Originally posted in December of 2020, I thought I’d share this story of Frog’s Leap Winery once again in case you missed it.
John Williams has had quite a career. The story of Frog’s Leap didn’t begin until after John worked with Napa Valley icon Warren Winiarski at Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars. He helped launch Glenora Wine Cellars in the Finger Lakes region. Afterward, he returned to Napa Valley as winemaker for the esteemed Spring Mountain Vineyard. All this, before and during the founding of Frog’s Leap, where early business decisions, like their comical slogan, “Time’s fun when you’re having flies” were made with his partners in the Frog Farm hot tub.
40 years on, John continues to evolve, innovate and successfully sustain the Frog’s Leap brand, all while maintaining his sense of humor.
Join me as John fills us in the details, with cameo appearances from former partners Larry Turley and Julie Johnson.
The lobby of The Vineyard House
The back porch of The Vineyard House where wine tastings are offered
The Red Barn in Rutherford
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This is the third time I’ve interviewed winemaker Ted Henry – each time at a different winery. It’s not that I’m a Ted groupie. As a matter of fact, I didn’t plan to interview him when he moved to Groth Vineyard and Winery in 2021. But then I read four wines he produced when he was with Clos du Val winery won awards on an international stage…how could I pass up getting that story? Fortunately, we also cover much of what he’s been doing since moving to Groth. Ted is now the Director of Winegrowing, in addition to being the winemaker. All they ask from Ted is to “continue to make beautiful, elegant wines of place — wines that excite people.”
Join me as I travel to Oakville, Napa Valley to sit with winemaker Ted Henry during this On The Wine Road Podcast.
It was only a matter of time before cannabis would end up in wine. As it turns out, it’s not an easy process. However, the proficient hand-picked crew at House of Saka have managed to make it happen.
Looking for a different kind of lift from your Pinot Noir and sparkling Chardonnay that doesn’t include alcohol? They can accommodate you. In this podcast Co-Founder and CEO Tracey Mason will share how they built the House of Saka and their vision of the future. You’ll hear how years of experience in the wine and cannabis industries, Napa Valley grapes, and the will of Warrior Women have come together to create this transformative beverage within the House of Saka.
House of Saka
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This interview is was a bit unusual for me, with good reason. Ehlers Estate is one of the few wineries that possess an on-going philanthropic element. But that came later.
Ehlers Estate has a rich history dating back to 1886. It is arguably one of the top Cabernet producers in the competitive Napa Valley region. The old stone winery has been transformed into a modern, fashionable tasting space. In 2018, they hired Spanish immigrant Laura Diaz Muñoz as winemaker and General Manager. Her talent and willingness to revamp the appearance and winemaking is breathing new life into the brand. In 1996, French philanthropists and owners Jean and Sylviane Laducq, established the Leducq Foundation which supports research for the diagnosis and treatment of cardiovascular disease and stroke. On a small level, proceeds from Ehlers’ wine sales and tastings benefit research as part of the global international network. You’ll hear details from the Foundation’s Executive Board Members, Spaniard Martín Landaluce and American Dr. David Tancredi. It’s a monumental endeavor and one you’ll appreciate if you have a loved one who has suffered from cardiovascular disease. I think you’ll be impressed.
President of the Board of Directors of Leducq Foundation, Martin Landeluce
Executive Director of the Board of Directors of the Leducq Foundation, Dr. David Tancredi
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Aside from his history in the industry, Todd shared why he chose to travel early on. His wanderlust was further satisfied when he was chosen by Schramsberg Vineyards for a project in Portugal. For the last 18 years he’s enjoyed working with Frank Family and making a good list of wine varieties.
Why is Frank Family Vineyards often chosen as Napa’s Favorite Tasting Room? As the winemaker and General Manager, he has a pretty good idea. He’ll share that opinion.
As you’ll hear, Todd Graff is a casual guy, down to earth, and a bit humble…like most winemakers I interview. Enjoy the conversation!
The old winemaking barn is the first thing you’ll see when visiting Frank Family Vineyards
Todd caught contemplating the answer to a question, and the wine he served us.
The tasting room Craftsman House from the 1930s
Todd developed a taste for sparkling wine during his time at Schramsberg Vineyards. He’s showing off his Brut Rosé as we hung out, literally, on the back porch.
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Both wineries featured in this podcast, Mersenne Wines and Capo Creek Ranch, pay tribute to musicians. Mersenne created a wine label for a British Indie-Pop band, and Capo Creek has named a vineyard after a beloved singer, guitarist. That’s one aspect of each winery you’ll appreciate as I get in-depth with their stories of overcoming obstacles.
Mitch Rice of Mersenne Prime Artisan Wines entrance into the industry wasn’t too complicated. He had experience as a home winemaker before taking the leap as a winery owner. Though his beginnings were less challenging, delicate maneuvering was needed to “secure” his partner. As it turned out, their brand features a love story that is wrapped in historical lore…which I greatly respect.
