Book Review: Dr. Konstantin Frank

     My wife and I had the good fortune to meet Fred Frank during a recent visit to Dr. Frank’s Vinifera Wine Cellar. Fred could not have been a more warm and welcoming host as we talked and sampled his excellent wines. As we were enjoying our visit he surprised us with a gift. The gift was a copy of the Tom Russ book “Finger Lakes Wine and the Legacy of Dr. Konstantin Frank” that he thoughtfully signed with a message for us. I had some idea of the history surrounding Dr. Frank and the groundbreaking changes he brought to the wine industry in the Eastern United States but I was astonished to learn how world events conspired to bring this amazing man to New York and start him on a lifelong quest to bring vinifera grapes to the vineyards along the East Coast. Author Tom Russ takes his readers on the journey of Dr. Konstantin Frank from his birth on July 4th, 1899 in the Ukraine to his passing in Elmira, New York on September 6th, 1985 chronicling all the twists and turns that defined his life.

     Russ captures Dr. Frank’s vision that Vitis vinifera wine grapes could be successfully grown in the Eastern U.S. because “He felt Americans deserved only the best wines”- Frederick Frank. This book documents the life and legacy of Dr. Konstantin Frank that continues to evolve today in wineries and vineyards east of the Mississippi River and in Southeastern Canada. Tom Russ conveys the all consuming and sometimes misdirected obsession that Dr. Frank had for the promotion of vinifera wine grapes as seen through the eyes of family, friends, cooperators and adversaries to weave a compelling story of a complex man who changed the wine industry to the benefit of everyone that loves good wine. This book is available in print or e-book from http://amazon.com , http://arcadiapublishing.com/Products/9781626197343 and at the Dr. Frank tasting room Hammondsport, New York.

 

Cool Climate Grapes

     When I was in Monongahela, Pa recently I visited my friends at the Ripepi Winery & Vineyard. I couldn’t have picked a better time to visit because Rich Ripepi and Pete Abvulovic had just unpacked their new Hanna Total Acid and Ph machine for the lab and were setting it up. Rich said the vineyard had come though the winter in great shape. Today turned grape book1out to be my lucky day because Rich had a book he thought I would enjoy reading. Grapes of the Hudson Valley and Other Cool Climate Regions of the United States and Canada by J. Stephen Casscles. It is a comprehensive work covering every aspect of propagating cool climate wine grapes in the northern U.S. and Canada.

He approaches the subject from an expert’s point of view drawing upon his lifetime of experience in the Hudson Valley of New York. This publication can be viewed as the most in-depth account of the history of  hybridization of cool climate grapevines ever published. Casscles has cataloged the genetic heritage of an amazing number of hybridized grapes by the person or organization that developed them. I think you will be surprised to learn where the genetic material of your favorite grapes came from and why they exhibit the characteristics they do. You may also be disappointed to find out that there is no such thing as a pure strain of grape. The truth is they all have genes from other strains in their genetic profile. To prove this fact Casscles uses the example of the “pure” Chardonnay grape. Chardonnay is a combination of a Pinot

Title Page Signed by J. Stephen Casseles

Title Page Signed by J. Stephen Casscles

Noir clone and the bulk white wine/table grape Gouais Blanc.

This book is a must read for anyone growing or wanting to grow wine grapes in a cool climate region of North America. It provides the reader with an immense amount of information and has references to almost any information resource you may need. If you are looking for a handbook/field guide/reference publication for cool climate grapes this is the book for you.

Published by:  Flint Mine Press     http://www.flintminepress.com                      

 

Book Review: Tangled Vines

Photo Courtesy: St Martin's Press

Photo Courtesy: St Martin’s Press

     When I saw Tangled Vines: Greed, Murder, Obsession and an Arsonist in the Vineyards of California by Frances Dinkelspiel in my stocking on Christmas morning I could hardly wait to begin reading this novel. But when I started to read it I immediately realized that it was the true story of the Wines Central Warehouse fire that had all the elements of the title being methodically recounted in detail by author Frances Dinkelspiel, who herself has a family connection to the tragedy. She lifts the veil of the California industry to let her readers see just how entangled the lives of the people at the center of this empire really are.

     You will recognize many of the names in the book and you may be surprised by how they are portrayed. I would Google many of the events mentioned in the book to read the news accounts of them and get a feel for the accuracy of her reporting. She is very accurate! The California wine community pulled itself through this senseless tragedy by banding together and moving forward.

I would recommend Tangled Vines By France Dinkelspiel to anyone who enjoys reading about real-life drama set in a iconic environment. This had to be a true story because you can’t make this kind of stuff up.