Friday, July 24, 2009


I want to admit something. Like many other bloggers, I am guilty of always looking for the next new thing – the next new winery, the next new grape or varietal, the next new spin. It seems bloggers find them selves in a faster spinning news cycle than magazines and newspapers, especially in wine, as we all try to find the next new….

While was at the Finger Lakes wine festival, at work on my piece about the best reds in the Finger Lakes, I saw the Dr. Konstantin Frank booth. I thought to myself, “Wow, I haven’t tried them in a while, let me go over there.”

I have been a big fan of Dr. Konstantin Frank, the industry innovator himself, and the winery. While I never met Dr. Frank, I did meet Willie, of whom I also thought highly. I felt, and still feel, Willy was almost just as important to east coast winemaking and the Finger Lakes in particular, as his famous and cantankerous father.

As I approached no one as the station, only to see a large man kneeling under the table, pulling out wine for his booth mates. Feeling my presence, he looked up, and very courteously said, “If you could just wait one moment please, and I’ll assist you.”

It was Fred Frank!

He stood up and asked me what kind of wine I wanted. Then we started chatting.

While I’ve been running around, looking for the next new thing, Dr. Konstantin Frank has been doing well what they have always done – growing first class grapes and making classic, elegant wines.

Fred is guardian of a tradition that dates back almost half-a-century, and tends a legacy that is as rich as any winery’s in North America. But he’s not just standing still. He’s making great wines.

World renowned wine writer Tom Stevenson in his Wine Report rated Dr. Konstantin Frank the “Greatest Wine Producer in the Atlantic Northeast” five years in a row, from 2005 to 2009!

In 2009 alone, the company has been awarded 45 gold medals thus far, their Rieslings and Gewurztraminers having gained almost half of them.

Wine & Spirits magazine awarded their 2007 Dry Riesling 93 points, and their 2007 Semi-Dry Riesling 90 points! These are some of the highest scores ever achieved by a New York state winery!

In 2006 Robert Parker rated their 2005 Dry Riesling a 90 and their 2005 Riesling Reserve an 89+!

Wine Spectator awarded their 2005 Barrel Fermented Chardonnay an 88!

And Hugh Johnson in his 2009 pocket guide insists that Dr. Frank “continues to set the pace for serious winemaking…Excellent Riesling, Gewurztraminer…”

They have been featured on NBC Today Show.

But what about the wines?

Well, their Riesling and Dry Riesling are exceptional. And I am even a fan of Salmon Run Riesling, which I serve in copious amounts to my father-in-law around the holidays. I think Salmon Run is one of the best value lines in America, bar none.

I tasted their reds, and loved them! I preferred the following three which I recommended in “Best Reds of the Finger Lakes”:

Dr. Konstantin Frank Salmon Run Meritage – Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc blend. Very nice nose. Deep red color. $13.99 An awesome price. WINE REPORT listed it as one of the best red wine values in the 2009 Report. Must agree.

Dr. Konstantin Frank Cabernet Sauvignon 2007 – Dr. Frank drops a lot of fruit on the vineyard floor to make sure they make a solid Cab Sav. And it works. Dark fruit and vanilla on the nose. Big notes of dark fruit. A touch of chocolate. Big tannins. Nice dry finnish.

Dr. Konstantin Frank Pinot Noir 2007 – Dr. Konstantin Frank’s has the second oldest Pinot Noir vineyards in all of North America! They’re 45 years old. And it shows in this wine. Easily the darkest Pinot in the Finger Lakes. Big dark cherries. Nice notes of vanilla. One of the nicest reds in the Finger Lakes. Really wonderful. A delightful surprise from one of the older vineyards.

And of course I think their sparkling wines were also very, very good.

In speaking with Fred, I found out that Dr. Konstantin Frank has the second oldest Pinot Noir vineyards in North America! Now, that’s impressive.

How does one judge a good winery? A winery is a tricky thing, when judging in the larger sense, no? They make a consistent line of wines of high quality. There are no clunkers in he line. Consistently, across all brands, and across all wines, the quality is high and the tastes are in fact phenomenal on many.

Even more impressive was that Fred Frank is the third generation of Frank to hold stewardship of Dr. Konstantin Frank, and that his son also works at the winery, thus making him a fourth generation winemaker.

The Franks are not a winemaking dynasty because they are fourth generation, although that’s a nice, and very cool, added extra. What makes them important and valuable, is that they have added to our overall winemaking knowledge, and that they make great wines. Dr. Konstantin Frank's Vinifera Wine Cellars is one of the top ten wineries on the east coast, but they are also one of the best over all wineries in North America. And that is a tribute to their staff as well. It takes a lot of good people to make wines consistently good, year after year. So here's to them as well.