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Frank Family winery occupies 380 acres across some of Napa Valley AVA’s finest vineyards. Courtesy photo
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Del Mar’s West End hosts Frank Family wine dinner

West End Bar & Kitchen in Del Mar recently hosted a sold-out Frank Family wine dinner. Republic National Distributing Company key account manager Hannah O’Donnell narrated the dinner, assisted by RNDC sales rep Maddie Bloom.

What I appreciate most about Frank Family is its consistency across both white and red varietals. A key factor for that consistency is the winery’s 380 acres of estate vineyards across some of Napa Valley AVA’s finest vineyards.

A great example is Frank Family’s 2018 RHF Cabernet Sauvignon that was featured in Wine Spectator’s (WS) Top 100 Wines of 2023. The wine received a score of 95 points and was featured as #61 on the list.  The 96% cab had splashes of petit verdot and merlot, each 2%.

The fruit was sourced from two of Frank Family’s prime Rutherford vineyards, specifically the Winston Hill Vineyard along the Vaca Mountain Range, at 500-foot altitude with rich volcanic soil, and the Benjamin Vineyard, known for fruit with famous Rutherford dust features. The RHF sees 20 months aging in 50% new French oak and once-used French oak.

Speaking of spoiling and indulging guests, West End proprietor Sal Ercolano brought in Brian Gist, his star executive chef from The Butcher Shop, to oversee the menu and dinner preparation.

The grilled pork loin with edamame succotash and beurre blanc sauce served at a recent Frank Family wine dinner at West End Bar & Kitchen in Del Mar. Photo by Rico Cassoni

Gist started the dinner with a pan-seared sea scallop cooked in brown butter garnished with charred Meyer lemon and topped with yellow apples and crispy bacon bits. This was paired with 2022 Chardonnay brimming with Meyer lemon, yellow apple and butterscotch notes that mirrored the plated ingredients. The partial malolactic fermentation provided a creamy mouthfeel.

The second course was an arugula strawberry salad with a pomegranate vinaigrette. The salad was plated with blue cheese crumbles and cinnamon candied walnuts. The 2021 Pinot served alongside had fruit sourced from their Lewis Vineyard in Carneros, a chardonnay and pinot noir fruit haven. Small amounts of fruit sourced from Beckstoffer and Sangiacomo vineyards round out this Burgundy-style pinot. The strawberry jam palate with cherries, cinnamon and pomegranate on the nose perfectly complemented the salad.

Guests enjoyed grilled pork loin with succotash for their third course. Gist surprised guests with a twist, using edamame vs lima beans for the succotash. The hard cider beurre blanc had great acidity with the pork. This was paired with 2018 Merlot that was re-released after a nearly two-decade hiatus. The merlot was blended with 12% cab sauv and 3% cab franc creating a bold merlot to complement the pork loin plate.

The main course was a coffee-rubbed brisket and Potatoes Lyonnaise topped with crispy red onions. The 2021 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, with aromas of blackberries, violet and vanilla along with black cherries, espresso and nutmeg on the palate and a smooth finish with 20 months aging, paired beautifully with the brisket. Merlot, petite verdot and cab franc splashes added to the depth of the cab. O’Donnell and Bloom provided tastes of the award-winning 2018 RHF Cab during this course.

Dinner concluded with a homemade vanilla bean gelato with dark plum compote and almond tuile pastry dipped into the gelato. The creamy, rich gelato was served with 2021 Napa Valley Zinfandel. The zin had plum and clove on the nose with thyme and mocha on the palate.

Ercolano and Gist did a splendid job on the pairings with food profiles that matched the wine profiles.  Kudos for the perfect pairings throughout the dinner.  See more info on the wines at

Next up for West End is a Markham Winemaker Dinner with winemaker Kimberlee Nichols on Thursday, March 28, at 6 p.m. The five-course dinner features espresso-rubbed New York Strip steak with crispy Brussel sprouts and carrot puree paired with Markham Cab Sauv for the main course. Cost is $120 per person and includes tax/gratuity. RSVP at

— Story by Rico Cassoni


Wine Bytes

— Sal Ercolano, Taste of Wine & Food’s 2023 Restaurateur of the Year, was recently inducted into Italy’s Unesco Ministry of Culture for U.S. West Coast restaurants for his leadership in the restaurant industry and his Italian cuisine. He was honored during a luncheon last month in Las Vegas.

— Sonoma’s Jeremy Riddle, proprietor/winemaker of Riddle Wines, will be at Carlsbad’s Wine Birds wine shop on Saturday, Feb. 24, 4-6 p.m. for wine tastings. Riddle Wines are handcrafted wines made with minimal intervention. The winery prides itself on working solely with organic and biodynamic grapes from small and thoughtfully farmed vineyards. For more information, contact 858-999-6021.

Rico Cassoni is executive producer for Taste of Wine and Food. He and founder/advisor Frank Mangio, a renowned wine connoisseur certified by Wine Spectator, are two of the leading reviewers on the web.  Reach them at [email protected].

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