Why Leslie Frank Traded The Newsroom For The Tasting Room

Food & Drink

     On a trip to Napa Valley in 2005, KABC Los Angeles anchor and reporter Leslie Miller met the man who would become her husband and change her life. Having spent several months immersed in the Michael Jackson trial, the career newswoman headed to Napa Valley for a short break and shared what would be the first of many bottles of Frank Family wine with Rich Frank, the owner and founder of Frank Family vineyards and former president and chairman of Walt Disney Television

DIS
and Communications. The two married a few years later, and after commuting between Los Angeles and Napa for several years, Leslie, who by then was going by her married name, left the world of television journalism to focus full time on the winery. 

     A native of Hamilton, Ontario, Frank started her career in Canada before heading across the border to work in some of the largest television markets in the US, including Seattle (where she won an Emmy), New York and Los Angeles. In a career spanning over 25 years she covered stories such as 9/11, broadcasting live from Ground Zero, as well as the calamitous aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. During her nine years reporting and anchoring at KABC in Los Angeles, Frank kept viewers informed on such wide-ranging topics as politics, crime, weather, and celebrities walking the red carpet. In 2013, she left the world of television news behind and joined her husband and the team at Frank Family Vineyards, where she now heads up marketing and branding. 

Upon joining the family business Leslie took a three-pronged approach, focusing on digital marketing, design and hospitality, and philanthropy in order to strengthen and invigorate the perception of Frank Family Vineyards. Under her leadership, the tasting room was redesigned in conjunction with designer Erin Martin. At the same time, Frank shepherded the winery’s digital marketing initiatives, and she is the primary force behind Frank Family’s philanthropic efforts. She conceived and implemented the #FrankForA Cause giving campaign, which has raised nearly $100,000 since its founding three years ago. She is also on the board of Festival Napa Valley, the Collabria Care Gala, and the V Foundation Wine Celebration. 

     Located in Calistoga, in the northern end of Napa Valley, Frank Family Vineyards produces 1,800,000 bottles of wine each year, including Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Zinfandel, Rosé, Chardonnay, and sparkling wine, among others. Wine is available in the Calistoga tasting room and via online order. It is also sold in restaurants and wine shops, primarily in California, Texas, Florida, and New York. 

     We caught up with Leslie Frank to find out more about her switch from news to wine, Frank Family’s charitable giving, and the effects of the events of the last year on their business. 

World Wine Guys: Why did you leave what sounds like an exciting career in broadcast journalism to work with Frank Family Vineyards?

Leslie Frank: I spent 27 years covering major news stories across the country, including nine years anchoring and reporting at the number one rated station KABC in Los Angeles, where I covered everything from politics, crime, weather, and calamities to the biggest stars in Hollywood on the red carpet. After spending several grueling months reporting inside the courtroom at the Michael Jackson trial, I needed a short break from it all, and Napa Valley was just the ticket. 

     On that trip, I met and shared my first bottle of wine with my now husband and Frank Family Vineyards founder, Rich Frank. Several years later we were married and still living in LA and would come up to Napa on the weekends to check on the winery. I remember as we were stuck in LA rush hour traffic on our way back from one of our last trips, Rich and I both looked at each other and asked, “Why are we were still doing this?”. 

The decision was easy from there. We picked up our lives and moved to Napa Valley full time in order to dedicate our time fully to our thriving wine business. We’ve never looked back: the way of life in Napa is slower and the wine and food scene is unparalleled. What more could we ask for?

WWG: How do you use your journalism experience to help you in your role overseeing marketing and branding at Frank Family Vineyards?

LF: I have always had a passion for people and a talent for storytelling, two core components of both broadcast journalism and marketing and branding. I have applied what I know best, telling a captivating narrative and capturing an audience, and I interweave them into my role at Frank Family Vineyards daily. I think our brand’s story is what resonates with our loyal community of wine lovers and keeps them coming back…aside from our delicious wines of course!

WWG: Can you tell us about some of the winery’s charitable initiatives and your involvement with them? 

LF: As a successful winery business, I believe that we are in a fortunate position to play an important role in improving the lives of the people in the Napa Valley community and beyond. Since moving to Napa full time, I have established footings among some of Napa Valley’s most prominent charitable organizations such as Festival Napa Valley, Collabria Care, and the V Foundation. In fact, this year, Rich and I are excited to serve as the Vintner Grant Honorees for the 2021 V Foundation Wine Celebration.

     Additionally, Frank Family Vineyards has extended our reach in the community and across the country through a series of annual fundraising campaigns, called “Frank for a Cause.” Launched in 2018, our winery campaigns have raised nearly $100,000 for many deserving charitable organizations such as the Breast Cancer Research Foundation, Feeding America, Autism Speaks, and most recently, the James Beard Foundation to help provide support to independent restaurants impacted by Covid-19. 

WWG: Speaking of which, what were the effects of Covid-19 on your business? How did you overcome unforeseen challenges? 

LF: Navigating the tasting room closures and capacity restrictions has been one of the biggest challenges for our business as a result of Covid-19. It forced our team to get creative in connecting with our fans from across the country. Within days of the first Covid-19 shelter in place order, Frank Family was one of the first Napa wineries to introduce virtual wine tastings. 

     Our virtual tasting series has been very well received by our community and has become a vital component of our ongoing guest experience. Through thoughtful partnerships with local and national chefs like Hell’s Kitchen winner, Chef Christina Machamer, famous chocolatier, Chris Kollar, and Celebrity BBQ Specialist and Backyard Pitmaster, Jack Arnold, we have discovered a fun and unique way to engage online with our fanbase and bring a piece of Napa Valley wherever they may be.

WWG: As Napa Valley reopens to tourism, what can visitors expect at a Frank Family tasting? 

LF: While the world has changed, our passion for sharing wine and memories with our guests has not. We’re currently offering two tasting experiences in a range of inviting, outdoor spaces from our covered back deck wrapped around our original yellow Craftsman house to our front lawn tucked beneath lush, centuries old Elm trees. 

      Each guest experience is a private, guided tasting in which our guests can explore our story and wines one-on-one and feel a sense of connection that is hard to match anywhere else. While our wines are the star of the show, our outstanding hospitality team is what makes them shine. Each staff member is a part of our extended Frank Family and they make each club member and winery guest feel part of our family too.

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