Frank Family Vineyards
Located in the historic Larkmead winery in Calistoga (the 3rd oldest winery in Napa), Frank Family Vineyards is owned by former Disney executive Rich Frank and Connie Frank. Our limited-production, fruit-forward, yet balanced wines have a loyal following that is due to the popularity of Winemaker Todd Graff’s “blockbuster” wines and our popular and convivial tasting room.
Several California champagnes are produced at Frank Family in the French methode champenoise style, and are available for tasting and purchase only in our tasting room. While the sparkling wines are popular with visitors, the Franks’ focus is on making superb still wines. Our Winston Hill Cabernet Sauvignon, Rutherford Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, and Rutherford Sangiovese are made from fruit grown on Rich Frank’s personal hillside estate in Rutherford and are only available through the tasting room.
Thanks to a friendly staff led by Dennis Zablosky, Frank Family’s tasting room, located in the original yellow Craftsman house on the property, is one of the busiest and most successful in Napa. The tasting room is consistently recognized by top national publications, wine tasters, and aficionados across the board as one of the best in the country. In May of 2008, Wine Enthusiast magazine included it as one of only six Napa wineries awarded a spot on their list of the country’s top 25 tasting rooms.
First constructed as the Larkmead Winery in 1884, the building was refinished with native sandstone from the nearby hills in 1906 and still stands tall today. The massive stone edifice is considered an archetype of California’s wine country; it appears on the National Register of Historical Places and is listed as a Point of Historical Interest in the state of California. The winery produces Chardonnay, Zinfandel, Sangiovese and several distinctly different Cabernet Sauvignons. The highly regarded Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, which is barrel aged for two and one-half years, is emerging as one of the most sought after wines in the valley and their Napa Carneros Vineyards produce some of the finest Chardonnay available. The Sangiovese, a rising star, is created entirely from grapes grown on Rich’s property and the Zinfandel comes from the Pope & Chiles Valley. Once owned by wine legend Hans Kornell, the winery originally secured its reputation with sparkling wines. Five sparkling wines are handcrafted today in the old building: Brut, Blanc de Blancs, Blanc de Noirs, occasionally the Rouge and Reserve. All of these are made in the traditional French methode champenoise style.
Frank Family Vineyards wines are produced in small quantities and currently sold only at the winery and a handful of select restaurants and wine shops. A visit to the winery is not complete without a story-filled tour or at least a walk through the historic building where the thick, stone walls, high-stacked barrels and rich bouquet of aging wines create the utmost in winery ambience. The winery provides separate tasting areas for sparkling wines and still wines. Just outside, to the south of the building, visitors are welcome to sit under the giant oak trees, relax at the wooden picnic tables, and enjoy spectacular vineyard views.
It’s no wonder that Rich Frank, one of Hollywood’s most creative, vibrant and ingenious players owns one of Napa Valley’s most unique wineries, Frank Family Vineyards. In the late 80s, Rich, a long-time Disney executive, couldn't find the time to get away for long vacations. Soon he started coming to Napa on the weekends, realizing it was only a short plane flight away from Los Angeles. In 1990, he purchased a home in the eastern hills of Napa in Rutherford.
Two years later, in 1992, Rich received a midnight phone call at his home in Los Angeles from a friend telling him that the Kornell Champagne Cellars on the site of historic Larkmead Winery was for sale and if there was ever a time to get into the wine business it was now. Rich, unsure of entering the business full-swing, wisely offered half the asking price, and less than 24 hours later, he was an owner of the Calistoga winery.
Rich’s passion for the Napa Valley and Frank Family Vineyards underscores a wildly successful long-term career in Hollywood. He was Chairman of Walt Disney Television and Telecommunications and headed Disney’s syndication arm Buena Vista. He was then President of Walt Disney Studios for nearly a decade and oversaw the development of The Disney Channel. Rich was President of the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences for an unprecedented six years, a board member of the MPAA for eight and is currently Vice Chairman and Executive Board Member of the American Film Institute.
Never one to rest on his laurels, the former adman turned Hollywood film and TV exec stepped into his role as Napa Valley vintner with ease and is actively involved with the winery operations. Rich splits his time between Los Angeles and Napa with his wife, Leslie Miller, one of LA’s most loved reporters of ABC 7 News.
