Prometheus was the Greek God who gave the gift of fire to
mankind. For this gift, the Gods, who had purposely kept the secret of fire
from man, punished Prometheus. Konstantin Frank was the Prometheus of east
coast wine. Frank first came to prominence when he delivered what others insisted what could not be done – he grew vinifera grapes for Gold Seal
champagne in the age of hybrids. In the cold climate of the Finger Lakes he
grew chardonnay and pinot noir.
He was punished early, forced to take menial jobs, and be
spoken down to and condemned much of his life by the university crowd, even as
many of his theories were proven right. He was not an easy man. I have heard
good and bad stories. He was fiery and passionate. In many instances he caused
his own problems. But in the end, he was right, and he helped set in motion a
revolution that has been going on now for more than 50 years. This is winery is
what fire has wrought.
Thus, when we walked into Dr. Konstantin Frank’s Vinifera
Wine Cellars this past summer, there was a huge banner celebrating the 50th
Anniversary of the founding of the winery. Earlier this year the winery had
held a celebration, hosting a star studded wine party with the likes of NYWGF
President Jim Trezise, and wine business rock star and two-time James Beard
Award winner Kevin Zraly.
I have long been a fan. And Konstatntin Frank’s son, Willie,
who sometimes gets overlooked, was just as influential as his father. Like
Robert Mondavi of California, Willie was the man who spread the good word about
quality Finger Lakes wine well beyond the region. He was as essential to the
region’s success as his father. Where Konstantin could grow vinifera and make
wine, Willie could make better wine…great wine…and he could sell it…better than
anyone. While Konstantin gave the gift of fire, Willie invented the wood stove
or the jet engine…pick something. But that’s why Willie was so important.
And of course Fred has kept the home fires burning,
increasing sales, and insuring the quality of the wines in the last decade. Because
growing good grapes is important, and making great wine from them is just as
important. And this winery has been getting great reviews for decades. They’re
all over the walls, and rightfully so.
So, knowing this, I took my spot at the counter, and circled
a couple of choices. And I was on a Pinot Noir kinda mood…so here goes.
2011 Konstantin Frank Pinot Noir Dry Rose – A lovely salmon
pink wine, with strawberry and cream notes, with a lovely lime finish.
2010 Konstantin Frank Pinot Noir Old Vines – Cherry, spices,
eucalyptus, with notes of vanilla, a woodiness, and a nice dose of pepper. Nice
acidity, so the fruit stays lively on the palate, and solid tannins. This was a
tremendous wine. Easily one of the best reds in all the Finger Lakes, and
certainly among the best Pinots on the east coast. Absolutely terrific!
2010 Salmon Run Pinot Noir – Salmon Run, Frank’s second
label, is one of the better second labels on the east coast. And this was
certainly an excellent example. The fruit was a bright cherry, with a little
more vanilla, good acidity, and soft tannins. A lovely, lovely wine. And for
the price, an exceptional value! A great everyday wine for the house – it
should be bought by the case.
2008 Salmon Run Meritage – A blend of Cabernet Sauvignon,
Cabernet Franc, and Merlot. Big fruit up front of cherry, blackberry, and
raspberry, with good acidity and nice tannins. Very nice!
Chateau Frank Celebre Rose’ – Chateau Frank is the sparkling
wine house Willie established when he removed himself from his fathers’ winery
many years ago. The two were eventually united. Chateau Frank is one of the few
houses to specialize in sparkling wines on the east coast. This Celebre Rose’,
a pink colored sparkling wine, is an absolute winner. Strawberry and rhubarb
come through first, with a hint of yeast or fresh bread. A nice creamy finish.
An excellent celebration wine. Fantastic!!!!
Want to taste a little history? Want to taste some great
wine? Whether you buy it in the stores, or try it at the tastingroom, you have
to taste these wines. You have to know what all the fuss is about. This winery
continues to be one of the best producers in the state, and one of the best
ambassadors of New York wine…period.
What are you waiting for? You’re not afraid of a little
fire, are you?