Frank Family Chardonnay Carneros 2019

Cost: $37-39

What: I am a firm believer in celebrating holidays, even the made-up ones like Valentine’s Day. I call it amateur night for romantics.

Teri and I celebrated it anyway, with a great dinner at home. And nothing makes a dinner special like a great bottle of wine.

We had lobster tails and crab cakes, and my wife loves Chardonnay, so the choice was easy: Frank Family. They consistently make some of the best wine in Napa Valley, which is saying a lot because Napa is the Mecca for wine lovers.

They produce a broad range of great wine, but winemaker Todd Graff is at the top of his game with Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon and sparkling wines. It helps that he has great fruit to work with. Graff works with 380 acres of prime Napa Valley estate vineyards and trusted grower-partners.

Named after Rich and Leslie Frank’s eldest grandson, the estate-owned Lewis Vineyard in Carneros is planted to 58 acres of Chardonnay and consistently produces Frank Family Vineyards’ best fruit year after year. Its shallow clay soils lead to wines offering vibrant fruit with elegant balance and mouthwatering acidity.

In order to achieve exceptional quality and complexity, fruit from the Lewis Vineyard is combined with fruit from Frank Family’s extended “family” of growers, most notably Beckstoffer Vineyards and Sangiacomo Vineyards.

Frank Family Vineyards 2019 Carneros Chardonnay is 100 percent Carneros-grown Chardonnay, barrel fermented in 34 percent new, 33 percent once and 33 percent twice-filled French oak barrels for 9 months. While aging on the lees, the wine was hand stirred regularly to promote depth and longevity.

It is a beautiful pale gold in the glass, with powerful citrus aromas. The first sip reveals a complex, delicious wine, full of ripe fruit such as yellow apple, melon and pear, with citrus overtones. It has a rich mouthfeel and a long, smooth finish. This is one of those wines where we can’t believe how fast the wine disappears. We always wish we had just a little more.

We always have some of this wine on hand. In fact, we loved it so much it was one of the wines we served at my son’s wedding reception. I didn’t hear any complaints.

Winery: While Rich Frank was president of Disney Studios, he often visited wine country on weekends before buying the historic Larkmead Winery in 1992. His partner was Koerner Rombauer, whom he bought out in 2007. The stone building from the original winery is on the Registry of National Historic Places, and is now used for parties and receptions.

Winemaker Todd Graff has been with the winery since 2003. He and his staff make a wide range of varietals, including Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Petite Sirah, Sangiovese, Chardonnay and some very good sparkling wines. They produce about 1.8 million bottles a year. Since October 2015 Graff also has been general manager.

Frank’s wife Leslie, an Emmy-award winning news journalist, also takes an active role in the winery, heading marketing and branding.

The winery equipment is state-of-the art, and the tasting room usually is voted best in the state. The staff keeps it loose and fun, but they also teach you about the wine. The winery has stunning tasting rooms. During the COVID pandemic first the tasting rooms were closed and then tastings have been held on the back porch and on the front lawn. The Franks stayed close to their customers during quarantine by hosting a series of fun virtual tastings.

The winery is open daily, but reservations are required. It has become a popular spot for picnic lunches.

Goes with: We had a festive Valentine’s Day meal of lobster tail and crab cakes with hash browns. It was a great pairing with this delicious wine. And a terrific way to celebrate this romantic holiday.

It was an inspired pairing because each sip of the wine made we want to take another bite of butter-drenched lobster or creamy crabcake. And each bite of the seafood made we want another sip of wine.

This great Chardonnay would pair well with most seafood, chicken or turkey. It has good body, so it can stand up to the most pungent dishes. It also is a great sip when you wind down at the end of a busy day.

If you have questions about wine send them to Dennis at

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