Frog's Leap Wine Tasting - a whimsical leap of faith to Napa.
A somewhat impulsive Saturday afternoon’s decision to visit Frog’s leap winery in Rutherford, Napa, made the experience even more enchanting. The only connection we’d previously had with a Frog’s Leap wine tasting was via The UK Wine Society which was a supplier, so then why not? Plus, I rather liked the name and the corresponding image of a frog leaping seemingly blindly into the air. At $15 pp we booked ourselves slightly ahead and online for the garden tasting. We naively thought the outdoor part would distract the kids sufficiently while we got stuck into the wine. This was before we realized just how chilly that Saturday was turning out to be. Fortunately, the organizers cleverly relocated the tasting underneath an attractive patio heater in the Red Barn where the kids could also run free. Everyone was happy and warm either chasing dust or consuming Frog’s.
Ah yes the Frog’s Leap wine tasting. The very friendly and knowledgeable Paula poured four different Frogs for our willing palates starting with the 2012 Napa Valley Chardonnay ($30). This Carneros located grape received only subtle oak to avoid overwhelming the more mineral typical of the area. A fresh green apple follows through with a citrusy edge making this a perfect match for a parmesan crusted baked white fish - halibut springs to mind - with roasted tomatoes and capers to complement the slight creaminess of the oak and fresh acidity.
Frog’s Leap is a mostly a red wine producer and Paula leapt straight into the difficult 2011 vintage Zinfandel, Napa Valley ($30) where the savory style of a Chianti spring to mind. Blackcurrant, raspberry and rotting vegetation arrive first followed by a flick of black and white pepper and a sudden slap of chili on the finish. This is not your typical, jammy Cali Zin to help wash down that burger. Founder John Williams has done something else with this Frog and it may be to do with the addition of 14.5% Petit Sirah and 0.5% Carignane to the pot at fermentation. A herbaceous pork sausage with chargrilled root vegetables would go mouthwateringly well with this Zin instead of a protein-filled steak as the tannins are subtle.
Because of the difficulties with the 2011 Merlot vintage, the 2011 Merlot, Rutherford label ($38) was sort-of-saved by blending it with 10% Cabernet and Cabernet Franc giving it good drinkability and a lighter than usual style. To quote Frog’s Leap website, the Merlot celebrates its “2011 -ishness.” Alluvial dust dominance on the nose with black olive, plum and earth notes on the palate would pair very well with some mushroom and olive-heavy spaghetti bolognese.
The 2011 Frog’s Leap Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley ($42) with a little help from Cabernet Franc (14%) and Merlot (9%) is neither a big typical Napa that one has come to expect over the last few years or a tightly tannic lay-down. A slightly fragrant violet and lavender to complement the blackberry on the nose follows through on the palate combined with thyme, rosemary and dried black fruits. I’d definitely serve this with a very slow roasted leg of lamb.
Keeping the kids occupied while we enjoy a glass or two at a winery has always been an anxious activity but the barn and garden charm at Frog’s Leap made for a really positive experience - for everyone.
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