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.

 

Rumor Has It FLX

     During our recent visit to the Finger Lakes Wine Region of New York (FLX) we tasted some great wine and heard some interesting news. There is plenty happening around the lakes so let’s get right to it.

The sale of Standing Stone Vineyards by long-time owners Marti and Tom Macinski to Fred Merwarth and Oskar Bynke owners of H.J. Wiemer Vineyards was the big news that had everyone’s attention. With the addition of the Standing Stone vineyards H.J.Wiemer has sizable acreage on both sides of Seneca Lake not to mention a nursery on the Standing Stone property to continue its Saperavi program. H.J. Wiemer will be keeping the Standing Stone line of wine and Marti will stay on to help Jess in the winery. Marti and Tom will live in the house on the property as long as they want and with the view of the vineyard and lake who can blame them for wanting to retire there.

     You can now find Weis Vineyards at the former Lime Berry Winery 10014 Day Road, Hammondsport. This new  winery specializes in traditional German-style wines and why not since its winemaker Hans Peter Weis was born in Zell Mosel, Germany. Weis finds himself right at home in the FLX because the winemaking environment is very similar to his native Germany.  

Just like pro athletes , wine makers often change teams to pursue their dreams. Winemaker Aaron Roisen left Hosmer Winery to join winemaker Justin Paolicelli at Three Brothers Wineries and Estates. Sheldrake Point’s assistant winemaker Julia Hoyle will now be the head winemaker at Hosmer Winery.

Las Vegas has landed in Waterloo in the form of the del Lago Resort & Casino. This newly opened Las Vegas-style casino offers everything from entertainment, dining, upscale lounges and of course gambling. Sign-up for a players card and spin for free play.

del Lago Casino & Resort Waterloo, NY

The winemaking community that has evolved around the lakes is dynamic and always changing. Without this unbridled energy the region would have stagnated after its rebirth with the passage of the Farm Winery Act in 1976 by the State of New York. If you are curious about what’s happening around the lakes just ask and I’m sure you will hear something interesting. 

 

 

Golden B&W Memories

Eugenia Frank

Eugenia Frank

Dr. Konstantin Frank Wine Cellars, Hammondsport NY, is releasing it’s new line of single vineyard wines named in honor of three of the most prominent Frank women and the contributions that they have made to the Frank winemaking legacy. These highly anticipated releases celebrate Eugenia (wife of Dr. Konstantin Frank), Hilda (daughter of Dr. Konstantin Frank) and Margrit (wife of Willy Frank).

     “Eugenia” was released in December 2015 and is a Single Vineyard Riesling made from the oldest block of Riesling grown on the winery’s Keuka Lake estate. It was from these steep slopes and shale-rich acidic soil that Dr. Konstantin Frank produced his first Finger Lakes Riesling many years ago. The winery tasting notes describe this Riesling as “Bone dry, with brilliant acidity, elegant minerality and notes of Key lime, stone fruits, pineapple and lime zest.” Cellar through 2024.

     On January 9th, 2016 Dr. Frank Wine Cellars released the second wine in the “Frank Women’s Series”. “Margrit” is a 2014 Riesling made from Dr. Frank’s Hector, NY vineyards. This vineyard is also on a steep slope and is known for being one of the warmest in the FLX. The property has a loamy soil profile that produces a ripe, fruit forward wine. The tasting notes say this Riesling has flavors that are “Tart, tangerine, Granny Smith apple and grassy with a balanced acidity.” Due to limited production these wines will only be available for purchase in their tasting room.

     I think these great photos transcend time and place to express a certain elegance and class that is hard to find in present day society. All photos courtesy of Dr. Frank Wine Cellars. A special thank you to Erin Flynn at Dr. Frank’s for her excellent articles about the Frank women that were the source for this article.

DrFrankwines.com          Twitter: @DrFrankwine

Margrit Frank

Margrit Frank

“New World Saperavi” Report

     I have developed a fascination for the Saperavi grape. This may seem odd even if you have heard of Saperavi wine because it is nothing new to the wine world. The Saperavi that fascinates me isn’t from the Kakheti region of Georgia , Russia but “New World Saperavi” that is being produced here in the Northeastern U. S., namely the Finger Lakes Wine Region of New York and in Central Pennsylvania. Saperavi is a very deeply colored red wine made from the ancient Saperavi grape that originated in one of the oldest wine growing regions of the world. Saperavi grapes are a teinturier grape, meaning its skin and flesh both have pigment which leads to a very delicious dark wine. What follows is the current state of Saperavi in America as told to me by the producers themselves.

