No Spitting Allowed: Frank Family Without Caveats

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)

2009 Frank Family Napa Cabernet  Sauvignon

More fruity than savory, although there are notes of brambles in the blackberries. Not quite jammy, yet fruit-forward. The structure is fairly lean, fortunately, with some tightness in the end along with a touch of cream.

Verdict: Although balanced, this is a wine for big-fruit fans. ($50)


2008 Frank Family Rutherford Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve

This is the flip side — more herbal and savory, very broad across the palate, more-subdued fruit, some briers, tones of brown butter. Still a little closed, especially in the nose. Love it!

Verdict: This is the wine for make-it-savory fansmyself included. ($85)


2008 (Frank Family) Winston Hill Rutherford Red Wine

Very elegant bordeaux blend, like a Margaux or an Alexander Valley cab, yet very focused. Lots of dried spices in the finish. Long and delicious.

Verdict: A tossup with the cab reserve for best of tasting. ($150)


2009 Frank Family Napa Valley Petite Sirah Reserve

To re-purpose the Rumsfeldian cliché, petite sirah is what it is. This one has very vinous aromas, with loads of blueberry and red raspberry flavors — juicy and creamy — with lots of dusty tannins.

Verdict: Enjoyable and well-made, but not designed for red-wine drinkers with European, old-world palates. ($65)