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Frank Family Vineyards Buys Rutherford Property

Former Disney executive expands his Napa winery with addition of Wood Ranch Vineyard

Augustus Weed
Posted: November 16, 2012

Hollywood producer-turned-vintner Rich Frank is increasing his foothold in the heart of Napa’s Cabernet country. After 20 years of quietly building the reputation of his winery’s Cabernet Sauvignons and Chardonnays, Frank is purchasing the little-known but well-positioned Wood Ranch Vineyard in Rutherford. The sale includes the 87-acre property, several houses on the land, and 70 acres planted to vines.

Details of the sale were not disclosed, but land in Rutherford can command prices upward of $250,000 per acre. While Wood Ranch is not a marquee name, it provided fruit for many high-profile wineries in the region. The Wood family, who farmed the property for decades, sold their grapes to neighbors such as Quintessa, Caymus, Freemark Abbey and Rutherford Hill. Frank said he had to compete with many prospective buyers to purchase the property.

He said he pursued the Wood Ranch deal because of its ideal location and Rutherford’s status as a top growing region. “I just don’t think you can find a better Cabernet-growing area anyplace in the world, actually,” he told Wine Spectator. The vineyard is a short distance from Frank Family’s Winston Hill vineyard, and producers such as Caymus, Round Pond and Honig call the area home.

The property will allow Frank Family to expand its production, something Frank has been interested in doing for some time. The winery currently owns three vineyards spread throughout Napa Valley and has over 250 acres planted to vines. But wine sales were outstripping its production, forcing it to buy grapes. “We’ve just been growing and growing and we need to take that next step,” said Frank.

Frank Wood inherited the land that would become Wood Ranch after marrying the daughter of a Rutherford rancher and deciding to plant grapes. In the 1950s, his son, the late Frank “Laurie” Wood, who helped plant some of Napa’s premier vineyards, took over the property. The vineyard is planted mainly to Bordeaux varieties as well as Zinfandel and Petite Sirah, with about 20 acres planted to Chardonnay.

Following the sale, Rich Frank plans to phase Wood Ranch’s grapes into his reserve wines, specifically the reserve Cabernet. The winery is considering its options for the other varieties, including the Chardonnay. Frank said there are no plans to replant the entire property.

Frank parlayed a successful career in the entertainment industry into wine. He is a partner with Prospect Park, a management television production company, and currently produces television shows such as Royal Pains for the USA network and Wilfred for FX. A former Disney executive, he helped launch the Disney Channel and served as president of Walt Disney Studios for nearly a decade. He was also president of the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences.

While working for Disney in the late 1980s, Frank started visiting Napa Valley and purchased a house in Rutherford several years later. He owned some vineyards and sold his grapes but never planned to have a winery. That changed in 1992 when a friend informed him that Kornell Champagne Cellars was for sale. The winery focuses on Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay but also produces Zinfandel, Pinot Noir and Petite Sirah.

Troy Peterson
Burbank, CA —  November 18, 2012 8:02pm ET
I love the Frank Family Chards, both the regular and reserve. They are consistently some of the best from Cali. I also enjoy their sparkling wine that gets a dosage of Cognac!

The only thing I don't enjoy is the experience at the winery. When it was in a cheesy old trailer with fluorescent light I found the experience delightful. When we visited again in 2010 we found that they had a permanent (and beautiful) tasting room at which groups were herded like cattle and prodded into purchases which couldn't take place in the same room but had to be completed elsewhere. It was mayhem. Hopefully they've addressed some of those issues but that experience caused me to put their tasting room in the third-ring of any Napa tasting experience. That means I have to be in Napa for a week before I'll get to them. Shame.
Tim Bell
Healdsburg, CA, USA —  November 19, 2012 3:48pm ET
I have many fond memories of Laurie Wood, and of the time I spent on the Wood Ranch. Laurie was an unassuming and down-to-earth guy who was an important figure in Napa Valley, yet he was always friendly and accessible. This vineyard is a source of some outstanding Cabernet, Petit Verdot, and Petite Sirah. It should serve Frank Family Vineyards well.

Tim Bell
Winemaker
Dry Creek Vineyard
Mary Jane Phillips
Farmington Hills, MI —  November 21, 2012 11:09am ET
I totally agree with Troy Peterson. I love FF wines,especially the Zin and the Winston Hill Cabernet, but truly miss the "down home" feel of the cheesy trailer tasting area. Met with a glass of sparkling wine, and then tales of past movie stars visiting the winery, we loved the ambiance and the wines. The new venue is more like a home shopping channel show. Anyone that wants to experience the old style Napa should visit Casa Nuestra Winery on the Silverado Tr. Fun and laid back. Cheers!

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