A Perfect Blend of Great Wine and Giving Back
Can wine change the world? It did for the husband-and-wife team behind Napa Valley’s Frank Family Vineyards. Known for their highly-acclaimed Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay and for having one of the most popular tasting rooms in wine country, Rich and Leslie Frank have built their life on their ability to bring people together over wine and have used their craft to help others along the way.
The Franks share an inherent passion for people and culture, evident from Rich’s time as the President of Disney Studios and Leslie’s former career as an Emmy award-winning journalist. Their unique back- grounds have naturally paved the way for their positive involvement in the community. Since moving to Napa full- time, they have established footings among some of the Valley’s most prominent charitable organizations such as Festival Napa Valley, Collabria Care, Auction Napa Valley, and the V Foundation.
“We were very active in the community when we were in Hollywood, and still are today. When we permanently moved to Napa six years ago, we wanted to involve our- selves in the community here as well,” explained Leslie.
Leslie, who was awarded the Philanthropy Award from North Bay Business Journal in 2019, found a natural fit as a board member of Festival Napa Valley, a fusion of art, wine, and culture set amongst some of Napa Valley’s most stunning winery and vineyard backdrops. Festival Napa Valley does so much for the Napa community, whether raising much-needed funds for education through the Arts for All Gala, supporting aspiring musicians via the tuition-free Blackburn Music Academy, shining a spotlight on emerging artists, or igniting creativity at Arts for All Camps. Across the years, the program has donated over $1 million to Napa County’s public-school arts education programs. Leslie chaired the 2019 Arts for All Gala, which raised a record-setting $2.6 million for the non- profit. Rich and Leslie were set to co-chair the 15th anniversary season this year, featuring Academy and Grammy- award winning actress and singer Jennifer Hudson, which has understandably been postponed to July 2021 due to current events.
Last September, Richand Leslie were named the honorary chairs of the 13th annual Collabria Care Gala. Collabria Care is the leading center for community-based care and resources in the North Bay for those facing transitions of aging, Alzheimer’s disease, and other serious illnesses, or the end of life. In their roles as honorary chairs, they served as ambassadors for the organization/event and donated two high value lots in addition to 35 limited-edition 40th Anniversary Collabria Care etched magnums of their Reserve Cabernet to the live auction, which raised $45,000. All in all, the evening was a tremendous success, setting a new gala record of over $740,000 for hospice, palliative, and Alzheimer’s care, and a range of other services for the most seriously ill in the Napa Valley community.
Additionally, Rich and Leslie have extended their reach in the community and across the country, raising tens of thousands of dollars through a series of annual fundraising campaigns at Frank Family Vineyards. In 2018 the Frank Family team raised money for the Breast Cancer Research Foundation through their “Frank Drinks Pink” campaign. Throughout the 2019 holiday season, Rich and Leslie spearheaded the “Frank Fights Hunger” campaign and teamed up with Feeding America, the nation’s largest domestic hunger- relief organization, and raised enough money to provide over 200,000 meals to children and families in need.
In April 2020, Frank Family Vineyards supported World Autism Month by partnering with Autism Speaks, the largest autism advocacy organization in the nation. The winery joined this month-long movement by donating 15 percent of all online proceeds from their newly released 2018 Carneros Chardonnay to help fund the organization’s vital programs that increase global understanding, advance breakthroughs in autism research, expand early childhood screening, and improve transition to adulthood. “We’re grateful that our winery’s ethos of giving back has been embraced by our customers, and we were honored to raise funds for Autism Speaks this April,” said Leslie.
RICH’S PHILANTHROPIC VALUES
Helping others was a core value that was in- stilled in Rich Frank since birth. Rich grew up in Bayside, New York, raised by hard- working first-generation Americans. His remarkable father, Hy Frank, was a World War II veteran who landed on Omaha Beach four days after D-Day. Hy served as an infantryman and drove support vehicles for General Patton’s Third Army.
While Hy was overseas serving the country, Rich’s mother, Edythe worked at Macy’s in New York to help make ends meet. Upon his return to the United States in 1947, Edythe and Hy embarked on their version of the American Dream. Hy opened his own meatpacking business, Heide Meat Co. in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. He worked hard to service the restaurants and local grocery stores in New York City for over 30 years to make enough money to send Rich, the first member of the Frank family, to college. Rich’s younger brother Billy followed him four years later to the University of Illinois.
Family was everything in the Frank household, and Hy and Edythe extended their warmth and generosity to others less fortunate. “My mother was very involved in the community,” reflected Rich, “When her dear friend, Zelda passed away due to complications with Leukemia, my mom created a charitable foundation to help others suffering from this disease.” Edythe Frank was also President of the local Women’s League, and led efforts to raise money in the neighborhood by collecting used goods throughout the year and hosting an annual rummage sale to support cerebral palsy.
“My parents both had a strong moral compass. While I was growing up, charity was not taught or learned; it was simply a fact of life,” said Rich. It was his parent’s humility, work ethic, and giving nature that laid the foundation for which Rich and Leslie have built their winery. Rich’s background guides Frank Family’s commitment to social responsibility and championing people from the Napa Valley community and beyond.
LESLIE’S LIFE-LONG COMMITMENT TO GIVE BACK
When asked where her ambitious advocacy work with regards to the arts, health, and social justice stems from, Leslie traces it back to her background as a broadcast journalist. Before she joined the wine industry, Leslie spent more than twenty-five years covering politics, crime, natural disasters – the full gambit. Throughout her time as a reporter and anchor, she brought some of the country’s most significant events into the home of millions of Americans including the 9/11 attacks, reporting live from New York City’s ground zero, as well as from the devasting aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and inside the court- room at the Michael Jackson trial.
After leaving her home in Ontario, Canada at the age of 17 to attend journalism school, Leslie cut her teeth on the Canadian media circuit before setting her sights on the U.S. market and a station in Seattle where she spent six years as a main anchor. She ultimately landed in Los Angeles, where she reported for nearly a decade at the number one rated news station, KABC, covering politics, crime, weather, calamities, as well as interviewing some of the biggest stars in Hollywood on the red carpet. Sharing some of the most impactful stories and events of recent American history was Leslie’s way to serve the community, and her first-hand experiences left a lifelong desire to give back. Her visibility as a television personality allowed Leslie to become a spokesperson and advocate for many local charities.
“I am thankful for my previous career as a journalist for providing me with a mindset rich in culture and a personal commitment to philanthropy,” said Leslie.
Rich and Leslie’s home on a 107-acre hillside vineyard in the heart of Rutherford is a beautiful retreat from their previous careers in the entertainment and news worlds. But Hollywood is never too far away as Rich still maintains his role as the Vice-Chair of the American Film Institute, a highly acclaimed non-profit film school in Los Angeles. Rich and Leslie contribute annually to the AFI Conservatory, which provides a promising education to the next generation of filmmakers.
Despite the endless examples of their charitable giving, the Franks speak so humbly about all their work, showing gratitude to be in their position to give back. “We consider ourselves lucky to be in this fortunate position to play an important role in improving the lives of people in our community. We will continue to donate our time, money, and expertise to the causes close to our hearts,” said Rich.
Rich and Leslie are often found sharing a glass of wine with tasting room guests and wandering the park- like grounds of Frank Family Vineyards with their German Shephard rescue, Magnum. The Frank Family tasting room is nestled in the estate’s original yellow Craftsman house located on Larkmead Lane in Calistoga. Visitors are welcome to taste daily by advanced appointment.
FOR MORE INFORMATION:
707-942-0859 // www.frankfamilyvineyards.com
Article By: Marisa McCann // Photos Courtesy of Frank Family Vineyards