Charming Wine for your Sweetie: Toad Hollow Vineyards

Let me count thy ways…that Toad Hollow Risqué is a charming bottle to share on this, the most romantic of holidays: St. Valentine’S Day
(Most Romantic? if we are to believe what we are told. And do we believe what are told? Never! But do we like wine to share with someone sexy? Always!)
Welcome to Toad Hollow in downtown Healdsburg, Credit: Toad Hollow Vineyards

Welcome to Toad Hollow in downtown Healdsburg, Credit: Toad Hollow Vineyards

How many ways am I charmed by this vintner? For starters, there is the website. Toad Hollow Vineyards tell their story through an adorable interactive book about Mr. Toad and Mr. Badger, the original best-friend founders of the label.

Right now, click over the The Chronicle and then come back to my post. I’ll keep a tab open for you.

And then, they place upon their bottles the most delightful and imaginative labels by local artist Maureen “Mo” Erickson. Her colors and lines (and the expression on those faces) make the bottle extra-special. How about these for romantic conversation starters:

Toad Hollow Art by Maureen "Mo" Erickson

Toad Hollow Art by Maureen “Mo” Erickson

Risqué, Méthode Ancestral Sparking Wine

I’m enchanted by the sense of creativity and playfulness, which naturally flows into the wines and is entirely reflective of the personality of this winery. I had the opportunity to taste their Toad Hollow Risqué Sparkling Wine, which is 100% Mauzac and made in Limoux, in the Languedoc (imported to the US by Toad Hollow). This wine is crafted in the Méthode Ancestrale style, which is an ancient process employed to create bubbly wines by bottling the wine before the first fermentation has finished. This creates a release of carbon dioxide  in the bottle as the fermentation rolls on.

By choosing a Méthode Ancestrale bottle for your sweetie, you are saying that you know a thing or two about wine. This method is less commonly found on wine shop shelves and lately it has been regarded as a bit rustic-chic, used in a type of wine called pétillant-naturel (AKA  “pét-nat”), which utilizes this old-fashioned method to create natural wines. This is a great conversation starter, but… the label might be the real attention-grabber…and after seeing this sassy can-can frog, the technical conversation might end and the sweet talk might begin!Risque Sparkling Wine From Limoux

This wine has soft, gentle bubbles and aromatics of apple and white fruit florals. Very pretty wine, in the glass and on the palate. This is a wine with sweetness, but there is a delicacy that balances the sugar. I shared a bottle with friends who enjoy a slightly sweeter wine and they loved it.

Another point of distinction for this wine is that it is made from Mauzac, which is a landmark varietal in southwest France, and is nearly exclusive to the region. It is used to make  Blanquette de Limoux, which I’ve covered in this piece. It is also one of the permitted varietals in Bordeaux white wines.

The Toad Hollow team has also crafted some cocktails based on Risque; the Bess Cocktail sounds refreshing and easy: 1 quarter of a lime, 5 oz Toad Hollow Risqué, Crushed Ice. Put crushed ice into a glass, pour Risqué over crushed ice, squeeze lime and stir. Garnish with lime slice and serve.

Toad Hollow Vineyards

Toad Hollow is located in Healdsburg, in Sonoma County, California. It is a family-run company, guided by Francine (Frankie) Williams, a woman with a passion for producing delicious and affordable wines (Risqué is priced at $15.99, mine was a sample) all the while keeping an essence of fun. Frankie has been involved in the winery since 1997, but took all executive and operational control when her husband, Todd Williams, passed away.

Frankie Williams of Toad Hollow Vineyards

Toad Hollow sources most of their grapes from vineyards in California including Monterey, Mendocino, Carneros, Lodi, Russian River Valley and more. The Risqué and a crémant, Amplexus, come from Limoux in Languedoc.

They also produce a dry rosé of 100% Pinot Noir from Carneros; the 2016 has just been released. Another highlight is their Unoaked Chardonnay, from vineyards in Mendocino. The 2015 also included 12% from Monterey County and 10% from Sonoma County.

Their tasting room in downtown Healdsburg is open for visitors and it promises to be a friendly spot to enjoy art, wine, good friends and hopefully a little romance. If not, there are adorable toads and that might just be good enough!

Healdsburg Wine Tasting Room

409A Healdsburg Ave.
Healdsburg, CA 95448
(707) 431-8667
(888) 856-4889

Saint Valentine

A Catholic Saint who passed away in the year 269. Patron of Love, Young People, Happy Marriages. He was put to death for refusing to denounce his faith. There is a historical account of Valentine healing the eyesight of a blind girl in the name of Jesus. Legend has it that upon his death he left this girl a note, signed Your Valentine. (According to


13 thoughts on “Charming Wine for your Sweetie: Toad Hollow Vineyards

  1. Jill, enjoyed your article immensely. We can get Toadhollow here in Oklahoma and I always wondered about the label art. Looking forward to trying more of their wines. Cheers.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! Very happy to see you can get Toad Hollow. I’m actually hoping to buy their Lodi Cabernet Sauvignon. They also make a wine called Erik’s The Red Blend which is a field blend (how cool) of Syrah, Petite Sirah and Zin with a bit of Pinot Noir and Touriga Nacional. Sounds interesting!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I tried the wine there literally a decade or more ago and did not like them. Because I hate to go to tasting rooms and not buy something, we bought two sweatshirts which we still have. But my palate has a Advanced quite a bit in the intervening years, I think I owe them and myself a return visit. Thanks for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Very disappointed in the downgraded Risqué bottle, no attached stopper. Nothing special or unique now , looks like every other bottle of sparkling wine on the shelf. Used to love to give this as a gift, now I’m looking for a new brand to gift that’s bottled creatively.


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