For many, Memorial Day Weekend is the official kickoff to the summer season. But it also signifies a time of remembrance and tribute to those family, friends, and strangers alike who sacrificed their time, skills, and sometimes lives in service to our country. There are myriad ways to honor those who came before us on Memorial Day. One specific example is the annual release of a special Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa’s Frank Family Vineyards. Named for proprietor Rich Frank’s father, Hyman “Hy” Frank, The Patriarch is a unique single-vineyard selection grown on a particular block of the family’s Winston Hill Vineyard. It is typically only released in the best vintages and is as much a gift from a son to a father as it is a reminder of the hard work and skill put forth by generations past.
Hy Frank was a World War II veteran and a first-generation American from immigrant parents. He was also a self-starter and hard-working entrepreneur, building a successful meatpacking business in Brooklyn that would allow his family to pursue their dreams. His dedication and strong work ethic made an integral impact on Rich. He would lead a career in advertising and entertainment, serving as the former President of Disney Studios, the Chairman of Walt Disney Television and Telecommunications, and the head of Disney’s syndication arm, Buena Vista. Rich founded Frank Family Vineyards in 1992 in response to a growing passion for the wines he had experienced worldwide. In 2012, he released the Patriarch in tribute to his father.
“My dad made a lot of sacrifices for this country in his lifetime. He believed in the American Dream and the idea that hard work and effort really could pay off,” says Rich Frank.
The 2018 Patriarch is the seventh vintage of this tribute wine. Made from 100 percent Cabernet Sauvignon, this wine is sourced from the “Heart Block” of the Frank’s estate vineyard in Napa Valley. The vineyard’s rocky, volcanic soils and the unique hillside vantage point influence this Cabernet Sauvignon with concentration, structure, and texture. With notes of ripe black currant, baked plums, leather, and mocha, this wine is luscious and full-bodied, with soft, rounded tannins and a lengthy finish.
In anticipation of the new 2018 release, just in time for Memorial Day, Rich Frank sat down to talk about his father and why this wine meant so much to create for him.
Forbes: You mentioned Hy was a first-generation American. Can you talk about when his family came to this country and from where?
Rich Frank: My grandparents came from a city on the border of Poland and Lithuania. I was told they were from Poland for much of my life, but just before my dad passed away, he said he was adamant that it was Lithuania. They immigrated to New York in the early 1900s and lived in Brooklyn in a large Jewish community. He was born in 1916. When he was old enough to drive, he drove the delivery trucks for his uncle’s meatpacking business.
Forbes: What led him to serve in World War II?
Rich Frank: When he was young, he was a pretty good baseball player. In fact, he was about to try out for Montreal when they were the Dodger farm team. But when America entered the War in 1941, he joined the army. But they sent him to London first to play on their baseball team, at least while they were waiting to send him into service. Eventually, he was shipped out on the fourth wave to Omaha Beach, one of the five landing areas of the Normandy invasion four days after D-Day. After the invasion, he drove trucks with the oil for General George S. Patton’s tanks. After that, he served in the Battle of the Bulge in 1944, and after that, he came home.
Forbes: Did he ever talk much about his time in the war?
Frank Rich: No, never. When you’re a kid, the first question you want to know is ‘Did you ever shoot anybody,’ but he wouldn’t talk about those sorts of things. He just talked about it like it was a job he had to do, and that was it.
Forbes: What did he do after the War?
Rich Frank: While he was away, his best friend and business partner, Gus, had been working for the meatpacking business that my dad’s uncle owned. When he came home, he and Gus bought the company from his uncle and grew the business in Williamsburg in Brooklyn. They eventually started a wholesale meat packing plant there, and it allowed my dad to save enough to send my brother and me to college.
Forbes: Did he help you decide where to go to college?
Rich Frank: He said something to me I’ll never forget. I had applied to a few places in New York and the University of Illinois in Champaign. He told me that I could go to any college I could get into but that it couldn’t be any place where I could easily come home for the weekend. I said, “Why, don’t you want me to come home?” And he said that the army taught him that if you only stay in one place for your life, that’s all you will know. But if you leave and learn to live somewhere else, you’ll meet new people and see new things, giving you a really different view of the world. His point was that if you can’t come home for the weekend, you’ll go to a roommate’s house, meet their parents and their relatives and friends, and learn what this country is about. He believed that university was half about book learning and half about learning how to grow up. So, I went to Illinois. And he was right. It’s the same advice I gave to my sons.
Forbes: What’s something else your father taught you?
Rich Frank: Well, he taught me about the meaning of friendship. In 2012, when we decided to release a wine in honor of him, The Patriarch, we wanted to include his story on the back label. It was a little long, and my wife, Leslie, who was writing it, was looking for places where we could trim it up. I told my dad that maybe we could cut a few words bout leaving Gus out of the story since he was no longer alive and he didn’t have any remaining family. I told my dad, “Nobody’s going to know. He said, “I would know.”
And that was it. That said so much to me about his morals and values. He wasn’t going to take all the credit for something that somebody else helped him do, and he wouldn’t leave his best friend out of his story. So Gus is included on the back label. And it’s where he should be.
Forbes: You’ve spent your career in something other than meatpacking. What made you choose not to follow your father’s path?
Rich Frank: My dad didn’t want me to. He said to me, “I don’t want you to have to do what I did, which is get up at three in the morning.” Each day, he’d have to get up to help Gus butcher meat and package it to get out to grocery stores, restaurants, and manufacturers. He sold meat to Peter Luger Steak House, Sabrett Hot Dogs, and Hebrew National. They’d get everything done by nine in the morning. But that kind of work eventually took its toll on him. He retired at age 57 and moved to Florida.
Forbes: When you decided to release a wine in his honor, how did you first present it to him?
Rich Frank: Our first release was the 2012 vintage in 2015, and we wanted to give it to him during a family gathering for this 98th birthday. Someone at the winery had sent the wine to Robert Parker beforehand, and he ended up awarding the wine 98 points just in time for us to present it to my dad. He was pretty proud of it. Afterward, he’d call us up and ask us to ship some of “his wine” to different friends. He passed away about a year later, and it was a gift for us to have been able to give him that honor.
Forbes: As you remember him this Memorial Day, is there anything you’d like to say about your father?
Rich Frank: My father lived his life expecting no more than what his own efforts brought. His ethics, hard work, and discipline exemplify the very nature of a man who weaves the strong fabric of family, community, and country. On this Memorial Day, we raise a glass to my father, a true American patriot and our Patriarch, and all the men and women who have fought to make our country great.”