However, if you buy a vineyard there are many more hurdles. Sisters Mary and Nadine Roy of Capo Creek Ranch did purchase land and it took several years to get their footing. They’re strumming along now and offer a wine and food pairing that is par excellence! It was quite an unexpected chapter following their lives as owners of a medical practice in Chicago, when one day an unsolicited pamphlet arrived in the mail that completely changed their life’s direction…eventually.
Join me for these tales of persistence by Mersenne Wines and Capo Creek Ranch, as heard On The Wine Road…
2020 North Coast Wine Challenge Best of the Best 98 pt. score!
2015 “SO45” Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon produced in collaboration with the British Indie-Pop band “Scars on 45”. Click the image to learn about them.
Capo Creek Ranch
Social distancing with Nadine and Mary Roy
All of their varietals feature familiar curves of an acoustic guitar. This is one of our favorites, the 2018 Open Mic Grenache Red Blend
The filling and delicious Ultimate Food and Wine Pairing overlooking Dry Creek Valley
What we enjoyed that day. Incredible!
There’s plenty of space at Capo Creek Ranch
The Triple Berry Galette with Chantilly Cream. They are not skimpy portions
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These interviews were aired on my radio show on March 6th in celebration International Women’s Day and Women’s History Month. It was a real pleasure to spend half the day with these two talented winemakers.
My first guest will be Danielle Cyrot who has held enviable positions in her career, the last 12 years of which have been at CADE Estate Winery on Howell Mountain. Danielle is working with two interesting projects, the details of which we’ll cover.
Colleen FitzGerald is the enologist and a winemaker at Pine Ridge Vineyards in the Stags Leap District. She’s been handed an intereresting wine wine project which led to a sparkling brand that is the first new label for the winery in 25 years.
Has it been a challenge for these women to work in such a male dominated field? You may be surprised by their answers. Join me as I celebrate the contributions these ladies have made to the Napa Valley wine industry.
Danielle Cyrot in the CADE Estate tasting room
Colleen FitzGerald with her Chenin Blanc+Viognier blend
https://onthewineroad.us/wp-content/uploads/2021/03/OTWR-Danielle-Colleen-1.png6041000Jeff Davishttps://onthewineroad.us/wp-content/uploads/2023/03/Podcast-Logo-for-website-copy.pngJeff Davis2021-03-20 10:17:152021-03-20 10:17:05Celebrating International Women’s Day with CADE Estate and Pine Ridge Vineyards
Wild fires? I was hoping it would be quite a while before I had to cover this topic again. Mother Nature hit with a vengeance in mid August. The late summer storm was a nice surprise, but not for the Hennessey Fire survivors. The 12,000 lightening strikes in four days across Northern California was insane! (That’s a National Weather Service quote, by the way). The resulting 585 wildfires produced 18 large infernos, one of which was the Hennessey Fire.
Today’s podcast features two wineries who “miraculously” survived the firestorm, Green and Red Vineyard & Nichelini Family Winery of Napa’s Chile’s Valley, not far from Lake Hennessey. As you’ll learn, I have come to know both of these families and have conducted multiple interviews with them in the past. Because of that fact I was keeping a close eye on the active fire maps around both wineries during that harrowing week to 10 days as fires raged in both Napa and Sonoma Counties. Other firestorms picked up elsewhere in the state during that period as well.
Thankfully, both survived thanks to valiant help from Cal Fire, volunteer fire men and women, and the owners themselves. Click the play button to hear the families share their harrowing stories.
Green and Red Vineyard
The terraced rows of Green and Red’s unique Tip Top Vineyard.
You can see how close the fire came to the Tip Top Vineyard, stopping at the road.
The fire was close enough to singe some of the leaves but didn’t burn the vines. Smoke tainted grapes are now the concern.
Like many vineyards, Green and Red has a vineyard dog. Uno is small but he’s mighty! He makes an appearance during the interview.
The day I joined the crew for harvest. From L to R, Ray Hannigan, Tobin Heminway, Mary Kate, winemaker Mike Penn and me.
Processing the Syrah grapes. There’s an optimistic feeling that the grapes may have escaped smoke taint.
Nichelini Family Winery
The historic Nichelini home and winery previously on a sunny day.
As it looks today. You can see the blackened ridge behind the home.
Family member Kenny Wainright does his part to save the winery. (Karl Mondon/Bay Area News Group)
Across the street from the winery from the hillside. You can hardly make out the winery on the road. The fire was on all sides.
