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Published:  23 July, 2008

By Monty Waldin

John Williams, owner- winemaker of Napa Valley's Frog's Leap winery, launched an impassioned defence of dry-farmed vines on the eve of the Wines of California Trade Tasting. Speaking at a vertical tasting of Frog's Leap wines in Huntingdon, Williams said: If we want wines that capture a sense of place, of "terroir", vines must root deeply. Irrigated vines become lazy and form huge root balls in the topsoil, where phylloxera is most prevalent. So you get a huge root ball and a tiny, stunted vine. What you want is a healthy upright vine with an elegant, probing root system.' Frog's Leap dry-farms 44ha of estate vineyards and 32ha of leased vines. Williams also questioned the perceived wisdom on rootstocks. Shallow-rooting, riparia-based rootstocks are fine if you want irrigated but shallow-rooting vines, but deeper-rooting rupestris-based rootstocks are what you need to dry farm. They search for moisture deep in the subsoil, where the taste of the terroir really lies.' Frog's Leap is represented in the UK by Morris & Verdin.