Frank Family Vineyards is a popular family winery located on Larkmead Road on the south end of Calistoga. The winery has a long legacy in Napa as the original Larkmead property, where the original stone winery was built in 1884. It also gained fame as the home of Hanns Kornell where Champagne was produced in traditional Methode Champenoise style from 1952 to 1990.
When Rich Frank and his wife Leslie founded the winery in 1992, they, along with the winemaking expertise of Todd Graff, still proudly produce some of California’s finest sparkling wines using the traditional methods, including hand riddling of every bottle.
Frank Family is also known for their still wines and produces a limited amount of Reserve and Estate wines from their 380 acres of Napa Valley fruit harvested from their Winston Hill, Lewis, S & J, and Benjamin vineyards as well as from other outstanding neighbor growers.
Tastings are hosted in a warm yellow cottage situated among a garden of picnic tables and an inviting wrap around patio. Visitors check in and pre-pay at a host stand and are then escorted to a seated or standing area based on availability or by reservation. Our shoppers were all drop in guests who purchased the $40 tastings of 5 wines, but elevated experiences which include cheese and charcuterie ($80) can be arranged through an advance appointment.
The ambience of the home is welcoming, however, crowds can be intimidating on a busy weekend. The hosting staff does a good job surveying the open areas and coordinating open areas for guests to meet their hosts and get settled in. The tasting areas in the front rooms consist of standing bars where guests can interact with their hosts as well as among each other. There are also other rooms situated for seated tastings. The visitors were a combination of new customers intermixed with repeat customers and club members. The setup was conducive to intermingle and hosts were skilled at “holding court” and connecting guests among one another.
While the tasting menu showcased wines situated for the tasting, each host was amenable to tweak the menu once they discerned their guests’ preferences. Wines available for purchase were easily accessible on tasting menu/order forms placed at each setting. Wine selling propositions were subtly approached with commentary related to limited availability of wines and reminders of Holiday celebrations. The wine club was mentioned during our visits, but not directly. Using a softer approach, our hosts mentioned the club as a means to gain easier (no cost) access to the tasting salon and discounts on the elevated tastings.
The overall feeling from start to finish was relaxed and convivial. It was an experience all about sharing great wine, meeting new people and walking away with a couple of new friends. On each visit our tasters purchased wine and/or left contact information to stay in touch after the visit. The only thing we recommend tweaking is the hosts spend more time telling the story of the winery’s rich history, its legacy in handcrafted Champagne production, and more about the Frank Family’s founding history and vision. With the winery possessing such an endearing and historically interesting background, learning more about its heritage would have truly connected us more to the founding core of the business. While we would normally deduct a full point for the gap in storytelling, we returned credits for owner Rich Frank making rounds in the tasting room to greet and mix with guests & staff during our visits here. Learning Rich’s hands on approach and direct interaction with guests was not uncommon, we felt the personal touch of attentiveness offers visitors a unique and memorable opportunity to connect directly with the Frank Family.
Frank Family Vineyards
1091 Larkmead Lane
Calistoga, CA 94515
WHAT THEY DID WELL:
Friendly, welcoming staff & owners, organized, choreographed tasting accommodations, walk in guests welcomed, building personal (organic and inorganic) connections.
DTC BEST PRACTICES EXAMPLES:
Connecting with Guests:
- Personal introductions among hosts and guests
- Using Discovery to establish connections
- Knowledge and flexibility with products
- Suggestive selling