CEOs turned vintners

Former executives are flocking to the vineyards of Napa Valley, where they’re vying to produce the next cult California red.

Frank Family Vineyards

Calistoga, Calif.


Former Walt Disney president Rich Frank purchased the vineyards in 1992, and has since grown the winery to produce 50,000 cases a year. Now the Hollywood heavyweight wants to move into high-end territory; with the help of ABC president Stephen McPherson, Frank Family Vineyards will start selling its first elite vintage this October.

Recent hit
The winery’s inaugural stab at cult red stardom is a 2004 cabernet blend called Promise ($250), which it will start selling in October. Rich has successfully built up excitement for the vintage: Promises’ 140 cases are already sold out despite the red having not been reviewed.


Ovid Napa Valley

St. Helena, Calif.

ovid napa valley

When Ovid Software founder Mark Nelson established his similarly named winery in 2000, he relied on two classic business tactics to build buzz for the first vintage: investing a big chunk of money ($22 million) and assembling an A-list team. Nelson, who sold the original Ovid in 1998 for $200 million, now runs a private equity fund called Mithras Capital.

Recent hit
Ovid Napa Valley’s inaugural vintage, a 2005 cabernet blend ($175) slated for an October release, is already a hit: The winery has sold out the 400 cases it produced (even the mailing list is full).

By Mina Kimes, reporter