Santa brings good gifts to good boys and girls.
Frank Family Chardonnay 2016, Carneros

Cost: $37-39
P eople often ask me what my favorite winery is and I tell them I don’t have one. There are a half dozen or so I turn to when I want a really good wine, and Frank Family Vineyards is at or near the top of that list.
I can honestly say I have never had a Frank Family wine that I didn’t like, and they make a wide variety of wines. All wineries try to produce the best wine they can, but Frank Family has hit on the right combination of great vineyards and genius winemaker. They put a lot of extra effort into getting it right.
Red wines usually are my choice in cool weather, but sometimes the food dictates that white would be better. That was the case on two occasions when we opened a bottle of Frank Family Chardonnay ($34-36), made from grapes grown in the cool-climate Carneros.
The wine is a beautiful light straw in the glass, with lush aromas of brioche, lemon and baking spices. It is a full-bodied, creamy wine, with flavors of pear, lemon and apple, with subtle oak notes. The rich, creamy flavors are balanced by a crisp acidity. The wine coats your mouth with all sorts of complex flavors and finishes with a long, smooth aftertaste that offers some mineral notes.
This is one of those rare chardonnays that is great as a sipper, but equally good when paired with a meal. It is versatile. You can serve it with all kinds of food, from light seafood to spicy foods to heavier meals.
Chardonnay is the queen of white grapes in California. There are 1,500 different chardonnays produced there each year, but you won’t find very many, if any, that are better than Frank Family.
The grapes for this wine are 100 percent chardonnay, 76 percent from the Napa side of Carneros and 24 percent from the Sonoma side. It is barrel fermented in 34 percent new, 33 percent once and 33 percent twice-filled French oak barrels for nine months.
While aging on the lees, the wine was hand stirred regularly to promote depth and longevity.
The prime source for the grapes is Frank Family’s Lewis Vineyard, located in the heart of Napa-Carneros, near the shores of the San Pablo Bay. It is made up of 78 acres planted on gently rolling hills, with 68 acres planted to chardonnay and 10 acres planted to pinot noir.
Other fruit sources for this wine include Beckstoffer Vineyards and Hudson Vineyards located in Napa-Carneros, and Sangiacomo Vineyards located in Sonoma-Carneros.
Carneros, which received its AVA status in 1983, was the first wine region in California to be defined by its climate characteristics rather than its geographic boundaries. Spanning across both Napa and Sonoma, the region experiences powerful winds driven by the Pacific Ocean, making it ideal for cool-climate varietals such as chardonnay and pinot noir.
Winery: When people hear the story of Frank Family Vineyards they think it sounds like a Hollywood movie. That’s appropriate because founder Rich Frank was a Disney executive in Hollywood before he opened his winery in 1992.
Frank’s job was intense and he couldn’t get away for long vacations so he started taking the short flight to Napa for some relaxation. He liked the area so much he decided to buy the historic Larkmead property when it became available. He bought out his partner Koerner Rombauer in 2007.
The stone building in which the 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 property also includes one of the most fun tasting rooms in wine country. It has been voted the best tasting room in the state for eight straight years. 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 tasting room moved from a ramshackle old metal building to a beautiful 1930 Craftsman home a few years ago. There are several different rooms to use depending on the type of tasting you want. You can even get an outdoor tasting throughout the year.
I have been there many times, and have always had fun. When people ask for a recommendation of where to go for a wine country visit, this is my first recommendation.
Dennis enjoyed the Frank Family chardonnay with sauteed scallops and a baked potato.
The winery makes a range of varietals, including cabernet sauvignon, pinot noir, zinfandel, chardonnay, petite sirah, sangiovese and some incredible sparkling wines. The wines are made from 380 acres the family owns on parcels scattered throughout Napa Valley. The winery roots are in the Rutherford region of Napa and in Carneros.
Frank Family has received Napa Green certifications for both its vineyards and its winery in the Napa Green Certified Winery and Napa Green Certified Land programs. The program is designed to conserve and improve the quality of the environment through vineyard-specific programs. Certification also means the winery has minimized energy and water use, waste and pollution.
My son Michael and his girlfriend Micheala joined us for fried turkey and loved it.
Goes with: We had this versatile wine on two different occasions recently. First, we had it with pan-seared scallops, baked potatoes and a tossed salad. It was a spectacular combination.
I sauteed the scallops in butter, white wine and lemon juice, with some chopped parsley and green onions. I cook them over medium high heat about five minutes per side, or until you get a slight brown crust on the scallops. The creaminess of the wine perfectly matched the rich, warm flavor of the scallops.
The turkey frying away.
The second time we had this wine was with a fried turkey, and it was just as good. The flavors in the crispy fried turkey are bolder than the scallops, but the Frank Family chardonnay was still a good match. It has enough body and acidity to be able to stand up to the spicy turkey.
This wine would pair well with just about any seafood, poultry, strong cheeses and some pork dishes. Serve it well chilled and let it warm up for about five minutes before serving.
If you have questions about wine you can email Dennis Sodomka at

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