Kudos to Frog’s Leap Winery: Saves 64,000 Gal of Water a Year Dry-Farming

on 04/02/11 at 12:03 pm


Frog’s Leap Winery is an organic and biodynamic vineyard located in the heart of Napa’s Rutherford region. Back in 1975, owner John Williams was living in St. Helena on a property that was a frog farm during the 1800s. Yes, a frog farm! In 1981 he began working for Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars, an opportunity that enabled him and his buddy Larry Turley to make a 5 gallon jug o’ wine using “borrowed” grapes. As a homage to the grape’s origins–and the frog farm–they called it Frog’s Leap. Pleased with the results, they sold their motorcycles to produce another 500 cases.

Now entering their 30th year of production, Frog’s Leap has been a pioneer in terms of green winemaking. They were Napa’s first winery with certified organically grown grapes and the first California winery with a LEED certified building. But one of their most impressive accomplishments is that they grow all their grapes without the use of any water; they’re completely dry-farmed.

Dry-farmed grapes not only reduce water usage but the resulting product is significantly better. First, dry-farmed vines have an extremely deep root. This makes them robust and much more resistant to diseases. In comparison, grapes that receive irrigation end up sitting on the vine significantly longer. The grapes themselves then have an extremely high sugar content which translates to a high alcohol content, a trend that has been plaguing California wines as of late. Alcohol content has increased by 10% since the late 80s! As the alcohol content in wine increases, acidity decreases and has to be added in later. These inputs start to make the irrigated wines all taste the same. You lose the terroir and it becomes more about winemaking-witchcraft than the nuances of the actual grape.

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