Dr. Konstantin Frank, the creative force behind the establishment of the Dr. Konstantin Frank winery in New York’s Finger Lakes region is one of the wine world’s most colorful wine pioneers. Today the family-run winery is managed by Fred Frank, Konstantin’s grandson with the assistance of other family members, viticulturist Eric Volz, and an international winemaking team. When the winery heard about the work we were doing on sparkling rosés (see Report # 40: Consumer’s Guide to Rosé Champagne and Sparkling Wine), they sent us samples of their excellent blanc de noirs along with a selection of other wines which were later supplemented by Meaghan Frank, General Manager and Fred’s daughter. Meagan is continuing her family’s legacy into the fourth generation.
The wines we review are all made from vitis vinifera grapes grown in the Finger Lakes. These grapes and Finger Lakes wines made from them would not exist were it not for Dr. Frank. Born in Odessa with a Ph.D. from the Odessa Polytechnic Institute, Dr. Frank worked in the Soviet Union’s collective farm vineyards before finding his way to America and the Finger Lakes. His knowledge (his Ph.D. dissertation was titled “Protection of Grapes from Freezing Damage”) and experience with growing vitis vinifera in the cold Ukranian winters gave him the knowledge to do the same in New York. The full story of Dr. Frank’s colorful personal history and winemaking experiences can be found in Thomas Pinney’s excellent book, The Makers of American Wine, previously reviewed here.
The Dr. Konstantin Frank wines are sourced from some of the original vinifera plantings of Dr. Frank. The Chateau Frank line of sparkling wines is a creation of Dr. Frank’s son, Willy. These wines are well made and exhibit good flavor, natural high acidity, and crisp dry finishes. Not surprisingly, Konstantin Frank wines are considered some of the finest produced in the Finger Lakes.
Chateau Frank 2007 Blanc de Noirs Finger Lakes ($30) 90+ This is a well-made, understated sparkler. Minerals and a hint of Calvados show on the nose, followed by delicate flavors of toasty lees and apple and a light red berry accent. Spare in style, the Chateau Frank is one of the more refined American sparkling wines with a fine mousse, bright acidity, and dry finish. An excellent food wine; try with a simply prepared, meaty white fish.
Chateau Frank 2008 Blanc de Blancs Finger Lakes ($30) 89 Made from estate Chardonnay, the Chateau Frank Blanc de Blancs is fresh and delicate. It has leesy and orchard fruit flavors with a nice creamy texture and a hint of sweetness on the finish. A good quality New World sparkler.
Dr. Konstantin Frank 2012 Semi Dry Riesling Finger Lakes ($15) 89 This is a fragrant, off-dry wine with the excellent sugar-acid balance expected in a good Riesling. Green apples, citrus flowers, and a notes of honeycomb and tangerine add flavor and interest, but it’s the excellent balance that best defines this wine. Just 11.5% alc.
Dr. Konstantin Frank 2012 Dry Riesling Finger Lakes ($15) 90 The Dry Riesling has a perfumed nose of green apple, citrus, and orange flowers. It’s crispy dry evoking wet river stones and a sweet-sour ying-yang tension. Excellent richness and concentration on very long finish.
Dr. Konstantin Frank 2012 Gewürztraminer Finger Lakes ($15) 89 The Gewürztraminer shows superb sugar-acid balance, leaving fresh, appealing flavors of tropical fruit in the mouth. Would go superbly with spicy Asian cuisine. Very good value.
Dr. Konstantin Frank 2012 Rkatsiteli Finger Lakes ($15) 88 An unusual variety in America but common in Georgia, Bulgaria, and Russia, the Rkatsiteli is a straightforward, crisp, very dry white wine showing citrus, herbal and mineral notes. Easy drinking.
Dr. Konstantin Frank 2012 Grüner Veltliner Finger Lakes ($15) 88 Made in a light, fresh style, this is one of the best expressions of Grüner Veltliner made outside Austria. Pale straw in color, it reveals aromas and flavors of quince and green pear with a hint of lime zest, finishing with notes of spice and minerals. Its bright acidity makes it the perfect pairing for simply prepared seafood.
Mike Potashnik and Don Winkler
May 2014/updated August 2014