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We Dream in Red & White

Dr. Konstantin Frank Talks Wine with Joseph & Curtis

2013 March 10
by Curtis Dahl

Dr. Konstantin Frank ignited the “Vinifera Revolution” a movement that forever changed the course of wine growing in the Finger Lakes and the United States. Dr. Frank’s vision, knowledge and determination are credited with elevating the New York wine industry from a state of happy mediocrity to a level that today commands world attention.

Frederick Frank, took over leadership of the winery in 1993 and expanded production with the introduction of a value brand, Salmon Run, which is in honor of the majestic landlocked Salmon and beautiful Keuka Lake. Fred’s business degree from Cornell University and his study of viticulture and enology in Germany helped prepare him to take over the family business. Under Fred’s leadership the winery’s production and amount of medals earned has increased greatly and he looks forward to one day turning over the reins to his daughter, Meaghan Frank, who hopes to continue as the fourth generation of Franks at the winery.

Lets catch up with Frederick.

Talk to us about the importance of cellaring wine:

You guys (J&C) do such an outstanding job so that people can age their wine more gracefully and enjoy them in a nice setting. We have been blessed with celebrating our 50th anniversary we have a wine cellar going back to 1962 and were always amazed how well these cool climate wines age over the

years…even the whites such as riesling and chardonnay because in our cool climate the natural chemistry is that the wines have a higher acidity and a lower PH and so typically that’s an ideal aging formula. The riesling especially has flavors that develop over the years and produces a more complex style of wine that can be paired with more heartier dishes. So once again we want to thank J&C and the wonderful service you deliver to all of your clients.

Please tell us about your grandfather:

The best description was a real pioneer. Dr. Frank and his family arrived in the United States in 1951. After a brief stay in New York City, Dr. Frank, a professor of plant sciences who held a Ph.D. in viticulture, moved upstate to take a position at Cornell University’s Geneva Experiment Station. He had the perfect background for cold weather winemaking…he set out to prove the industry and the experts wrong (about wine growing in NY). He then met Charles Fournier the French traine

d winemaker at Goldseal which at the time was NY’S premier wine company. He asked for an opportunity to grow Vinifera in NY and within a few years he was hired on the spot and was very successful. Then a few years later he bought his own vineyard site which is just down the road and so our first vintage was 1962. Over the years we have done many verticals and the experts are always amazed how well these wines age. When he started in NY there were on a dozen wineries, now there is well over 300+.

Tell us about the vines:

Ours are amongst the oldest in the United States because they were planted in the late 50’s on the proper root stock (avoiding the phylloxera vastatrix) and so that’s a great resource we have which helps contribute to the quality of our wine. This past year was our
50th anniversary and we had our best year ever as far as awards winning 79 gold medals. For example at the San Fran Wine Chronicle wine competition which is the largest in the US with over 5,500 entries our Gewürztraminer took best white wine…which really goes to show the quality potential of these old vine vineyards here with the cool climate in the Finger lakes. The US is evolving as a wine nation, we don’t have the 1000+ years like Europe does but what we do have here is a variety of climates and soil. All 50 states have wineries now its not just California anymore, and each area is exploring what works best with its characteristics and soil.

Future holds?

We are excited about the Finger Lakes in general, but especially Dr Franks. I am the 3rd generation, and my daughter Megan is studying wine in graduate school in Australia so a 4th generation is around the corner!

Tell me about the Geisenheim Institute in Germany:

I graduated from Cornell in 79 and back then they didn’t have many wine classes so I worked for Banfi to get some sales experience…then I wanted to get back to production so I attended Geisenheim which is one of premier wine schools in Europe. When I finished there I went back to Banfi to start vineyard operations for them on Long Island which I did for 10 years, then in 93 my dad Willie was in hospital and asked that you have to come back to the family winery so I moved my family back and we worked together for 13 years. He passed away in 2006 so I added to my responsibilities, we have a great team at Dr Frank…our winemakers have studied in Australia,Germany,California and they really get the best out of our cool climate grapes. Vineyards are managed by another grandson Eric Volz my cousin, and he insures we get the best fruit to make these quality wines. He took over from his father Walter which kept everything in the family.

Tell me about Salmon Run:

It was a label I introduced in the mid 90’s which became our value label. This is a younger vineyard with bigger yields that allows us to pass on the savings to the consumer. Salmon Run, which is in honor of the majestic landlocked Salmon and beautiful Keuka Lake, which is so clean people use it for drinking water.

Favorite pairing and why?

Most of our wines are 12% alcohol which is ideal balance and chemistry for any fine dining.

Without wine?

There would be alot more problems in the world and people would have a lot less enjoyment!

Best value in the world?

Without a doubt the Finger lakes…most of our award winning wines are $15 or less! We are less then 4 hours away from NYC and NJ please come see us, we don’t even charge for our tastings!

3 Responses leave one →
  1. Bernard Kenner permalink
    March 14, 2013

    Had the pleaure of meeting Dr K and sampling his wine on my honeymoon in 1976, after visiting Gold Seal and being told about his work from Fournier. Same with Willie, when passing through the area years later visiting eldest son at college in Rochester.
    What this winery and family did for NY wine and vinifera was visionary. Thanks for pointing it out again to the public. I haven’t had any of their wines for a while, but must look for an opportunity to revisit them.

  2. Curt Dahl permalink*
    March 14, 2013

    You are 100% right…thank you for sharing and I hope/wish more people will either visit or re-visit the Finger Lake wines and most importantly Dr Krank’s


  3. Deb mantello permalink
    March 15, 2013

    these wines are fantastic. I grew up in Rochester and attend the
    Finger lakes wine festival often. Great article!!

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