Growing up in Illinois, Connie Frank had a vision of flat lands, fields of corn, and cold, snowy winters. When she and her family first moved to Los Angeles in 1971 her eyes opened wide to the beauty of California, with its mountains, beaches, and warm, sunny days. Looking for a place for her family to experience the slower pace of a farming community, it was a natural fit that she fell in love with Napa Valley. Over the years short vacation trips to Napa convinced the family to buy a house located in Rutherford. It sits on 102 acres that include 30 acres of prime vineyard land.
Connie and her two sons, Paul and Darryl, and her beloved dog, Winston, spent many wonderful times exploring the hills and vineyards of their "home away from home." When they bought the property in 1990, Connie Frank and Rich Frank decided to name their special place Winston Hill and enjoyed watching her dog race through the vineyards to chase the rabbits and birds he could never catch!
Originally, the grapes from the vineyards were sold to a neighboring winery, but it was not long before the Frank family knew they wanted to produce their own wines. In a short time, the family purchased a winery and additional vineyards in Carneros and Capell Valley. The Carneros vineyards are named Lewis Vineyard in honor of Connie's grandson, Lewis, and the Capell Valley vineyards are named S & J Vineyards in honor of her granddaughter, Stella, and her grandson, Jeremy.
After twenty years of working as a winemaker in every corner of the world, Winemaker Todd Graff landed at Calistoga’s Frank Family Vineyards in 2003, just an hour drive over the mountains from his hometown of Petaluma. He has yet to look back.
At Frank Family, Graff has applied his deep expertise in making both still and sparkling wines to the portfolio, and has been an integral player in defining Frank Family’s reputation as a world-class producer of Napa Valley Cabernet and Chardonnay. He also directed the construction of Frank Family’s new state of the art winery in 2007.
Graff was drawn to winemaking at a young age and graduated from UC Davis with a degree in plant science and viticulture in 1984. Upon his graduation, Graff circled the globe working for great producers. He worked in the cellar at Joseph Phelps Vineyards before navigating the steep slate vineyards at Weingut Klaus Schweicher in Mosel, Germany, the sandy soils of Château Yon-Figeac in St.-Emilion, France, and the decomposed granite and sandstone loam soils at Arrowfield Estate in Australia’s Hunter Valley.
When he’s not at the winery with his chocolate Labrador, Bristol, in tow, Graff enjoys spending time with his three children and coaches their Little League teams. He is also an avid mountain biker and fly-fisherman.
Rising nearly 500 feet above the valley floor in the prestigious Rutherford viticultural appellation, Winston Hill is located along the east side of the Napa Valley along the Vaca Mountain range. Winston Hill is located on owner Rich Frank’s personal estate.
The soil consists of well-drained, volcanic deposits and sandstone. Due to its southwest exposure, Winston Hill has a high radiant value. Typical warm summer days give way to cool nights with soft mountain breezes. The vineyard has an average rainfall of 24-36 inches per year.
Winston Hill produces its namesake wine and the flagship for Frank Family Vineyards along with being the foundation for our Rutherford Reserve and Napa Valley Sangiovese.
Located in the heart of Napa Carneros, near the shores of San Pablo Bay, Lewis Vineyard is 138 acres of gently rolling hills. The predominant maritime influence of the Pacific Ocean create the cool temperature, fog and wind that make Carneros ideally suited for the growing of world class Chardonnay. Lewis Vineyard consists primarily of shallow dense clay loam soils, receiving only 20 inches of rainfall annually.
Adding to Frank Family’s vineyard diversity are 75 acres planted to the S&J Vineyard, located east of the Vaca Mountain range in Napa’s Capell Valley. The vineyard, purchased in 2000, is planted to mostly Cabernet Sauvignon, along with small quantities of Petite Sirah and Zinfandel. Meticulous soil and microclimate studies were executed before the development of this vineyard. The soils are fertile, well-drained, clay loam-based, reminiscent of the Rutherford Bench. The cold nights balanced with warm days ensure the long, even ripening of Cabernet Sauvignon.
With a passion for wine, food, and people, Frank Family Vineyards is committed to ensuring the winery offers everyone “the friendly, old fashioned Napa experience the way it used to be.” And 20 years later, the staff, the winery guests, and the close-knit Frank Family staff still do just that.