Featured Wine: Frog’s Leap Sauvignon Blanc

As regularly reported here at iJamming! of late, Green is the New Black. Or, if you’re Thomas Friedman, it’s the new Red White & Blue. Either way, it’s the trendy color, the bandwagon everyone wants to jump on. We’re not about to stop anyone from embracing environmentalism, but we will give a shout out to those who’ve been doing it for a long time – like Frog’s Leap Winery in the heart of Napa Valley.

I’ve been fortunate to taste my way through the Frog’s Leap profile at a couple of industry tastings over the years, and all the wines are delicious. But none make quite so emphatic an impact on the palate as the Sauvignon Blanc. It’s the wine with which Frog’s Leap introduced itself back in 1982, and though it’s joined these days by Zinfandel, Syrah, Chardonnay and a most expensive Rutherford red blend (among others), the signature Sauvignon Blanc accounts for almost half the winery’s annual production of 50,000 cases.

Frog’s Leap: great label, great wine, great philosophy.

I picked up the 2005 Frogs Leap Sauvignon Blanc Napa Valley not long ago at the Windham Liquor Store; it didn’t get me change from a $20 bill, but nor will a good Sancerre these days, and the great thing about Frog’s Leap is that it makes its wine in that lovely Loire style. It emplys a purist, honest-to-goodness methodology that lets the fruit sing and the acidity zing, ensures the oak barrels stay on the other side of the winery (i.e., it’s 100% stainless steel fermented and aged) and, to its absolute credit given the climate, keeps the alcohol low in the process. (This one came in under 13%.) I noted its “Incredibly eruptive citrus nose,” as being “Distinctly Sauvignon Blanc” (it is, I’m certain, the easiest white grape in the world to identify), with “good full creamy grapefruit, melon and passionfruit flavors,” and a “Flinty finish.” I then added, as if I needed to, “Really good.” It is. It might be the finest Sauvignon Blanc in its price bracket in the States.

Better yet, Frog’s Leap is totally organic, and has been for a while now. In fact, it’s moved beyond what seems to be to be a rather obvious way of farming to make much more substantial commitments to the environment. At a cost of $600,000, the winery is now completely solar-powered, feeding almost three times as much energy into the grid as it consumes, and its new hospitality center is heated and cooled by an underground Geothermal system, which likewise does not come cheap. The winery practices “dry farming” which relies heavily on supporting the vines through cover crops, and if I read them correctly, Frog’s Leap is currently studying, but has not yet implemented, a system of bio-dynamic farming as has worked so well for many of the wineries I love in France.

You can learn all about these methods and much more at the winery’s web site – which comes in a daisy-age hippy-dippy flash format, or a bare-bones but similarly flower-powered html. (I can’t help but note that my other favorite Napa Sauvignon Blanc, by Honig (reviewed here), is also from Rutherford, practices sustainable farming, has likewise gone solar, and has a web site equally devoted to matters of the earth. What gives?) There are explanations of the famed “Rutherford dust” and of “whole cluster pressing,” – and a photographic calendar showing the vineyard through the year. You’ll come away reassured that a business in the most expensive vineyard real estate in America – that’s Napa Valley, of course – can put the environment first, turn a profit, and still make great, great wine. And if you find that Sauvignon Blanc on your local wine store shelf – the 2006 has just been released – don’t be put off by the price. This one is worth every penny.
MUSIC: Frog’s Leap winery is something of a grass roots Californian cult; it makes organic wine at one with the earth and great on the palate. LA rapper Busdriver is likewise something of a grass roots Californian cult, whose psychedelic hip-hop readily targets “holier than thou” hippies – but who admits that’s only because he wants to see action. He can’t deny that Frog’s Leap (and Honig) walk it like he talks it. So sip a glass of Sauvignon Blanc while listening to his new album Roadkillovercoat (reviewed here), and try to cast off any lingering liberal guilt. You owe yourself this pleasure – and you certainly are not harming the planet in the process.

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