Doing What is Right, Over what is Popular with Frog’s Leap Founder, John Williams


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By Chris Yonker. Discovered by Player FM and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not Player FM, and audio is streamed directly from their servers. Hit the Subscribe button to track updates in Player FM, or paste the feed URL into other podcast apps.

I first met John 15 years ago at a wine pairing dinner in Portsmouth, NH when he came out to pair his wine with each course. My wife and I decided after that dinner that we had to go to Napa and visit the vineyard. We have been raving fans of this winery for sometime.

I was thrilled when I reconnected with John and he agreed to be on the show. In my opinion, he has been a big trend-setter here in the States when it comes to farming and wine-making. John has made historical contributions to winemaking as well as doing what is right for the environment...even when it was NOT popular.

John does a great interview as he is extremely passionate about what he believes and he brings it to the table in this episode.

What You’ll Learn in This Episode:

  • How John went from growing up in a dry county to falling in love with the wine industry during a work/study program
  • Why the modern vintner lifestyle is changing the wine industry
  • How John went from $40 on a greyhound bus to his successful Napa Valley organic vineyard
  • What it was like to farm organically before it was a buzzword and why John chose to do so
  • How modern, conventional farming is affecting our health
  • John’s philosophy on the farming lifestyle and work/family balance
  • The importance of being patient and supportive of your children’s timeline
  • The importance of estate, succession planning and leaving opportunity for future generations
  • How the increased wildfires affect families and vineyards in the valley and the necessity of acknowledging climate change
  • Finding hope in what seems like desperate situations
  • Reframing the popular negative view of borrowing money


BIO: John Williams was raised in western New York, and spent the summers on his

grandparents’ dairy farm. Following graduation from high school, he received a

scholarship to attended Cornell University where he planned to study fermentation

sciences in order to pursue a career in the dairy industry. While studying cheese making

under the great Frank Kozokowski, Williams accepted a workstudy position with the

Taylor Wine Company and the rest—as they say—is history.

After receiving his degree from Cornell University in 1975, John was accepted into the

Enology and Viticulture Masters Program at UC-Davis. Upon graduating, Williams

returned to upstate New York as winemaker for Glenora Wine Cellars producing several

award-winning wines before returning to California in 1980 to assume winemaking

duties at Spring Mountain Vineyards in the Napa Valley.

In 1981 Williams co-founded Frog’s Leap winery along with partner Larry Turley. He

became the sole owner in 1994, moving the winery to its current location on the

Rutherford Bench in the Napa Valley. Under Williams’ guidance, Frog’s Leap has

evolved as a provocative model of a successful, sustainable family farm.

Williams’ passion for protecting and preserving a healthy agricultural way of life led to

the establishment of the Rutherford River Restoration Project and he and the winery

team he has assembled are widely recognized for their contributions to the organic

farming movement, the promotion of alternative energy sources, and ongoing efforts to

encourage sustainable business practices.

56 episodes