It’s been a dozen years now since winemaker Todd Graff came on board at Frank Family Wines in the old Kornell sparkling wines facility in northern Napa Valley, bringing with him solid experience both as a sparkling and table winemaker.
I’ve been a guest of Frank Family at the winery on a few occasions, but it has been during the regular tasting of the winery’s releases in recent years that I have become a bigger fan of their wines and Graff’s consistent approach to winemaking. I’m not sure Todd would agree with my characterization, but I think there is a similar style that applies to Frank Family’s reds, whites, and sparkling.
They are all big wines — what else can you expect with Napa grapes? — but they are fruity without being too fruit-forward, they have large volume without being ponderous and heavy, and, when there is alcohol over 14 percent, as there frequently is, it is well-balanced and well-integrated into the wines. I also get savory notes, especially around the edges of the reds, and frequently a pleasant tanginess.
While a winemaker has ultimate say about how the fruit will be guided in the vineyard, I think Graff’s and Frank Family’s style is to not try to bend the direction the fruit wants to go once it’s picked. At any rate, here are my notes on seven wines recently tasted:
Frank Family “Lewis Vineyard” Carneros Chardonnay Reserve 2012 ($50). Excellent fruit and floral aromas and flavors, especially of honey and honeycomb and mellow apples. It also has lots of skin notes and some light tannins.
Frank Family Chiles Valley Zinfandel Reserve 2012 ($58). Very enjoyable — brambly and dark cherry flavors and a touch of tang as well as creaminess in the finish, both adding to the wine’s complexity. Very rich and smooth.
Frank Family Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 ($46). An open, riper style of cab with great flavors of raspberries, ripe cherries, and mulberry. Full-bodied, but with good balancing acidity.
Frank Family “Patriarch” Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 ($225). Quite a nice wine to slowly sip and enjoy — ripe and juicy with dark cherry flavors and a nice under layer of dusty chocolate.
Frank Family Carneros Pinot Noir 2013 ($35). Intense, somewhat gamy flavors. It’s on the big side as far as pinots go, but it is not as heavy as some of the pinots coming out of Sonoma.
Frank Family “Lewis Vineyard” Carneros Pinot Noir Reserve ($65). Rich and rooty (typical pinot sassafras) with a tannic, carbonic-tasting edge surrounding the very rich cherry flavors.