Frank Family Chardonnay is a great match for tempura shrimp and wild rice.

W e drink a lot of red wine at our house during the holidays, but sometimes nothing will do but a smooth, elegant white, like the Frank Family Chardonnay.

It has been one of my favorites for years, and it has become popular all around the country.

It’s pale yellow in the glass, with pleasant but not overpowering aromas of apple and pineapple as well as some apple pie spices. The lively palate is full of baked apples and spices, with a creamy mouthfeel. Fresh acidity keeps the creaminess in check and makes it a good food wine.

The wine is barrel fermented for 10 months, but only 34% of the barrels are new. Once-filled and twice-filled barrels each get 33% of the wine. It’s easy to give Chardonnay too much oak and make the wine harsh or too tannic. It’s one reason many people don’t like Chardonnay or prefer the stainless steel fermented style.

But Frank Family gets it just right. Creamy, buttery Chardonnay can be an exceptional, memorable wine. If you don’t like oaked Chardonnay, this one will change your mind. It’s everything you want in a good Chardonnay.

Serve it well chilled. I used one of my new gadgets to keep it cool after I took it out of the refrigerator. It’s called a corkcicle. It looks like a plastic icicle filled with some kind of liquid. You put it in the freezer and after you pour out your first glass of wine, put the corkcicle in the bottle. The top is a cork, so the wine stays sealed. You can find it at wine shops for about $25.

Frank Family Chardonnay with corksicle in bottle.

You leave the bottle out and the corkcicle keeps it at just the right temperature. You don’t want to serve good white wine too cold, because that takes all the flavor out of the wine. The gadget also works with red wine, because Americans often serve red wine too warm. The corkcicle keeps reds at just the right temperature.

From: Napa
Winery: The Frank Family has been making outstanding wines in Calistoga since 1992 in a building that is on the Registry of National Historic Places. It is on the site of the Larkmead Winery that opened in 1884 in northern Napa Valley.

Connoisseur’s Guide of California Wine named Frank Family the Winery of the Year for 2012 because of its consistent excellence across the board. “Multiple star ratings were garnered in virtually every category, starting the year off with Zinfandel and ending with Cabernet Sauvignon, and touching Petite Sirah, Sangiovese, Chardonnay and Sparkling Wine along the way,” the publication said in explaining its choice.

Disney executive Rich Frank started visiting Napa from his home in Los Angeles in the late 1980s. He became interested in the wine business and bought the Larkmead property, which was at that time the home to Kornell Champagne Cellars. Rich and Connie Frank bought out their partner Koerner Rombauer in 2007.

The winery makes a range of varietals, including Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and some incredible sparkling wines.

The wines are made from 200 acres the family owns on parcels scattered throughout Napa Valley.

The property also includes one of the most fun tasting rooms in wine country. The staff keeps it lively and light, but you learn a great deal about wine while you laugh. It’s also a great spot to have a picnic.

Cost: $34-36
Year: 2011
Goes with: My wife Teri and I had this with tempura shrimp, salad and wild rice. It was a great pairing. The apple and spice flavors as well as the creamy texture made this a special meal.

It also would pair well with other seafood and shellfish, grilled chicken, chicken in a cream sauce and pasta tossed in olive oil.

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