For decades, Frog’s Leap had a goal: produce a Rutherford AVA estate-grown Cabernet Sauvignon. Inspired by the early Cabernets of Inglenook and Beaulieu Vineyard, they spent 20 years finding, then farming, highly sought-after land in Rutherford, with particular attention to the iconic Rutherford Bench. This stretch of land, resting on the fast-draining gravel bed of a long-gone river, is not really a bench at all. (There is little question that this is some of Napa’s most prized real estate, though.)
It all began with the acquisition of the Red Barn Vineyard in 1994, the official move to Rutherford. This prime location provided a century-old facility and 40 acres perfectly suited to Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. Immediately following the move, Frank Leeds, longtime Frog’s Leap vineyard manager, agreed to a partnership between Frog’s Leap and his family’s Chavez Leeds Vineyard. This generational vineyard situated on the Rutherford Bench gave the first real taste of how complex and connected dry-farmed, organically-grown Cabernet Sauvignon could be.
In 2007, the Frog’s Leap purchased the historic Rutherford Bench Rossi Vineyard. Now mostly planted to Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc, the 50 acre Rossi Vineyard completed the picture by yielding high quality Rutherford grapes. The winery had achieved its goal of an entirely estate-grown Cabernet Sauvignon that can stand the test of time.
The 2015 vintage follows the path set with earlier vintages of the estate Cabernet, but it does it with a twist. Frog’s Leap often include a small addition of Cabernet Franc in the blend – it adds lift and vibrancy. There’s a little Cabernet Franc in the 2015. It became clear that the 2015 could use a little Merlot, too, to round the edges and present a more supple palate. After many trial blends, the addition of 13% Merlot from the vineyard’s Rossi blocks made the cut.
The 2015 is a remarkable wine: rich mocha aromas, superb balance, deep flavours, long finish. Does the Merlot contribute? Certainly. Taste and see. (But please wait ten years to open – and even then give it an hour in the decanter, if you can.)
“The prevailing style of Napa cabernet today emphasizes power, weight and extravagance, but Frog’s Leap is one of a small but significant number of cabernet producers that form a kind of alternate Napa universe. They are making wines of balance and restraint that are a direct link to Napa’s past […] The Frog’s Leap wines are subtle and nuanced […] They’re easy to drink with a meal and rewarding, especially for one who has despaired of finding Napa cabernets that are table wines, not jammy fruit bombs that overwhelm food.”
Eric Asimov on Frog’s Leap Cabernet Sauvignon, The New York Times, Aug 2008