As winemakers, the Frog’s Leap team compares their approach to Chardonnay to a Taoist verse: “We shape clay into a pot, but it is the emptiness inside that holds whatever we want. We hammer wood for a house, but it is the inner space that makes it livable. We work with being, but nonbeing is what we use.” Instead of hammering more wood onto the house, so to speak, they favour restraint and modesty in winemaking. From the Frog’s Leap perspective, there is nothing more overrated in Chardonnay than “fruit!” and nothing more underrated than “earth.”
With this goal in mind, the Carneros district of the Napa Valley was selected as the primary home for this wine back in 1982. The 2016 was whole cluster-pressed, barrel-fermented, and aged eight months sur-lie in concrete tanks.
Fans of recent vintages of Frog’s Leap Chardonnay will be pleased with this effort: Precise, crisp flavours, an elegant mouthfeel, aromas of toasted hazelnuts, cream, and white peaches. This wine is simply delicious, and so unlike the overbearing vein of “fruity, sweet, oaky” California Chardonnays. A wine perfectly suited for any dish you would otherwise pair with a Chablis or white from Macon.
The 2016 vintage is a new release that has yet to be reviewed. The 2015 received the following:
“On several recent visits to Frog’s Leap, John Williams has detoured me from queries about cabernet and zinfandel to taste his chardonnay. He and his team have been developing a new strategy: pick at the underside of ripeness; whole-cluster press; settle for two days, then rack into new oak barrels; allow the fermentation to begin on its own and reach its peak (four or five days); then, with half the sugar remaining in the grapes, rack the wine to lined cement tanks to finish whatever it’s going to do, undisturbed for another nine months. Up until now, I’ve been more curious about his quixotic focus on chardonnay from Napa Valley, of all places, than about the wine itself. This vintage comes from Truchard and a nearby vineyard on Stanly Road, picking up on the best aspects of Carneros fruit—desert citrus cooled by the fog. It’s tart with baked lemon and grapefruit flavors, zesty in the middle and then richer in the end. The finish tastes like salted caramels, but it’s completely savory…and brisk. Williams’s goal is to make a great chardonnay that’s expressive of its origins in Napa Valley and his 2015 may give you a new perspective on that possibility.”
93 points, Wine & Spirits, June 2017