5th generation winemaker Aimee Sunseri in front of the winery’s original Roman wine press. Thankfully the winery and home survived and can continue the 130 year legacy. (Photo-Napa Valley Register)
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I met Mike Tracy at an industry party on a cool February evening, prior to the coronoavirus altering our social activities. It’s common to meet people of various winery positions at these after hours gatherings. I’ve struck up the occasional friendship during one of these evenings. He’s a pleasant guy, smart, and when he told me which wineries he works with it raised my eyebrows. Not one, not two, but FOUR high-end Napa Valley wineries. That’s what led to this interview.
Mike Tracy’s boss (bosses)? Married winemaking couple Mark Porembski and Jennifer Williams Porembski. The three of them have an enviable business, and friend, relationship. What are the duties of an assistant winemaker? (Often they do as much or more hands-on work than the winemaker).
Which esteemed wine brands do the three of them craft? Well, you’ll just have to listen to discover the answer. And when this whole virus era settles down, I can’t wait to try more of them with Mike. Press play to join us safely on the wine road.
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I traveled 2000 feet above Napa Valley to the peak of Spring Mountain to meet up with the mountain men of Schweiger Vineyards. You’ll find peaceful, picturesque views from their tasting room in the center of their rolling mountaintop vineyard.
As father and son, Fred and Andy have been working the property, with wife and mother Sally, since the 70s. As you can imagine, they have plenty of stories to tell. You’ll find their wines are an excellent representation the complex soil of Spring Mountain – full, flavorful and complex. I am impressed with the close relationship with their club members – who’s suggestions often get put into action by the family. For more details, visit their website here.
As it was planned, this interview aired on Father’s Day weekend. Here’s to the mountain men of Schweiger Vineyards!
The Tasting Room that Fred Built
Inside the tasting room during our recording
A portion of their vineyard, looking west
Their palate pleasing Bordelais blend, Dedication
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Looking for intrigue, self-preservation and humor? It’s here, with interviews concerning The Wine Spies, HALOmask, and T.P. Reserve Wine.
I talk with Agent Red of The Wine Spies. Each day they present a tempting, world-class wine at discounted prices. How do they do it? Through covert missions and cleverly gathered intel.
On a side topic, Agent Red’s personal mission is protecting our health with HALOmask, the most protective, easy to wear face mask. He explains how the proprietary engineering sets them apart from other masks.
Then you’ll hear about a whimsical wine brand from a serious Napa Valley winemaker – Grant Long Jr.’s T.P. Reserve Wine. He chose to put a smile on our faces during these sobering times. What’s more, he and his team created a detailed video, the efforts of which I think you’ll find impressive. It’s below.
Another Wine Uncorked feature is also included. It’s all waiting for you behind the Play button.
For the T.P. Reserve Wine video click here
For the Roman mosaic tile images from Wine Uncorked click here.
This is audio from my radio show that aired on Saturday, June 13th. Elise Nerlove Rutchick of Elkhorn Peak Cellars shared details of the initiative to Save The Family Farms. Their goal is to convince the Napa County Supervisors to adjust the Winery Ordinance Directive (WOD) making less expensive, thereby easier, for smaller family winegrowers to host guests for wine tastings and sales.
I look forward to seeing how this endeavor progresses.
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How do wineries battle the coronavirus blues? By being creative, stepping up, helping their employees and keeping you smiling during these sobering times. Many wineries across the country are reaching out through social media with virtual tastings.
Here’s an updated and refined list of what the wine regions are doing in Northern California. I’m also including my interviews with Jackson Family Wines and Spring Mountain Vineyard from my show on April 18th.
Each year in San Francisco Zinfandel Advocates and Producers host ZinEX, aka the Zinfandel Experience. The past few years I’ve interviewed zinfandel winemakers and growers to help promote the event.
This podcast will be the first of two featuring this year’s guests. Napa Valley’s Robert “Bob” Biale filled the full hour of my radio show, so he’ll be the only guest on this podcast.
His Italian immigrant family has a rich history in Napa. As you’ll hear, early challenges inspired Bob’s father to get creative, selling wine clandestinely…without a permit. That audacious move led to their successful flagship wine, Robert Biale Vineyards‘ Black Chicken. It’s one of many colorful tales offered by those in the wine industry. Hit Play to hear this gracious man share his story and his love of zinfandel.
And yes, there are black chickens on the property.
One of several seating areas at Robert Biale Vineyards.
The 1940 Studebaker you’ll hear about in the interview.
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This is a shorter podcast that features the Mount View Hotel and Spa in Calistoga, Napa Valley. It’s an historic, beautifully designed art deco hotel that offers many enticing experiences for their guests.
This interview aired on my radio show last Saturday and I wanted you to hear it in case you’re panning a trip to Napa Valley or Sonoma in the coming weeks. On April 1st, The Mount View is offering a one of a kind experience that combines wine tasting, a film, dinner – featuring one of the performers in the film, and a night’s stay at the hotel. Scroll down to see the flyer for this full day of enjoyment.
