Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Frank Family Vineyards Revisited

Frank Family Vineyards, located south of  Calistoga, is a family run winery that was founded in 1884 and was originally the home of Larkmead Winery, which is now located just down the road.  The old original building, remodeled in 1906, is registered with the National Register of Historical Places.  From 1952 to 1990 it was home to Hans Kornell wines and they produced only sparking wines. In 1992 it was purchased by Rich Frank, former President of Walt Disney Studios.  Although there are no vineyards on the winery grounds, Frank Family owns twenty acres in Rutherford called Winston Hill Vineyard (mostly Cabernet Sauvignon), and 138 acres in Napa Carneros called Lewis Vineyard (mostly Chardonnay.)

Frank Family Vineyards entry sign

Frank Family Vineyards is a very popular winery and can be quite busy in the summer and on weekends.  Tastings are in the yellow house behind the main buildings.  The winery is open to the public without reservations unless you have a group of six or more.  The "classic tasting" is $20.

Historical building

I visited them previously on March 31, 2010 and liked the Frank Family 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon and the Frank Family Blanc de Noirs. Our host this time, three years later, was the Assistant Manager, Zahala, who was very gracious and informative.

Tasting building

First up was the Frank Family 2011 Carneros Napa Valley Chardonnay at $34.75.  This saw about 70% malolatic conversion.  After a light apple nose I got some lively but rich apple and white peach on the palate with quite a bit of cream and butter.  I usually do not care for buttery Chards, but this one had good acid to offset it so was more appealing.  I did not get a lot of complexity or any minerality on the palate.  Finish was medium length.  All in all, pleasant enough.

Tasting room entrance

The Frank Family 2011 Carneros Napa Valley Pinot Noir at $35 was next.  I got a light nose of plum.  On the palate it was medium bodied, bright with fresh red plums, some pleasant but mellow tannins and a medium length finish.  A decent enough PN. My friend, however, really liked it.

Statues on grounds

I was quite fond of the Frank Family 2010 Napa Valley Zinfandel at $36.75.  It had a nice nose of cherry and peppers with blackberries, spice and pepper on the palate and a good finish.  It was fairly full bodied without being overly fruit forward and there was no excessive alcohol to spoil the balance.  Some pleasant Zin varietal characteristics were evident. This was one of the nicer Zins I've had recently and deserves a strong recommendation.


The fourth sampling was the Frank Family 2010 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon at $49.75.  A lovely dark color with a nice nose, this wine was very well balanced with good tannins and structure.  I got mostly black currant on the palate, with a little spice and some oak and a moderate length finish.  It is a good Cab at this price level.

Walk way to tasting building

My favorite, by far, was the Frank Family 2009 Rutherford Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon at $85.  This is a classic Rutherford Cab and well worth the price.  I got cherry, cigar box, black currant, vanilla and pleasant, dusty earth notes on the nose.  On the palate it was black cherry, blackberry, vanilla, black currant, and baking spices. It is full bodied, but not overpowering, with supple tannins.  The balance is perfect and the finish is long. As drinkable as it is right now, it should improve with age.  Robert Parker awarded this 92 points, but I think that is a conservative rating given the quality of this Cab.  Very highly recommended.


Frank Family Vineyards is a winery you will certainly want to visit, but if you can't make it, be sure to try their Zin and the reserve Cab.  I also liked their sparkling wines during our last visit, although none were available for tasting this time.  Service both times was excellent.


Frank Family Vineyards
1091 Larkmead Ln
Calistoga, CA 94515
(707) 942-0859
Date visited: April 3, 2013
Previous visit: March 31, 2010

Plack on historical building


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