15 Questions for Winemaker Todd Graff in Honor of his 20th Vintage at Frank Family

This 2022 harvest season marks Winemaker Todd Graff’s 20th vintage at Frank Family Vineyards. Much as changed at the winery since he came on board in the early aughts, but his passion and commitment to making the best wine possible has remain all but unchanged. We’ve interviewed our Petaluma-born and globally trained winemaker in celebration of this incredible milestone and invite you to read on to get to know him a little better!

Q: What’s your favorite part about working at Frank Family?

A: It’s the total package – the people, the guests, the seasons, the vineyards, and not to mention, the wines.

Q: If you’re not drinking wine, what is your beverage of choice?

A: A gin and tonic. Hendricks is my house gin and Monkey 47 for special occasions. Also, enjoy margaritas and sipping tequila.

Q: What is a good memory you have at Frank Family?

A: Sipping a cold beer after a long harvest day

Q: Other than winemaking, what do you enjoy doing?

A: I’m pretty simply – travel, golf, and fly fishing. In fact, I just returned from a pre-harvest fishing trip in Idaho.

Q: What was your first memorable bottle of wine?

A: 1985 Chateau Figeac from Saint-Émilion, France and Champagne Louis Roederer Cristal

Q: Aside from Napa Valley, do you have a favorite wine region(s)?

A: Saint-Émilion, the Mosel River, Champagne, and the Douro Valley. I’ve been lucky enough to work in three of the four.

Q: How would you describe your winemaking style?

A: It’s always been to stay true to the grape and the region. We want our Chardonnays to taste like Chardonnays and our Cabernets to taste like Cabernets. I respect the fruit in its purest form and try not to interfere too much in the cellar. My main goal is to achieve balance and flavor, making delicious wines that you enjoy sip after sip.

Q: Do you have any advice for aspiring winemakers?

A: You have to have passion for it. Many people assume that being a winemaker is a glamourous job but it’s important not to get swept up in the “glamour” of it. When you’re cleaning out fermentation tanks or working in the vineyards first thing in the morning, it’s your commitment and love for winemaking that will sustain you.

Q: What is the most challenging aspect of being a winemaker? How about most rewarding?

A: I honestly think we have the best job in the world. I’m sure the typical answer is that mother nature is the most challenging thing about being a winemaker, but I’ve been around a long time, so I’ve learned to be flexible and work with what you have. I think that working with people is the best part. I love our team here at Frank Family and we have a great crew of grape growers we’ve been partnered with for decades.

Q: What is it like working with Rich and Leslie Frank?

A: We all have a great relationship. They fully trust my palate and look to me when it comes to winemaking. It’s a very trusting relationship built on many years of history. I honestly love working with the Franks and look forward to working with them for years to come.

Q: What do you think has been your biggest impact at Frank Family Vineyards in the past 20 years?

A: My commitment. When I came on board in the early 2000s, Frank Family wasn’t the same winery it is today. It needed some love and purpose, and I have spent the past 20 years giving it my all.

Q: Where do you see yourself in the next 10 years?

A: I’m not going anywhere; I’ll be in Napa for life, but who knows, 10 years from now, I can see myself being an emeritus winemaker who just comes in for blending trials and tastings and then leaves for lunch at the Rutherford Grill or to go fly fishing.

Q: Your kids essentially grew up at Frank Family Vineyards over the years. Did any of them follow your footsteps in wine business now?

A: My kids are in the business of drinking wine but no not making it. It was cool though having them grow up here, spending days doing homework in the office or joining the cellar crew for pizza dinners after school.

Q: What are you most excited about for the future growth of Frank Family Vineyards?

A: I’m looking forward to expanding our partner vineyards. We’re currently developing a new vineyard in Carneros just for Frank Family Chardonnay and it’s the continued access to high quality fruit that gets me most excited.