cellars, and he gave John a job at his winery, where John split his time working and completing his winemaking studies at UC Davis. Graduating in 1977 he became winemaker at the newly opened Glenora Cellars in the Finger Lakes, but retuned to the Napa Valley in 1980 as head winemaker at Spring Mountain, and renewed a pledge with Larry to start their own winery together. However, no bank would lend them the money, so they sold their motorbikes, and in 1981 Frog's Leap was bonded, and made its first wines, a Sauvignon Blanc and a Zinfandel with grapes purchased from Spottswoode. The salientia name came about because the winery was located at Larry's family home, known as Frog Farm, as it was a former frog farm, and Leap because Stag's Leap had played such an important role in John's winemaking career. In 1988 John began to farm organically, convinced that this was the way forward, and gained certification in 1989. This was the first certificated organic vineyard in the Napa Valley, a full 10 years before anyone else. The same year Frank's Chave & Leeds Vineyard become a Rutherford grape source and the practice of dry farming, which he is passionate about, became a standard. In 1993 Larry decided to sell his share of Frog's Leap to John, and start his own venture on the original Frog's Leap site, calling it Turley Wine Cellars. John could keep the Frog's Leap name, but he needed a new site, and the search began, which he found the following year in the Rutherford AVA of the Napa Valley. The property was called the Red Barn and included a partially collapsed historic barn built in 1884, and neglected vineyards. John secured a long term lease, restored the barn and resurrected the vines. A year later he was able to acquire the Red Barn from Freemark Abbey. John replanted the 40 acre site starting with Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, and bought in other grape varieties from elsewhere. In 1998 John bought 52 acres of riverfront land in Rutherford with a vision of cultivating entirely estate grown Sauvignon Blanc. In 2000 a brand new bi-level barrel chai was completed at the Red Barn which allowed all winemaking and storage to be completed at the winery. In 2007 the Rossi estate was acquired for an all-estate grown Cabernet Sauvignon program. John's dream was realised in 2012 when his first estate-grown Rutherford Cabernet Sauvignon was released. Frog's Leap now have 250 acres of their own vineyards, and John's son Rory helps him out when he is not at his own winery, the Calder Wine Company. John is a respected and admired figure throughout the wine industry, and his terroir-driven wines are some of the finest from the Napa Valley.