Frog’s Leap is a 135-acre estate in Rutherford. It was founded in 1981 by John and Julie Williams and Larry Turley. The owners named the estate after the product once raised on the property -- frog legs bound for upscale restaurants in late 19th century San Francisco. At first the estate focused on Sauvignon Blanc, then other wines were added. In 1994 Turley left to focus on his own wines, and John and Julie Williams moved Frog’s Leap to Rutherford. Frog’s Leap was an early advocate of organic farming and in 1988 became the first certified organic winery in Napa Valley. Today it is also a leader in energy conservation and the estate runs its operation on solar power. Besides Sauvignon Blanc, the estate produces Chardonnay, Zinfandel, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Petite Sirah and other wines. Current production is about 60,000 cases annually.
Rutherford AVA is just north of the Oakville AVA in the heart of Napa Valley, and it is equally distinguished. It is home to Beaulieu Vineyard and inglenook, arguably Napa Valley’s most historically influential wineries. Inglenook started making in wine in the late 19th century, and Beaulieu Vineyards was producing by the first years of the 20th century. BV founder Georges de Latour is particularly esteemed for having recruited Andre Tchelistcheff, a renowned research oenologist, to move from France to Napa Valley in 1938 and run BV’s winemaking. The legendary Tchelistcheff brought European winemaking techniques to Napa Valley and vastly improved wine quality. Other Rutherford winemakers followed his lead. Today there are 5,000 vineyard acres in Rutherford and many acclaimed producers. The famous Silverado Trail with its exclusive, limited production wineries, runs partly through Rutherford AVA. Rutherford Cabernet Sauvignons are characterized by supple tannins, richness, notes of cherry and plum, depth and the ability to age for several decades. Besides Cabernet Sauvignon the AVA also grows Chardonnay, Merlot, Sauvignon Blanc and Zinfandel. It received its AVA designation in 1994.
The Merlot grape is such a deep blue that it is named for the blackbird. It’s an early ripening grape and one of the primary varietals used In Bordeaux. Merlot is also grown in the "International style," which is harvested later to bring out more tannins and body.