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Frog’s Leap Winery

I’ve visited Napa and Sonoma many, many times.  Frog’s Leap has been on my list since my first visit, but I STILL hadn’t gotten there.  This time I was determined!

As we arrived for our tasting, we drove along beautiful vineyards of dormant vines surrounded by the beautiful mustard known in this region.  There aren’t many better welcomes than seeing the historic Red Barn, which was originally built as the Adamson winery back in 1884.  Today, this “ghost winery” not only inspires their wine tasting guests, but also Frog’s Leap’s winemakers John Williams and Paula Moschetti.

John Williams (a former dairy farmer from upstate New York) moved to Northern California in 1975 to study Enology and Viticulture at UC Davis.  After working at Glenora Wine Cellars in the Finger Lakes and Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars and Spring Mountain Vineyards in Napa, he began Frog’s Leap Winery in 1981.  It is located along Mill Creek in a spot known as the Frog Farm.  Frogs were raised here around the turn of the century, providing the very appropriate name Frog’s Leap!

Upon entering The Vineyard House, we were escorted outside to a beautiful wrap-around porch nestled among 40 acres of organically farmed vineyard.  What a lovely area in which to taste.  We were brought a carafe of water, along with a wonderful cheese plate to accompany the wine tasting.

Here are some of the wines we tasted:

2010 Sauvignon Blanc Rutherford – This had some nice, ripe, tropical fruit flavors, and a little grapefruit acidity, which balanced out the wine nicely.  For a mere $18 per bottle, I grabbed a couple of these to take home for the golf course!

2009 Napa Valley Zinfandel – Nice, easy drinking Zin with some cherry and boysenberry and not overdone with the oak.

2009 Rutherford Merlot – The majority of the fruit for this wine comes from the vineyard in which we were sitting.  Merlot loves the rich, clay loam soils here.  The wine has some nice rich cherry flavors along with thyme and other herbs.  We bought a bottle of this as well.

2009 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon – Lots of dark red fruit and some nice acidity made this a nice pick-up for the price of $42.

2008 “Rutherford” Cabernet Sauvignon – This was a very nice wine with cassis and current and a lot of nice terroir showing through.  This will be a beauty in years to come.

The thing that probably impresses me the most about Frog’s Leap Winery is that they truly care about our planet. Frog’s Leap produces some wonderful wines, while keeping the planet healthy through the production of solar and geothermal power.  In 2005 they built their Vineyard House according to the goals of the U.S. Green Building Council.  They even insulated it using old blue jeans.

Health of the vineyard is achieved through organic farming and the use of biodynamic methods. Along the rows of vines are borders of specially selected plants, which attract butterflies and beneficial insects. They are even wisely conscious of the winery and vineyard staff, numbering 45.  All of their employees are full time with full benefits.

I can tell that this must be a fun place to work too!  Their website is absolutely adorable, with a fun fly catching game to start things off.  Once inside their site, they very cleverly take you through any aspect of their winery in which one might be curious.  And what is their motto????  “Time’s fun when you’re having flies”!

Bird watching while we were tasting!

Napa/February 2012/Day 1

The excitement of driving into Napa and Sonoma never ends for me.  I’ve visited the region many times, but I never tire of the beauty of the first vineyards I see and the longing of my first taste of the trip!


We had plans to meet some friends at a winery, but had a little time to kill before that appointment.  We spotted the tasting room for Beau Vigne and decided to give it a shot.  I wasn’t familiar with their wines, but the tasting room was very inviting and a very nice young guy was there to greet us and pour some of their wines.  Come to find out, this nice young guy was BEAU himself, the son of the winery owners!  No wonder he was so knowledgeable!!!

We tasted four wines.  The first was the 2009 Beau Vigne Persuasion from Russian River Valley grapes.  This lovely Chardonnay has a nice mixture of citrus and pineapple on the nose, and on the palate a kiss of oak with nice acidity.  We picked up a bottle of this to take home.

We also picked up a bottle of the next wine we tasted, the 2009 Soda Canyon Cellars Barrel Chaser.  Beau’s father came up with the name, as their winery is located way up on Atlas Peak.  He wondered one day what might happen if a barrel fell off the truck going up the mountain, and realized that someone would indeed be chasing after the barrel.  The wine was very nice, with a lot of black fruit and smoky meat.  It has 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 47% Syrah, 2% Petite Verdot and 1% Cabernet Franc.

Next up was the 2009 Juliet Cabernet Sauvignon.  By the way, Juliet is Beau’s sister!  This left bank blend is comprised of 81% Cabernet Sauvignon; 15% Merlot; 2% Petite Verdot; 2% Cabernet Franc.  It has nice dark cherry and rose petal on the nose and palate.

Last but not least was the 2009 Cult, with 96% Cabernet Sauvignon, 2% Petite Verdot and 2% Cabernet Franc.  It has a lot of big, spicy fruit with a bit of tobacco and licorice.  This is a wine to enjoy for years to come.


