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Frank Woods, co-founder of Clos du Bois winery, dies at 81

Frank Woods, the master of marketing who set the bar for enticing consumers to Sonoma County wine when he co-founded and made a leading label of Clos du Bois, died May 8. He was 81.

Woods excelled in advertising and marketing at Procter - Gamble and then in his own firm, which developed and promoted such products as Tiger's Milk and the Shell No-Pest Strip, before he acted on a passion for wine.

His winery's fancy sounding name was a play on his own: Clos du Bois is French for an enclosed vineyard of the woods.

The Tennessee native and Army veteran lived in San Francisco but spent a great deal of time at his family's longtime vineyard ranch on West Dry Creek Road, near Healdsburg.

He collapsed and died after walking to his San Francisco gym.

"He was a marketing genius, an absolute marketing genius," said his former partner at Clos du Bois, Healdsburg resident and ex-Secretary of the Air Force Tom Reed.

The two of them moved from growing grapes to creating a small winery in Geyserville in 1974. The partners sold a vastly larger Clos du Bois 14 years later to a subsidiary of Hiram Walker.

Woods "really enjoyed building the company and the brand," said one of his two daughters, Alexis Woods of San Francisco.

She said her father insisted on a beautiful label that would appeal to women. Frank Woods also conducted extensive research on consumer preference in wines and he got people to talking about Clos du Bois by premiering its wines in restaurants, tastings and contests.

"People liked to drink our products," Woods said in a 1998 oral history sponsored by UC Berkeley and The Wine Spectator.

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