Francine Williams, known to everyone as “Frankie,” was born in New London, Connecticut on Bastille Day. Frankie loved growing up in Connecticut with the small town feel, the change of seasons, fried clams, lobster, fall colors, and Ocean Beach. Her young life may have foretold her future in the vineyard dotted lands and abundance of wine country.
From her first year in college, Frankie followed a diverse path -from a summer job working at the Underwater Sound Lab to Washington DC working for the CIA! While at the CIA she was an office assistant with a very high clearance. Had she stayed, she envisions she would have at one point carried a gun and a camera! However with a desire to work in the public sector, Frankie went to the American Association of Junior Colleges in an administrator position.
With innate enthusiasm and self-assurance, Frankie got the bug to go to California. She thought she would love it for many of the reasons she loved Connecticut. She was right! In 1972 she arrived in San Francisco. After a time, she met Todd Williams, an affable man with friends in every corner of the city. In 1978 they married. Together they owned a bar in San Francisco named “Toad Manner.” Then a whim would take them to the town of Arnold in the Sierra Foothills where they would open the now legendary “Whiskey River Inn.” Heeding the call of adventure, they moved back to the Bay Area of California in 1985 and settled in the wine country hamlet of Healdsburg, in Sonoma County.
There Todd sold wine for some of the most prestigious California wine companies of the time while learning all that he could about the industry. He dreamed of starting his own winery that would provide great wines that all consumers could enjoy. In 1994, with a faith born of his knowledge, as well as Frankie’s and his enormous network of friends and contacts, they started Toad Hollow Vineyards. That year Todd introduced the world to the first of their wines – an Unoaked Chardonnay - a style almost unheard of at the time. As his muse, and for her joie de vivre, he named their Chardonnay, "Francine's Selection” and it became an immediate success.
Frankie joined the winery in 1997, leaving a long-time position managing a law firm. Allegedly the move was to be part-time, but soon she became immersed in every facet of the business. Her moxie and overwhelming charm propelled the lighthearted nature of the brand to representation all over the U.S.
Todd left for the beyond in 2007, where he is surely making otherworldly wine and friends. It was at his memorial where Frankie announced that she intended to keep Todd’s dream of Toad Hollow alive. Eight years have gone by and Frankie has kept the brand, its employees, and philosophy intact. She remains steadfast in keeping the wines affordable.
A portfolio of exceptional North Coast wines are distributed across the nation and enjoyed at Toad Hollow’s inviting and lively tasting room in Healdsburg.
Frankie resides in Healdsburg and enjoys beautiful days in her winery office surrounded by the vineyards of the Russian River Valley with the company of her long time staff.