Frank Family Vineyards: Home of fearless reds

Frank Family Vineyards was founded in 1992 at Napa Valley's historic Larkmead Winery in Calistoga. (Image courtesy of frankfamilyvineyards.com)

Frank Family Vineyards was founded in 1992 in the northern Napa Valley town of Calistoga by Rich Frank, former president of Disney Studios. (Images courtesy of frankfamilyvineyards.com)

FRANK FAMILY VINEYARDS: Have you seen their their label on store shelves with an image of the old stone cellar first constructed as Larkmead Winery in Calistoga in 1884? The building, thought to house the third oldest winery in Napa Valley, is on the National Register of Historic Places and is home to Frank Family Vineyards. The tasting room, ranked by many as the friendliest in Napa Valley, is in the property’s original Craftsman-style yellow house.

Frank Family Vineyards was founded in 1992 by Rich Frank, former president of Disney Studios and before that head of Paramount Television Group. His track record of hit TV shows and movies includes “Cheers,” “Golden Girls,” “Pretty Woman” and “The Lion King.” A man whose life as a producer led to such impressive titles would naturally tell his winery story on video too — scroll to the end of this page to “View Our Story.”

Today, the winery uses grapes from more than 400 acres of estate vineyards in Napa Valley. The longtime winemaker and general manager is Todd Graff who caught the bug for single-varietal Petite Sirah, one of the specialties here, as assistant winemaker in the 1980s at Stags’ Leap Winery when Carl Doumani owned it.

Last month, the winery lost one of its legendary employees, Dennis Zablosky, the tasting room manager, called a “wine legend” by the late Robert Mondavi and the “concierge of Napa Valley” by others. Zablosky was famous for his huge personality, love of people and wine, and the stories he told. Lucky you if you caught one of the days he was pouring wine there.

Frank Family makes three tiers of wine: Reserve, Napa Valley and Bubbly. The Reserves are best ordered at the web site. The Napa Valley tier is in distribution. The winery is best known for its powerhouse Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon and Reserve Petite Sirah — a big, sculpted, elegant wine with tremendous aging potential. Here’s a taste of the “Napa Valley” reds. Like the Reserves, they have weight, balance, tannic grip. They are bold. They are approachable now, but more time in the bottle will help them knit together and mellow. Buckle your seatbelt.

Frank Family Vineyards Carneros Pinot Noir 2014, $35: There’s nothing shy about this Pinot — it’s big and earthy, styled like a Claret. It can stand up to bold red meat because it’s bold. Aromas pop — cherry and floral notes with a kiss of brown spice and vanilla. Alcohol is 14.5 percent.

Frank Family Vineyards Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2013, $52.50: Remember: This big, beautiful Cab is a just a snapshot of the Reserve. Prepare yourself for a host of dark berry flavors with notes of bay leaf, plum, and brown cooking spices. Supple tannins cling to the palate. It’s 80 percent Cabernet Sauvignon and 13 percent Merlot, finished with Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot.

ff_petite_sirah_2013_edit1Frank Family Vineyards Napa Valley Petite Sirah 2013, $35: Now, this one is the bargain. It’s full-bodied, all right, fleshed-out with beautiful fruit, smooth tannins and creamy texture. Frank Family was among the first in Napa to turn this blending wine into a single varietal — probably because of winemaker Todd Graff’s experience making those famous Petite Sirahs at Stags’ Leap Winery under former owner Carl Doumani, plus he also grew it in his own vineyard. “I think I understand them,” Graff said to Wine Enthusiast. They just need time to age, he said.

You can reach Sandra Silfven at ssilfven@hotmail.com.