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Napa Cellars Winery - Oakville, Napa Valley


Six Gold Medals in competitions, Best of Class - San Francisco Chronicle

It’s the winery that visitors to Napa Valley who utilize Highway 29 should never forget. It’s one of the first wineries visitors encounter on their way in and is practically the last they see on their way out. It bears the classically distinctive name of Napa Cellars Winery and to Napa Valley winery lovers, it seems as if it has been at its location forever.

Napa Cellars can actually trace its thirty-year history a bit more recently, to 1972 to be exact, when it first opened as Napa Cellars. A period ensued where ownership changed hands several times and finally the winery was renamed De Moor Cellars by its new European owners. In the early 1990’s a Japanese company bought the winery and it existed intact until 1996 when its present owners purchased the property and reverted the company to its original name of Napa Cellars Winery. All the time the facility’s geodesic dome was prominently displayed to all passers by who properly came to designate the building as a Napa Valley landmark.

Today’s modern Napa Cellars Winery bears little resemblance to its forbearers. Its present ownership, headed by former Walt Disney Television and Communications Chairman Rich Frank, has modernized and updated the winery’s production facilities until it rivals many of its well-known neighbors.

For owner Rich Frank, the transition from Chairman of the highly visible and widely respected Disney post where he was responsible for the likes of Home Improvement, Ellen, and even Regis and Kathy Lee, to the owner of Napa Cellars Winery was no mean feat.

Frank’s interest in wine was first generated when he was forced to travel to France regularly during the Disney Company’s development of its EuroDisney project during the 1980’s and early 1990’s. Whenever he ate out in Europe, Frank would always bring a bottle of the same wine back that he had drunk with his meal to further his appreciation for wine. After EuroDisney’s opening in 1992, Frank was satisfied that he had successfully developed a working knowledge and appreciation for the art of the grape.

Rich Frank also started a search for a possible retirement location and settled on the Napa Valley. He purchased a marvelous piece of property known as Winston Hill that was already under loose contract for all its grape production. He continued to sell his grapes and Frank and his wife Connie continued to enjoy the ambience of their new surroundings.

On one dining outing in 1991 at St. Helena’s renowned Tre Vigne, Frank happened to meet a local vintner whose wine he had just tasted and a fast friendship began. The vintner was local celebrity Kerner Rombauer and within a few months the pair had successfully bid on one of Napa Valley’s prize wineries, the Hans Kornell Champagne Cellars in nearby Calistoga.

Some five years later, the somewhat neglected winery that is once again Napa Cellars Winery became part of Frank’s Napa portfolio. After its renaming, Napa Cellars’ renaissance continued in earnest.

Frank directed that the winery employ an attitude of consumer friendliness with regard to its wines and even directed the production of a new and drastically eclectic label that literally stirs the imagination.

When asked the meaning of his new label, Frank replied simply, “Our label is actually intended to draw the viewer’s attention. It’s simply a piece of artwork and everyone should draw their own conclusion as to its meaning.”

Napa Cellars Winery has also increased its production in recent years according to winemaker Corey Sprott. “Our present level is about 11,000 cases,” Sprott informed, “but our permit allows us to produce 20,000 cases. Our present goal is to reach that level in from 2 to 5 years depending on the national market.”

Sprott admitted to a penchant for making for “big, rich reds,” and also added that the winery’s philosophy dictates wines that are made with a perfect balance of oak and fruit flavors.

It is quite refreshing to Napa Valley insiders that a venerable old property such as Napa Cellars Winery is most definitely on the way to unprecedented accolades and critical acclaim. With an ownership that seems dedicated to the long haul, Napa Cellars’ future is bright indeed.



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