Windfall for Davis after Frog's Leap purchase

  • Friday 23 November 2007

A US$12.5m windfall has boosted the coffers of University of California Davis – at the same time as increasing the holdings of Frog’s Leap Winery.

The award was stipulated in the will of Napa winegrower Louise Rossi, who died at the age of 99 without heirs earlier this year.

Rossi left an option to buy her 52 acre (21ha) wine ranch in Napa Valley’s Rutherford District to John Williams of Frog’s Leap, who had purchased most of her grapes for over a decade.

At the same time her will said that the profits from the sale – the land sold for US$12.5m – should be directed to the University of California Davis winemaking and grape growing program.

A leading advocate of sustainable and organic viticulture in California, Williams bought Rossi’s Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet, as well as her old vine Riesling and Gamay grapes that others had seen no market for.

And Rossi, who well into her 90s liked to supervise the crushing of her grapes at Frog’s Leap, repaid Williams by leaving him the option to buy.

The land sale took place the last day of August. The award to Davis was announced on 16 November after her estate was closed out.

A longtime employee of the BLTaylor Electric Company, Louise Rossi survived her brother Ray, a UC Davis graduate who died in 1997 at the age of 91. The brother and sister had previously established the Rossi Prize at UC Davis to assist young winemaking students, and a portion of the gift will bolster that fund.

‘This is a tremendous opportunity for Frog’s Leap to extend its holdings on the Rutherford bench. This is a property that’s so hard to come across, and it comes to us in the right way, which is great,’ Williams said.

He added that the gift was discussed many times, but ‘you never knew with Louise.’

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