Setting the Standard for Napa Valley Entertaining
Husband and wife vintners, Rich and Leslie Frank, fell in love with Napa Valley separately and fell in love at Frank Family Vineyards together. Before devoting themselves full-time as the proprietors of their acclaimed winery, the two enjoyed distinguished careers in Hollywood.
Rich’s love of wine first stemmed from his international travels as the President of Disney Studios. Leslie, an Emmy Award-winning journalist, developed her passion for wine while traveling for more than twenty-five years as a news anchor and reporter.
This former Hollywood couple has now found Napa Valley to be the ideal place to live, entertain, and make great wine. “Family, wine and entertaining take center stage in our lives here in Napa Valley,” said Leslie. From small family gatherings and informal gettogethers with friends to large-scale charity dinners and winery events, the Franks love sharing the beauty of their surroundings and the fruits of their labor with the people closest to them.
Drawing Inspiration from the Land
Frank Family owns and sustainably farms 450 acres of land throughout Napa Valley. More than three-quarters of their acreage is planted to grapevines on four estate vineyards, with the remaining land dedicated to untouched terrain and cultivated garden spaces. Frank Family’s iconic Winston Hill Vineyard, rising 500 feet about the valley floor in Rutherford, is home to an organic garden that provides the fruit, vegetables, and herbs that inspire many of the Franks’ décor elements and ingredients featured on their tables.
“We have the utmost respect for our land. We are so grateful to live in a beautiful place like Napa that lends itself to growing virtually anything in our own backyards – our fruit, our vegetables, and our grapes,” said Leslie.
Winston Hill garden is in full bloom 365 days a year, always a bona fide display of beauty and flavor. Everything in the garden is organic and started from seed, including nearly 50 different varieties of tomatoes along with basil, peppers, citrus, and cucumbers. “We love whatever is available and in-season – this is sustainable gardening at its core,” said Leslie.
A Celebrated Chef
When an avid entertainer like Leslie Frank pairs up with a culinary force like Chef Christina Machamer, winner of season four of FOX’s Hell’s Kitchen, the result is magic. Christina is the Franks’ personal chef who not only cooks the daily meals for this on-the-go couple, she also excels at event design and menu curation. Chef Christina has worked side-by-side with some of the world’s top chefs like Gordon Ramsay and Thomas Keller before settling down to her burgeoning business in Napa Valley for the past decade. While her specialty is wholesome comfort food, thanks to her Midwest upbringing, Chef Christina is talented in a wide range of cuisines from French, Italian, and Asian to California farm-to-table.
Hospitality has become an important pillar of Frank Family. “Wine is our product, but at the end of the day, it’s about coming together, sharing conversation, and enjoying time with friends and family,” said Rich
The Franks work closely with Chef Christina throughout the year to create unique and memorable experiences for their guests, always pairing a beautiful setting with delicious food and wine. “Rich and Leslie love to entertain, and their style is always evolving,” said Chef Christina. “They are both warm and down-to-earth, and that translates into the atmosphere of their events. Not all vintners are as open and gracious as the Franks, plus Rich always has a great story to tell from his previous career in Hollywood,” she continued.
Some of the unforgettable celebrations in their endless repertoire are fundraising events and charity dinners for prominent organizations such as Festival Napa Valley, Collabria Care, and the V Foundation, as well as winery-hosted gatherings like Frank Family’s Annual Chardonnay and Lobster dinner and harvest dinners in the courtyard. Whatever the occasion to bring everyone together, Rich and Leslie create authentic, elegant, and one-of-a-kind moments.
Food Loving Wines
Gathering over a glass of wine is the essence of Frank Family entertaining. Serving Frank Family wines with food is the way they were intended to be enjoyed after all. Winemaker and General Manager Todd Graff, who has been at Frank Family since 2003, has mastered the artistry of winemaking from still and sparkling to late harvest and port.
“Frank Family’s wine portfolio is very comprehensive,” said Chef Christina. “I can’t think of a style or mainstream variety that isn’t represented – which makes my job easy.” While each wine is unique in character, they are all defined by purity of fruit, fresh acidity, and balance, a skill that requires finesse. Todd eschews high alcohol wines, favoring structurally elegant bottles where the grape characteristics are clearly translated. The result is extremely food-friendly and approachable wines begging to be paired with food, like Frank Family’s Lewis Vineyard Chardonnay with Chef Christina’s street corn risotto recipe.
Rich and Leslie are on a mission to create an extraordinary destination where visitors can expand their knowledge of wine, food, and culture. They are currently overseeing the construction of brand-new event space at their Calistoga winery, designed by famed architect Howard Backen. With plans to unveil the new hospitality area in early 2022, Frank Family is excited for the possibilities this new indoor-outdoor barn will bring.
From his days at Disney Studios in the 1990s, it is evident that Rich Frank has developed a keen understanding of how to create a memorable guest experience. His tenure in the entertainment business certainly shines through at his and Leslie’s family winery and into their social lives throughout the Napa community.
Hospitality has become an important pillar of Frank Family, standing hand-in-hand with crafting their high-quality wines. “Wine is our product, but at the end of the day, it’s about coming together, sharing conversation, and enjoying time with friends and family,” said Rich. “The business we’re truly in is hospitality, where every visitor to our winery or home is treated as a member of our extended family.”
This family atmosphere that the Franks have famously become known for is emulated throughout the valley but rarely recreated. As a result, Frank Family is one of the few wineries that consistently wins awards for having the best tasting room in Napa Valley. Yes, the wines they create are utterly delicious, but it’s the feeling that comes from their passion and purpose that keeps visitors coming back time and time again.
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Story By: MARISA MCCANN | Photos By: TUBAY YABUT