We next went to our scheduled appointment at Elyse Winery, which has been a favorite of ours for years.  Again, Elyse is the daughter of the owner.  Her brother, Jacob Franklin, also has a label.

John walked us through the wines.  Elyse does a lot of Rhone Varietals and some great Cabs, but is known for their fine Zinfandels.  We tasted through many different wines.  The highlights for me were the ’09 Chardonnay (made in the Burgundian style with some really nice fruit and crisp acidity), the 2007 C’est Si Bon (46% Grenache, 26% Mourvedre, 18% Syrah, 5% Cinsault, 4% Counoise and 1% Viognier) and the 2007 Le Corbeau from the Hudson Vineyard (90% Grenache and 10% Syrah).

Another winner was the 2009 Jacob Franklin Petite Sirah from Hayne Vineyard.  This is 86% Petite Sirah and 14% Zinfandel.  From very old vines, this wine gives off smoke, black raspberry and leather on the nose with lots of fruit, nice acidity and chewy tannins on the palate.  What did we end up buying????  A case of the 2007 Jacob Franklin Cabernet Sauvignon and some great Zin from Black Sears Vineyard!  Check out Elyse and Jacob Franklin wines!!!  You’ll be glad that you did.


Our friends were kind enough to invite us to a reserve tasting at Beaulieu Vineyard (BV) that is available to club members.  Christine was in charge of us and was very kind and knowledgeable.

BV is one of the oldest wineries in Napa.  Originally started by Georges de Latour and his wife Fernande in 1900, B.V. (as it is often called) survived Prohibition due to their obtaining a contract to supply sacramental wines to churches across the country.  Following the Repeal of Prohibition in 1933, B.V. hired Andre Tchelistcheff as their winemaker and the wine quality increased significantly.  The rest, as they say, is history.  Beaulieu has been known as a fine winery since.

Some of the wines were quite nice. I enjoyed the 2008 Carneros Reserve Pinot Noir.  This wine was big for a Pinot, but still displayed some nice plum and blueberry fruit, along with some nice earthiness.  The highlight for me was the 2006 Reserve Clone 4 Cabernet.  B.V. uses this clone (which was originally brought to the U.S. from Argentina and now grows in their Rutherford vineyards) in their classic Reserve Cabs.  Each year they do a very limited bottling of exclusively the Clone 4.  At $140 per bottle, this is a special occasion wine at my house.


We headed right next door for dinner at The Rutherford Grill.  We love this eatery and try to dine there whenever visiting Napa.  They have a great variety of foods to offer.  Vegetarians and meat eaters alike will rejoice at the options.  Their wine list is wonderful as well.  They have a lot of fun wines by the glass, and their bottle prices aren’t out of control.  We chose a bottle of the 2009 Lail Blueprint.  It was young, but yummy!

Our lodging choice while in Napa was the River Terrace Inn.  We had never stayed there before, but were pleasantly surprised with the place.  The lobby was warm and welcoming, with a small bar and a huge fireplace and comfy seating throughout.  They also have a very nice fire pit outside!  The rooms were large, clean and comfortable, and the staff was VERY friendly and helpful.  The hotel location was good, with tasting rooms and shops within walking distance.

One night while enjoying the lobby fireplace with a glass of wine, I met a gal who often stays at the River Terrace Inn.  She told me that they were completely gutting the lobby area and redoing it to compete with the Westin next door.  I sure do hope that this is only a rumor.  I would love to stay in this warm, quaint hotel again.  I can always stay at the Westin if I want to stay at a Westin!

Next Up:  More adventures in Napa!

My February Wine of the Month

Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars
Artemis Cabernet Sauvignon

Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars is an integral part of Napa history.  Founder Warren Winiarski is one of the pioneers of the wine industry in the Napa Valley.  His 1973 S.L.V. Cabernet Sauvignon placed an extremely impressive first place in the famous 1976 Paris Tasting, beating nine other wines, which included four top-ranked Bordeaux, two of these first growths.  The success of the California wines in “The Judgment of Paris” significantly helped to give California wines legitimacy around the world!

The Wine – I love the wines of Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars.  Their Fay Vineyard and Cask 23 wines are a couple of my favorite California Cabs!

This 2008 Artemis is 98% Cabernet Sauvignon and 2% Merlot.  The color is a dark garnet.  The nose has some rose petal and green earth.  I also detected piecrust, which I assume is a muted vanilla aroma from the oak.

The wine is nicely balanced.  With 18 months in barrel (55% in new French oak), there is not too much oak.  The terrior comes through nicely.  The palate also has some leather, blackberry and black currant.

The 2008 Artemis is drinking nicely now (with an hour in the decanter), but will only get better with a couple of years in the bottle.

My Experiences Visiting the Winery – While visiting the winery a few years ago, the gal pouring for us wasn’t very warm and fuzzy.  We also had the opportunity to attend a tasting in their caves, which more than made up for the lack of love we’d received earlier.  I’m heading to Napa next week, so I’ll check them out again.  I’ve heard that some exciting improvements are being made since my last visit.  I’ll be sure to write about this visit in my blog.

