Although Frog's Leap Winery takes winemaking seriously, you would never know it by their whimsical label, colorful history and off-the-wall signature slogan of, "Time's Fun When You're Having Flies." The Napa Valley winery is also unique in the range of wines it produces.
The Frog's Leap label is a drawing of a frog leaping through the air with its body fully extended like an acrobat flying between high wires. It was created in 1981 by graphic designer Chuck House, who exchanged his talents for a couple cases of wine and $200. The label won the Design of Excellence Award from the American Institute of Graphic Design in the same year it was created and went on to be honored with inclusion in the permanent collection of the Smithsonian Institute.
Origin of the Name
In the late 1800s, there was a commercial frog farm in St. Helena, California situated on the banks of Mill Creek. Vintner John Williams made one of his first batches of wine at the site in 1981 and christened the California wine country location Frog's Leap.
The Frog's Leap Facility
At the center of the Frog's Leap operations is a historic red barn known as the "ghost winery." The building was constructed in 1884 and housed the Adamson Winery founded by German vintner Christian Pugh Adamson. Thirteen years after the founding of Frog's Leap Winery, the barn, the oldest board and batten structure in Napa Valley, was renovated and serves as the winery's home base. The restoration project used almost 85 percent of the original wood and received the 1995 Award of Merit for Restoration from Napa Valley Landmark Inc. The winery is encircled by 40 acres of organically grown wine grapes.
Contrasting with the historical buildings and sagas of the farm's past is Frog Leap's innovative choice to convert its operations to solar power. In 2005, the winery became 100 percent solar powered in an effort to reduce the environmental effects of traditional power sources.
The first 700 cases of wine produced at Frog's Leap in 1981 included only Zinfandel and Sauvignon Blanc. The winery now produces between 50,000 and 60,000 cases a year, which now include Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Merlot, Rutherford, Petite Sirah, Pink and Frögenbeerenauslese as well as the original Sauvignon Blanc and Zinfandel. About half of Frog's Leap annual production is dedicated to Sauvignon Blanc.
What is Frögenbeerenauslese?
In keeping with their lighthearted approach to winemaking, Frögenbeerenauslese is an original creation of Frog's Leap, a fake German wine that is their version of a popular German dessert wine called Trockenbeerenauslese. Only about 200 cases of this wine are produced each year.
Tours and Attractions
For $20, you can tour Frog's Leap winery and vineyards any day between 10 AM and 4 PM. The tour takes about an hour to complete. Seated tastings are also available during those hours and include four wines for a $20 fee. Since the tasting sessions are limited to ten people, call for availability and book as far in advance as possible. Frog's Leap also has a club called Fellowship of the Frog, which provides members with seasonal wine shipments, exclusive access to special events, complimentary tastings, discount wine pricing and insider information on the secret FrogFellow handshake.
Take the Leap
If you're touring the Napa Valley or just want to visit Frog's Leap Winery for fun, their website can provide you with directions and lots of details about the company's roots, founders and operations. Based on their lighthearted approach to winemaking, the trip is sure to be a memorable one.