Frank Family Pinot Noir 2016, Carneros
W hether you are a visitor to Augusta this week, or someone staying home and entertaining friends, you will want to find a good wine to celebrate this special week.
You won’t find anything better than something made by Frank Family Vineyards. And because it is spring, I especially like the Frank Family pinot noir. The wine is light and refreshing, but with plenty of body and full fruit flavor.
Spring is a great time to drink pinot noir, as it usually is lighter and fruitier than a good Bordeaux or a cabernet sauvignon. Many wine drinkers really love the rich, complex flavors in a pinot noir without the oak flavors or sharp tannins.
Pinot noir grows best in cool-climate regions, and the Carneros region is one of the best for great pinot and chardonnay. It received its AVA status in 1983, the first wine region in California to be defined by its climate characteristics rather than its geographic boundaries. It spans the southern end of both Napa and Sonoma, where it gets cool ocean breezes from the San Pablo Bay.
The cool temperatures, fog and wind, as well as the shallow clay soils produce low yields, but the grapes have strong flavors and balanced acidity.
The Frank Family Carneros pinot noir is a beautiful translucent ruby color in the glass with aromas of raspberry, herbs and cinnamon. Cherry pie and baking spices are the dominant flavors, framed by elegant tannins. The finish is long, smooth and complex.
The grapes come mostly from the estate Lewis Vineyard, planted with 68 acres of chardonnay and 10 acres of pinot noir in the heart of Napa-Carneros. The Franks also work with historic growers including the Beckstoffer, Hudson, and Sangiacomo families. Shallow clay soils in the Lewis Vineyard lead to vibrant fruit with elegant balance and mouthwatering acidity.
A simpler way to describe this wine is it tastes like ripe, red fruit. There are no sharp edges to the flavors, with everything mellow and smooth.
The winery is better known for its cabernet sauvignon and sparkling wines, but it has made outstanding pinot noir since 2007. It is a difficult grape to grow and even more difficult to turn into great wine.
While the Burgundy region of France and Oregon in the New World are more widely recognized as the best places to produce great pinot noir, this wine shows Napa Valley can compete with the best producers.
Winemaker Todd Graff and his staff constantly work on new techniques to improve the wine. He also has helped owner Rich and Leslie Frank find new vineyards to bring new options to the winemaking process.
After fermentation this wine spends 10 months in 33 percent new French oak barrels, and 67 percent once- and twice-filled French oak barrels. The new oak gives the wine enough body to stand up to food, but the used barrels keep the wine smooth and mellow.
I would serve this wine slightly chilled and allow it to warm up in the glass.
Winery: Frank Family Vineyards is proof that American lives can have a second act. Rich Frank was a successful executive with Disney in Hollywood when he started spending weekends in wine country.
He like the area so much he kept coming back on weekends until he bought his own place. His success in the wine business sounds like a Hollywood tale.
He loved the Napa area so much he bought the historic Larkmead Winery and formed Frank Family Vineyards 25 years ago. Graff came on board in 2003. Rich Frank bought out his partner Koerner Rombauer in 2007.
The company is an interesting mix of history and innovation. The stone building in which the original winery started in northern Napa Valley in 1884 is on the Registry of National Historic Places.
While the historic building is still used for special gatherings, all the winemaking has moved to another building where the equipment is state of the art.
The winery has consistently produced high-quality wines, which have become a fixture on restaurant wine lists and in home cellars. It continues to grow internationally.
Today, Frank Family Vineyards encompasses more than 380 acres of estate vineyards located in Carneros, Rutherford, and the Capell Valley.
The property also includes one of the most delightful tasting rooms in wine country. The staff keeps it lively and light, but you learn a great deal about wine while you laugh. The legendary Dennis Zablosky was the original leader of the tasting room and kept it lively for years. Since he died a few years ago, the current staff carries on the tradition and makes it one of the best tasting rooms in California.
It’s also a great spot to have a picnic. It’s one of those places I try to visit nearly every time I get to Napa Valley, and I have never been disappointed.
The winery makes a range of varietals, including cabernet sauvignon, pinot noir, zinfandel, chardonnay, petite sirah, sangiovese and some incredible sparkling wines.
The winery is known for its sparkling wines, which are produced in the French methode champenoise style, and are available for tasting and purchase only in the tasting room or online.
Special reserve wines, such as Winston Hill cabernet sauvignon, Rutherford Reserve cabernet sauvignon, Patriarch, Late Harvest chardonnay and Rutherford sangiovese are made from fruit grown on Rich Frank’s personal hillside estate in Rutherford and are only available through the tasting room or online.
Goes with: We had this with a roast pork loin, hash brown potatoes and peas. Pinot noir pairs nicely with all kinds of pork dishes.
The wine didn’t overpower the delicate flavors in the pork, which I seasoned with a medley of herbs, including rosemary, basil, garlic, Hawaiian red salt, pepper and Morton Nature’s Seasons.
I roasted the pork loin at 400 degrees for 15 minutes, fat side down. Then I turned the loin over and roasted it another 25 minutes with the fat side on top. I cooked the pork until it reached an internal temperature of 155 degrees. Then I let it sit on the countertop for another 10 minutes before slicing.
The meat came out juicy and tender, full of flavor from the herbs.
The pinot noir also would pair well with pork chops, fried breaded pork cutlets, leg of lamb, coq au vin and a wide variety of mild cheeses.
Author Dennis Sodomka