No Spitting Allowed: Frank Family Without Caveats

Drink reviews with honest verdicts

About three years ago, I toured and tasted at Frank Family Vineyards in the revitalized Kornell/Larkmead facility on Napa Valley’s Upper East Side. I liked the wines, but I didn’t love them. They are what I refer to as "caveat wines," those that have something very appealing about them, but yet don’t totally ring true. Yes, but…

The wines I’ve tasted in the intervening years have also been variable. Like that one very much, have problems with this one. So I was quite pleased when I tasted the seven samples below from Frank Family. I have my favorites, but the caveats are gone.


2010 Frank Family Napa Valley Chardonnay

On the sweet/fruity side, but it has sufficient structure and acidity to tempt a second glass without food. Has both apple and stone-fruit — peach skins, fresh apricots — flavors, and it is not really buttery. Quite nice.

Verdict: A chard for those of us who still enjoy those big chards popular in the ‘90s. ($33)


2010 Frank Family Carneros Pinot Noir Reserve

Juicy, tangy, smoky: very crisp and concentrated with lots of dark fruits — tart cherries and blackberries — and a layer of smoke. It’s a big wine (magically, all Frank Family wines come in at 14.5 percent), but a very well-structured one, less like a pinot in ways than a sangiovese or one of the bigger pinots from Sancerre. It’s delicious and reminds me of old Napa pinots before the Burgundian quest set in.

Verdict: Enjoy this un-pinot pinot for the treat that it is. ($58)


2009 Frank Family Rutherford Sangiovese Reserve

No, it doesn’t taste like a pinot (above). Cassis and chalky aromas with bright berries and lots of chocolate. Very long on the palate with lingering fruit and brûlée notes. Somewhat tangy and quite tannic at the finish.

Verdict:  Sangiovese is not Napa’s long suit, but this one is quite good, one of the best from Napa that I have tasted. ($60)