Frank Family Vineyards
But first some background
When one runs at lightning speed for most of his career in television and movie making, it is no surprise that Rich Frank ultimately became the President of Disney Studios. At that level, it is also no surprise that he would want and need a home away from home that is far enough and close enough to allow for rest and relaxation. In 1990, Napa Valley was the logical location choice with the purchase of a mountaintop vacation home in the heart of Rutherford with fruit already growing on the property. Rest, and relaxation is easier said than done and within a couple of years, Frank made a calculated but long shot offer on a since-shuttered winery and was awarded the property. Subsequently, he also stopped selling his fruit to other wineries, and Frank Family Vineyards was born.
Fast forward to today and Rich and Leslie Frank are now celebrating twenty-five years in winemaking, selling premium wines through national and international distribution as well as direct to consumer via their tasting room and website.
25th Year Anniversary Celebration
As luck would have it, I was still in Napa when the celebration took place. As an attendee of the WWET Napa Valley Conference, I was offered the opportunity to attend. This would be a once in a lifetime opportunity and I would not, and could not refuse.
We gathered in the tasting room of the winery to mingle and meet while enjoying a glass of the (WIND)* 2013 Frank Family Blanc de Blanc ($55) sparkling wine. We were free to wander the space where the tasting rooms pay tribute to family, baseball, and entertainment including Emmy awards won by both Rich and Leslie Frank. After a welcome by the Franks, we were escorted to the Historic 1884 Larkmead Winery Barrel Room for a Winston Hill vertical tasting (see below)*. The tasting was moderated by Andrea M. Robinson, Master Sommelier along with Rich Frank, Owner FFV; Todd Graff, General Manager and Winemaker FFV; and David Pina, Vineyard Manager FFV.
Vertical tastings are a fun and eye-opening experience because you get to taste wine made from the same vineyards over the course of several years. Our tasting today were eight vintages of their Winston Hill Estate Bordeaux-style Red Wine starting in 1999 then each subsequent odd year through to 2013.
As a relative newbie in the field of wine writing, it was a real treat to begin the tasting with a 19-year-old wine. While there was plenty of dark fruit on the nose and palate, the rich baking spices and herbal notes came to the forefront. The tannins were soft and supple making this easy to enjoy.
As the tasting proceeded, it was fascinating to taste vintage after vintage. You could taste the effects of the rainy weather in 2011, the freshness and tart cherries in 2005, the subtlety of the nose, ripe cherry driven palate with a mint finish of the 2001 and the meekness of the 2007 that needs time for the aromas to develop. As we progressed, you could see how this wine needs time “in the cellar.” The gripping tannins in the 2009 were countered by a firm acidity. Blueberry and spice dominate the palate now. This wine should age really well. We ended with the 2013 (already a five-year-old wine) with a chocolatey nose and powerful tannins that need some softening. Note to self, check back in ten years.
I left the tasting in a bit of a fog. It was overwhelming, exciting, and educational. I won’t soon forget this opportunity.
With the tasting experience behind us, we were then loaded onto buses to head to the Rich & Leslie’s home on the crest of Winston Hill overlooking the estate vineyards below. I can see why they bought this property. It is a little slice of heaven.
Upon our arrival, we could choose between the DTC 2016 Frank Family Lewis Vineyard Reserve Carneros Chardonnay ($65) or the 2014 Frank Family Carneros Brut Rosé ($55). I chose the sparkling rosé which should not be a surprise to anyone.
The paella was out of this world. We watched it be made right before our eyes. The choices were traditional chicken and seafood or a squid ink and seafood. For the vegetarians, there was a paella for them as well.
Served with the paella were the wines from the Frank Family lineup that rotated from table to table to make sure we had the opportunity to try them all. At this point, my “overwhelmed by the moment” was in overdrive. I recall being especially fond of the 2014 Frank Family Vineyards Reserve Sangiovese, Winston Hill Vineyard ($65).
What a morning. What an experience.
Frank Family Vineyards makes world-renowned premium wines. I had the opportunity to experience a part of the history through the vertical tasting. And also experience their incredible hospitality at the luncheon. The enthusiasm of the owners for their wines and those they employ is infectious.
They are a bigger player in the Napa Valley wine business producing nearly 75,000 cases of wine a year. The lion’s share is in the five wines available nationally at wine stores and restaurants. That is a great opportunity for you because these wines are nationally distributed including FFV Carneros Chardonnay ($38), FFV Carneros Pinot Noir ($38), FFV Napa Valley Zinfandel ($37), FFV Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon ($55) and FFV Carneros Blanc de Blanc Sparkling Wine ($55)
They also produce smaller-batch estate and reserve wines that are direct to consumer in the tasting room and online through their website. Check out the entire line up here.
If you are visiting Napa anytime, be sure to stop by the tasting room. They are open daily from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm daily. Reservations are recommended for all and required for groups of six or more and on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays. For more information on the tasting experience click here.
Frank Family Vineyards is located at 1091 Larkmead Lane Calistoga, CA 94515,
PH: 707-942-0859 Website: www.frankfamilyvineyards.com
Vertical Tasting – a tasting in order of year of several different vintages of a particular wine.
DTC – direct to consumer
WIND – wines in national distribution
FFV – Frank Family Vineyards
That is all for now.