The Journey – Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars is located right on Silverado Trail, which is a lovely road west of busy Highway 29.  They are located in the famous Stags Leap district north of the city of Napa.

Wine Adventures

Do you know how it is when you are enjoying a book and you don’t want it to end???  The characters become friends with whom you want to share years of enjoyment?  The locale becomes home and you must get there immediately?

I just finished reading a book in which this is an understatement.  Last night I sadly completed Kermit Lynch’s Adventures on the Wine Route: A Wine Buyer’s Tour of France.

I’m proud to call myself a Sommelier and a Certified Specialist of Wine, but after reading this book I feel as if I never really understood wine before at all.  Oh sure, I knew a lot of facts.  I had the knowledge of the different regions, the vines and varietals, the chemistry of how it all works.  I was even pretty proud of my palate.  But did I truly know WINE?????  I’m not so sure.

Lynch’s book was written 25 years ago, and yet it all made sense to me.  In case some of you out there don’t know, Kermit Lynch is an importer of French and Italian wines.  He started his wine career with a retail store in Berkley, CA (which he still has), and soon realized he wanted more control in which wines he sold.  Little did he know his career was only beginning!

In his book, he travels throughout France in search of new and perhaps undiscovered winemakers and growers who excite him and his palate.  He takes the reader all through the fabulous French wine regions and introduces us to characters and wines we will never forget.  Each named vintner he describes led me to grab my laptop and search them and their wines on Google.  He does include some pictures in his book, which was very considerate of him since 25 years ago we didn’t have Google to find these photos for ourselves!  I loved discovering each of these “characters” and also learning about what is happening to their wines and wineries now.  In many cases the sons, who were very young men we meet in Lynch’s travels, are now expertly running many of these Domaines.

I am fortunate to have been to France tasting, but after reading of Lynch’s adventures I can’t wait to go back!  I know that I will look at the experiences very differently now.

I also feel as if I finally “get it”.  I will never taste wine the same way again.  I truly believe that I was overanalyzing it at times, instead of just enjoying the nuances and differences of each wine!  I look forward to my upcoming “adventures on the wine route”!

Thank you Kermit Lynch!  You have given me so many new wines I desperately want to taste, as well as enhancing the way I look at wine in general.  Even though we’ve never met, I consider you my new friend!


Soave, Italy

We were heading from Venice to Verona, so visiting Soave was a MUST for me.  After finding the center of town (where a wonderful Italian wedding was going on!) and parking, I immediately called a recommended winery for an appointment.

While waiting for our scheduled tasting time, we headed for some lunch.  Antica Trattoria da Amedeo was were we landed and we had a lovely lunch.  They have a nice little wine list, great pasta and salads, and WONDERFUL service.  I love the Italians, and the folks we met in Soave were all so warm and welcoming!

After lunch we headed to the famous Castello di Soave, but sadly it was closed.  I did walk around Soave’s famous castle for a bit, enjoying the absolutely fabulous views of the famous vineyards.

Next we headed to our tasting at Cantina Coffele.  What a lovely experience we had at this family winery.  Elizabeth poured for us, with much knowledge and a lot of charm.  The owner of the winery, Giuseppe Coffele, joined us during the tasting, which was a lovely surprise.

The wines were great!  We tried many, starting with their Soave Spumante Brut (DOC), which was a wonderful beginning.  It had a nice floral bouquet and a wonderful almond, yeast flavor on the palate.  Next up was their Soave Classico (DOC), which was nice as well.  It had a lovely green apple on the palate.  We moved on to the 2009 Alzari Soave Classico (DOC), which I loved.  The oak influence is there (with some baking spices and vanilla on the nose), but not overdone.  All three of these wines are made with 100 % Garganega.

We then moved on to the reds.  My two favorites were the 2006 Amarone Della Valpolicella (DOC), but then again I’m a sucker for Amarones!  The varietals in this wine consisted of 75% Corvina, 15% Rondinella and 10% Molinarra.  The color was ruby red with a nose full of black cherries, plum and some licorice.  These were evident as well on the velvety palate along with some spice, cinnamon and some nice earthiness.  I loved this wine.  I also really enjoyed their “Nuj” Rosso del Veneto, which is a Right Bank Bordeaux blend of 75% Merlot, 25% Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc.  Another ruby red wine, this had some blackberry to go along with the cherries on the nose.  The palate was very well balanced with just the right amount of acidity, and the tannins present, but not overbearing.  The finish was nice and long.

Our final taste of the day was their Ricioto di Soave Spumante (DOCG).  Again, this is 100% Garganega.  This wine is my idea of the perfect desert along with some cheese!

Our tasting ended with Mr. Coffele taking us on a brief tour and showing us their cellar, their bottling machinery and kindly taking a quick photo with me.  We bought a bunch of bottles to enjoy on the trip, and a couple to take home in our suitcases.


Next Up:  Piemonte!!!!


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