Frank Zepeda - Cellar Master
As Cellar Master, Frank is often asked for an opinion about the wines he has hada hand in shaping. “What wines do you like? And which would you prefer to drink, a glass of wine or an ice cold beer?” After a long, hard day’s work in the cellar, a beer is preferred, but a glass of wine always has its place and time.
As a young boy growing up in Los Angeles, Frank never knew—or even dreamedof—a place where people made wine. As the second child of four, he and his siblings thought that all grapes were created equal, functioning solely as an afternoon snack food. When his parents decided to move to Napa Valley in the mid-1980s, Frank had no idea just how much growing up in this region would shape his life.
Even after attending high school in the valley, Frank had no idea that he would end up with a career in the wine industry. While attending college, he started a job at a local winery helping out in the tasting room and doing basic tasks throughout the winery. Every day, he would see the cellar hands going about their work, and he quickly became interested in learning about what they did and helping in any way possible.
Frank got his “big break” in 1996 when the assistant winemaker was in need of some additional help during harvest. When that winemaker began asking the tasting room and part-time staff if anyone would be interested in helping him for a few days, Frank’s curiosity about cellar work won out, and he agreed to lend a hand.
A couple of evenings spent doing pump-overs piqued Frank’s curiosity permanently. Although the winemaking team only needed his help for a few days, he was hooked on the work, and wanted to do more. By the time Harvest 1997 rolled around, Frank was working full time in the cellar. Considered one of the biggest crops of the decade, that harvest was no walk in the park, but it provided a sound education for Frank. Starting at the very bottom of the ladder, he worked hard to learn from everyone in the cellar. Making mistakes was a key part of the experience, and as the harvest continued, Frank found himself learning more and more everyday. That experience, combined with the opportunity to attend various classes and seminars in winemaking, helped him to develop a broader range of skills and deeper interest in wine. He found his passion lay in learning and participating in all aspects of cellar work.
Seven years of experience in the cellar have paved the way for Frank here at Vineyard 29, where making wine has been for him both a unique and an enjoyable experience. Each year, he continues to learn new means of making, caring for and enjoying the one thing that drives all wine enthusiasts: a great glass of wine!