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Riesling Perfection: Dr. Konstantin Frank Vinifera Wine Cellars


A View from the Vineyard

Having gone to college in Rochester, New York, I heard of the great wines being produced in the Finger Lakes before I became a regular wine taster. As I got more and more into wine a couple of years back, I did some research into this region and found that one of my favorite grapes, the Riesling grape, flourishes in this area. A few friends mentioned some of the better wineries in the Finger Lakes that were producing top-quality rieslings. One of these wineries was Dr. Konstantin Frank Vinifera Wine Cellars, so I ordered a bottle of their 2003 semi-dry. It was exquisite.

Months later, I was sitting in a booth at Tallula, a restaurant and wine bar in Arlington, when I noticed that they had Dr. Frank’s 2004 Semi-dry Riesling on their list. Since I had loved the 2003 — I was still hoarding two bottles in my wine rack — I gave the 2004 a try. Again, truly remarkable.

I decided to review Dr. Frank’s 2005 Riesling for Wine with Dinner in an effort to introduce Finger Lakes wines to wine lovers in the D.C. area who may not have heard about the great vintages being produced in northern New York. I e-mailed Dr. Frank’s with a couple of quick questions, just hoping for a couple of interesting facts to put in my review. A day later, I got an e-mail from Kitty Oliver in Dr. Frank’s Public Relations Office. Thanks to Kitty, I have learned a little bit about the wonderful history behind Dr. Frank wines.

Dr. Konstantin Frank and his family immigrated from Europe in 1951. Armed with a Ph.D. in viticulture and encology, Dr. Frank was convinced that it was a lack of proper root stock, and not the climate, that was at the heart of the difficulties growers had experienced producing European varietals. He was right.

Dr. Frank Working His Magic

Dr. Frank teamed up with Charles Fournier, a French champagne maker at the nearby Gold Seal Vineyards. The two found a heartier root stock on which to graft their vines and, by 1960, Gold Seal had over 100 acres of European varietals. In 1962, Dr. Frank founded his own winery, growing grapes like riesling, chardonnay, pinot noir, gewurztraminer, and cabernet sauvignon. Dr. Frank died in 1985, but his son Willy, who just passed away this March, and grandson Frederick have continued his work with the help of a team of four wine makers led by Mark Veeraguth, an alumnus of UC Davis.

Dr. Frank with Charles Fournier

Their efforts have led to the creation of some exemplary wines. Dr. Frank has won more medals than can be listed in this entry. While many of these have been for their rieslings and other white wines, Dr. Frank has also found success with its red wines. For example, Dr. Frank’s 2001 pinot noir (which I have yet to taste) won gold medals at both the Great Lakes Wine Competition and the Taster’s Guild Wine Competition. Dr. Frank was named Winery of the Year this year by New York Wine Classic, has been named the “Greatest Wine Producer in the Atlantic Northeast two years running by Wine Report, and wine-critic Andrea Immer has declared Dr. Frank’s 2005 Dry Riesling “the best Dry Riesling in the US.” I just bought a bottle of the dry at The Curious Grapein Shirlington.

The Path to Heaven

As I mentioned briefly in my last entry, Dr. Frank’s 2005 Semi-dry Riesling continues the proud tradition that Dr. Frank started fifty years ago. It is an outstanding wine in the German style. I detect peach and grapefruit in the nose, though the winemaker’s claim more of a melon, pear, and pineapple bouquet. Either way it is a beautiful scent. The palate presents flavors of honey, melon, honeysuckle, and a hint of tart grapefruit. It tickles the tongue with a bit of tanginess and is a fantastic example of the quality rieslings being produced in the Finger Lakes.

To this point, my experience with Dr. Frank has been largely confined to their rieslings, but Dr. Frank produces many other wines under its label as well as the Salmon Run label. I look forward to tasting these offerings and letting you know what I think. If Dr. Frank’s rieslings and history are any indication, these will all be winners. Before he died, Willy Frank spoke of how far behind New York wineries were when it came to reputation. He spoke of how France has had centuries to prove the quality of its wine, and how only incredibly hard work and an endless pursuit of quality would convert those who were convinced of New York’s inferior quality. Wine with Dinner is convinced.

As I mentioned above, you can find Dr. Frank’s 2005 Dry Riesling at The Curious Grapein Shirlington, VA and their Semi-dry Riesling at Tallula near Clarendon. All of Dr. Frank’s wines are available for purchase on their website here, and any other questions about availability can be directed to Suprex International, Ltd., (703) 237-9209, in Virginia and Boutique Vineyards, (410) 626-1286 in Maryland.

5 Stars
Appx. $16.99 per bottle.

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