July 23, 2012 | Wine Country Travel | Wendy Van Diver
Discovering the Finger Lakes (part 5): Keuka Lake and Dr. Frank’s Wine Cellars
I was very excited to visit Dr. Konstantin Frank’s Wine Cellars on Keuka Lake because the story of Dr. Konstantin Frank is, in essence, the story of how the Finger Lakes became a respected producer of world class vinifera wines. Born in the Ukraine, Dr. Frank was a respected scientist when he came to the United States in 1951. Dr. Frank was convinced that the reason vinifera had not been successful in the Finger Lakes region was due to improper root stock, rather than an unsuitable climate. He had a hard time convincing anyone (partly because although he was fluent in several languages, one of them was not English); his opinion fell upon deaf ears until he had the good fortune of meeting French Champagne maker Charles Fournier who also owned a Finger Lakes winery. In French, he explained his theories Fournier who agreed and helped him prove he was right.
This year, Dr. Konstantin Frank’s Wine Cellars is celebrating its 50th anniversary. It has been New York’s most award-winning winery for the past 40 years and has already received more than 50 Gold medals in 2012.
My brother, Craig, and I were greeted by Fred Frank, president of the winery and Dr. Frank’s grandson. Fred ushered us into the private tasting room overlooking Keuka Lake where we tasted from the winery’s extensive portfolio. We started with two sparkling wines: the 2007 Chateau Frank Blanc de Blancs and the 2006 Blanc de Noir (the Finger Lakes’ most award-winning sparkling wine). From there, we sampled two lesser known varietals here in the States: the dry, crisp 2011 Gruner Veltliner and the elegant, herbal 2010 Rkatsiteli. An impressive line-up of Rieslings followed; from the bone dry 2011 Dry Riesling to the 2008 Select Late Harvest Riesling. Then, to be sure we understood just how good Finger Lakes wines can be, Fred poured a 1995 Chardonnay and a 1999 Pinot Noir. Both demonstrated an amazing amount of finesse and flavor. To top things off, we tried both the 2010 and 2011 Gewürztraminers. Both were delightfully fruity and loaded with baking spice notes.
We were honored that Fred gave us two whole hours of his time… pouring the wines, telling us more about the region, and convincing us that Keuka Lake is a marvelous incubator for world class vinifera. Craig left with a case to add to his cellar and I arranged to have some shipped to me back in California as well.
My first visit to the Finger Lakes wine region was an utter joy, and I can’t wait to come back for more.