If you can’t make it that night keep the Mount View in mind for a future stay. I hope to see you there on April 1st!
Young Indie Blue, Michael and Stephanie Woods
The stylish lobby
The Indie Blue Lounge
The Cottage Spa
The Mount View Pool
The Spa Cat
One of their beautifully decorated rooms
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On this first podcast of 2020 you’ll hear about ZO Wines and Napa Valley College.
I talk with owner and winemaker, David Eckert about ZO Wines, in Sonoma County’s Dry Creek Valley. Not only do they have a number of tasting spaces on the property, a stunning vineyard view, a good variety of interesting wine varieties, they also have a lovely 100+ year Craftsman home that is available for overnight stays. David also answers the question of why they chose an elephant as their mascot. And no, it doesn’t mean their wines are big.
You’ll also meet esteemed winemaker Daniel Baron, who spent many years at Napa and Sonoma County’s Silver Oak Cellars and Twomey. He joins Molly Hodgins of the Napa Valley College Viticulture and Winery Technology Program to discuss some of their courses. The college is an excellent option as a path to get started in the wine industry.
The charming Craftsman farmhouse which offers one of the tasting spaces.
Napa Valley College’s Vintner Teaching Winery.
The Napa Valley College McCarthy Library.
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As I travel this week I’m reaching into the archives to bring you two compelling interviews. UC Davis Professor Emerita Carole Meredith shares the story of how she, with a little help from others, solved the mystery of Zinfandel’s origin. If you enjoy investigative stories you’ll get a kick out of the many elements involved in her discovery. In a nod to the original Croatian variety, Carole and her winemaker husband, Steve, bottle a version with their brand Lagier Meredith.
Kendall-Jackson‘s Winemaster Randy Ullom may not be a well-known name but it’s very likely you’ve tasted his creations, including the Chardonnay that has been the top seller in the U.S. for over 25 years straight. Who would have thought a ski trip to Chile would lead to nearly 3 decades of winemaking with one of the world’s most successful brands.
Another Wine Uncorked is also included. Let’s hit the road!
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Now, a guy who calls himself “John Fucking Caldwell” is likely to be brash…probably be a risk taker, and likely one of a kind. In John’s case, yes, he can be described by each of those descriptors, as well as pleasant, inventive, philanthropic, and one who can make the best of a situation.
So it may come as no surprise that he’s the kind of person who would consider, and accomplish, smuggling grapevines into the U.S.
And that’s just half of the story of John Fucking Caldwell of Caldwell Vineyard. In this interview he also talks about his wine, the cave and his barrel-aged Apple Juice (bourbon) and tequila. Tasting 4 samples of each was a nice surprise I wasn’t expecting.
Join us in the kitchen of his south Napa Valley home as John shares the compelling tale he’s told many times…because it’s one worth hearing.
John during the interview.
Rocket Science Proprietary Red. Members of this club receive Intelligence Briefs about science and technology. Every year they donate wine to raise funds for the Astronaut Science Program.
2015 Caldwell “Silver” Proprietary Red Blend
One of John’s newest ventures, tequila. The Añejo on the left was aged in a used Cabernet barrel. All 3 Añejos and the one Silver were smooth and easy to drink. I want more!
CK Mondavi and Family of Napa Valley is currently ranked at #16 in annual case production for US vintners. Needless to say, that’s large.
LaRue Wines of the Sonoma Coast region produces less than a thousand cases. Yep, that’s really small.
My guests are Randy Herron of CK Mondavi and Family, and Katy Wilson of LaRue. I thought it would be fascinating to hear the differences between these two brands. Randy crafts more than half a dozen varietals that are priced in the Value category. Katy focuses on cool climate Chardonnay and Pinot Noir priced at the Luxury level. Nevertheless, these two share an easy going nature and make wines that are exceptional for their price range.
A Wine Uncorked feature is also included in the podcast. A little trivia gift from me to you.
I was slow to develop a taste for Port and dessert wines. In retrospect that’s peculiar since I have a sweet tooth. Thankfully, I have seen the light and developed a taste for Port! For the last ten years it’s been my desire to have at least one bottle on the shelf and/or in the refrigerator. It also took a while for me to hear about Napa Valley’s own Port house, Prager Winery and Port Works.
They hit two milestones this year; their 40th anniversary, and Sweepstakes & Best of Class awards from the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Tasting – the largest competition of American Wines in the world. It was their 10-year-old Tawny that grabbed the prize.
Winemaker Peter Prager shares the story of following their father’s dream to own a winery as he takes me through each of his Ports and dry Petite Sirah. What a way to start the day! Prager Winery and Port Works is a throwback to a simpler time in the valley and truly a unique experience. Join us at the tasting bar at Prager.
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