So who would have thought there was a connection between making movies and making wine. And no, I’m not talking about "Sideways." But think about it -- in entertainment, you need a great script. In wine, you need a great vineyard.
“You then need a great director to make a movie, and in wine, you need a winemaker,” says Frank Rich, former chairman of Walt Disney Television and Telecommunications who headed Disney’s syndication arm, Buena Vista. He was then-president of Walt Disney Studios for nearly a decade and oversaw the development of The Disney Channel. Under Frank’s leadership, television and movie properties such as "Cheers," "Taxi," "Family Ties," "Shogun," "Winds of War," "Entertainment Tonight," "Golden Girls," "Home Improvement," "Ellen," "Regis and Kathy Lee," "Dead Poet’s Society," "Good Morning Vietnam," "Pretty Woman," "Father of the Bride," "Aladdin" and "The Lion King" achieved phenomenal success.
But with responsibilities like that, it's no wonder that Rich couldn’t find the time to get away for long vacations. So in the late 1980’s, he started going to Napa on the weekends, realizing it was only a short plane flight away from Disney headquarters in Los Angeles. And from then on he was hooked. In 1990, he purchased a home in the Eastern hills of Napa in Rutherford and Frank Family Vineyards was born.
They are now celebrating their 20th anniversary, and even with this tough economy, they are surviving -- and thriving.
“One of the keys to our success has been to put any profits directly back into the winery,” says Frank, clearly something he learned from the business world. And by reinvesting, they were able to grow their production and their properties. “Having vineyard property gives us more control over the quality of our fruit, as well as growing the right grapes in the right regions,” says Rich.
So while the wines are high-end, they are highly rated and sales have relied on a huge word-of-mouth following.
“Ironically, the only white wine we produce—our Chardonnay—is the most popular wine and our biggest seller right now,” says Rich. It sells for an affordable $27 or so a bottle, that is if you can find it. He calls it the ultimate Thanksgiving wine. “It goes with everything from the bird to the mashed potatoes.”
Even the tasting room has been voted the best Napa valley tasting room in 2012.
So maybe there are similarities between making movies and making wine. Lucky for us, Frank decided to do both.