Q&A with Leslie Frank: Philanthropy

On Tuesday, December 3 Leslie Frank was honored for her philanthropic work at the North Bay Business Journal’s 7th Annual Wine Industry Awards. The Wine Industry Awards recognized Leslie along with 17 other individuals and suppliers who have made positive contributions to the wine, beer, and spirits industry.

Q: Detail your background in the wine industry: 

A: Before I joined the wine industry, I had a career in broadcast journalism. I spent more than twenty-five years covering politics, crime, natural disasters – you name it. Throughout my time as a reporter and anchor, I brought some of the country’s most major events into the home of millions of Americans including the 9/11 attacks, reporting live from New York City’s ground zero, as well as from the devasting aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and inside the courtroom at the Michael Jackson trial.

My travels as a journalist sparked my interest in wine, prompting my first visit to Napa Valley in the 1990s. It was in Napa where I met my husband, Rich Frank, owner and founder of Frank Family Vineyards. Since 2012 when Rich and I got married, I have profoundly integrated myself in the California wine industry. I took classes at the Napa Valley Wine Academy and underwent the UC Davis Wine Executive Program to study the fundamentals of winemaking, fine tune my management skills, and learn ways to expand Frank Family’s marketing and branding strategies.

Now, I am a Proprietor of Frank Family Vineyards and spend my day-to-day working to elevate our brand and co-manage our staff of 50. I have applied what I know best – people and storytelling – and interweave them into my role at Frank Family Vineyards and in the community at large. I am thankful for my previous career as a broadcast journalist for providing me with a mindset rich in culture and a personal long-term commitment to philanthropy that I will continue to share to raise the North Bay community to greater heights.

Q: Describe the impact Frank Family Vineyards or you have had on the industry in the last five years:

A: 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 North Bay community and beyond. My passion for people and culture has naturally paved the way for my and Frank Family’s positive involvement in the wine industry. In the past five years, I have established footings among some of Napa Valley’s most prominent charitable organizations such as Festival Napa Valley, Collabria Care, and Auction Napa Valley.

I found a natural fit as a board member of Festival Napa Valley, a fusion of art, wine, and culture set amongst some of Napa Valley’s most stunning winery and vineyard backdrops. Festival Napa Valley does so much for the Napa community whether raising much-needed funds for education through the Arts for All Gala, supporting aspiring musicians via the tuition-free Blackburn Music Academy, shining a spotlight on emerging artists, or igniting creativity at Arts for All Camps. Across the years, the program has donated over $1 million to Napa County’s public-school arts education programs. I co-chaired the 2019 Arts for All Gala, which raised a record-setting $2.6 million for the non-profit.

This September, Rich and I were also privileged to be named the honorary chairs of this year’s 13th annual Collabria Care Gala. Collabria Care is the leading center for community-based care and resources in the North Bay for those facing transitions of aging, Alzheimer’s disease and other serious illnesses, or the end of life. In our roles as honorary chairs, we served as ambassadors for the organization and the event and donated two high value lots to the live auction as well as 35 limited-edition 40th Anniversary Collabria Care etched magnums which raised $45,000. All in all, the evening was a tremendous success, setting a new gala record of over $740,000 for hospice, palliative, and Alzheimer’s care, and a range of other services for the most seriously ill in the Napa Valley community.

Additionally, Frank Family Vineyards has extended our reach in the community and across the country through a series of annual fundraising campaigns. In 2018, the Frank Family team and I raised $10,000 for the Breast Cancer Research Foundation through the winery’s “Frank Drinks Pink” campaign. This year, we created the “Frank Fights Hunger” campaign and are teaming up with the Feeding America Network throughout the month of November. During this campaign, we will be donating 10% of proceeds from each online purchase of the Carneros Pinot Noir to this amazing organization, which is equivalent to about 11 meals per bottle to children and families in need. Frank Family is also matching the final donation amount to make their impact that much greater.

Q: What changes have you noticed in the wine industry in the last five years and how have you and Frank Family Vineyards moved to capitalize on those changes?

A: The California wine industry is constantly evolving. In the past five years, we have seen changes to consumer drinking habits, purchasing patterns, and tasting experience preferences as well as climate changes from drought, flooding, and wild fires. Frank Family Vineyards is certainly not complacent in the face of these new challenges, and we are constantly adjusting to the world around us to find success now and in the future. Frank Family is currently certified Napa Green in our winery and vineyards, which is a tremendous achievement in sustainability.

In the past decade, Americans have upgraded their palettes while a new wave of wine consumers have turned the direct-to-consumer culture on its head. The days are gone where tasting rooms would funnel customers in and out the door to belly-up at the main bar. Today’s consumer wants to fully experience a brand, get to learn its story, and feel a sense of belonging with it.

Rich’s time at Disney Studios provided him with a professionally-inspired understanding of how to make a wine tasting an experience, which has always given Frank Family an edge. In 2017, we took our tasting experience to the next level with the redesign of our tasting room in collaboration with local designer, Erin Martin. We completely reimagined the traditional tasting room by renovating our 1930s yellow Craftsman house and converting it into a comfortable and trendy tasting space. The house’s private rooms each have a specific theme, such as the Hollywood Room which speaks to mine and Rich’s former careers, and the Patriarch Room which pays homage to Rich’s childhood and his father, Hy Frank. We also revamped our back deck with swing chairs and cushioned couches to provide a lounge experience for our guests that’s free of stuffiness and frill. We even introduced a new food and wine pairing experience to create a more immersive and educational visit. It’s now one of our most popular tastings and is offered twice daily to meet the growing demand.

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