Dr. Konstantin Frank Vinifera Wine Cellar

When the Finger Lakes Wine Region is mentioned undoubtably the first name that comes Dr Frank Logoto mind is the iconic Dr. Konstantin Frank Winery in Hammondsport. The legendary Dr. Frank proved everyone wrong not only by growing vinifera grapes in the FLX but producing world-class award-winning wine from them. I would like to thank Frederick Frank for the time and attention he showed me while assisting me with this post. Dr. Konstantin Frank first planted Saperavi vines in his vineyard in 1958. Dr. Frank would use that fruit to produce his first vintage in 1962. Dr. Konstantin Frank Winery now has 1.5 acres planted in Saperavi vines and expects to produce 250 cases of Saperavi wine. That 1.5 acres of Saperavi vines is divided between their Keuka Lake vineyards in Hammondsport and their Seneca Lake vineyards (on the eastern side) in Hector. Dr. Frank’s Saperavi is only available at their winery tasting room in Hammondsport but they are planning to expand their plantings and hope to offer their Saperavi wine to their wholesalers in the future. Due to high demand and limited production they haven’t entered Dr. Frank Saperavi into wine competitions.  drfrankwines.com 

Standing Stone Vineyards

For years Marti Macinski owner/winemaker of Standing Stone Vineyards has extolled the virtues of Saperavi while methodically expanding her Saperavi vineyard and constantly improving her wine. Having appeared in many local, regional and national publications Standing Stone wine sales have ridden a steadily ascending arc but no member of Marti’s Standing Stone Saperavisolid menu of wine appears to have create a devoted following like her Saperavi has.

Standing Stone planted their first 80 vines in 1994 and they are the source of the fruit for their newly released 2013 Reserve Saperavi. Since 2006 a deliberate and steady expansion of the Saperavi program has led to a vineyard that is just over 5 acres. 2005 was a trial run that yielded 23.5 cases. 2010 was Standing Stone’s first commercial release with 200 cases produced that year. This year the 2015 vintage is anticipated to be about 500 cases but Marti adds the caveat ” if we manage to hold off the deer.” Those deer will have more fruit to choose from because Standing Stone continues to plant more Saperavi vines to increase supply and build inventory for market after the winery has enough grapes for their own wine production. That future production may include experimenting with longer aging, some sweeter versions of Saperavi or possibly a Rosé or Port. Standing Stone Saperavi is very round with delicious ripe flavors of tart cherry fruit when young that evolves into plum and pomegranate that are integrated into complex layers of aroma and flavors as it ages. Marti doesn’t enter her Saperavi into many competitions so when she does it comes as no surprise that Standing Stone Saperavi 2012 was awarded the Wine & Food Classic Gold Medal last year and the 2013 Saperavi  won “Best Other Red Vinifera” at this year’s Classic. A special thanks to Marti Macinski for all the time and effort that you have taken to help me with this post and all the other projects you have assisted me on. standingstonewines.com 

Fero Vineyards & Winery

Fero LogoFero Vineyards & Winery is the only winery in Pennsylvania that I am aware of that has Saperavi planted in it’s vineyard. Chuck Zaleski owner/winemaker of Fero planted his first 500 Saperavi vines on 1/2 acre of his Lewisburg, Pennsylvania vineyard in 2010. He conducted trials as his vines matured until he released his first vintage from the 2013 harvest which consisted of 50 cases. The first Saperavi I ever tasted was Chuck’s 2013 Saperavi  from that first 50 cases he produced. After tasting that wine I was sold on the potential of this Georgian red grape here in the East. The 2014 harvest produced 125 cases and the 2015 harvest , expected to be in October, is estimated to yield similar volume. With the addition of 1/2 acre of Saperavi plantings the projected production will be 4-5 tons per acre. The final production number for Saperavi produced should be approximately 300 cases.

Chuck’s philosophy is to let the grape determine the style, so the style of his Saperavi really does remain “Fluid”. He let the 2013 vintage hang and made a ripe jammy style the both of us loved. He picked earlier in 2014 for added acidity and weather concerns plus because of some reading he had done. He said the 2014 may take a little longer to soften but may have more longevity. Chuck doesn’t use much oak at all because he wants to showcase the grape’s unique rich flavor. He tries to mimic traditional methods as much as possible by fermenting in tall containers at constant temperature, very similar to a Qveri and age it with minimal disturbing on the lees. Fero Saperavi 2013 won a Gold Medal at the Finger Lakes International Wine Competition this year. Enough said!

Chuck’s most intriquing observation about this varity is it’s ability to rival the full-bodied red wines of the warm climate regions. He doesn’t know where the ideal location to produce Saperavi in the U.S. is but is pretty sure it isn’t too far from Central Pa. Chuck’s only problem with Saperavi is that it is selling out too fast before he can satisfy demand. Looks like a great problem to have. Thanks to Chuck Zaleski for introducing me to Saperavi and all the help he has given me.  ferovineyards.com

McGregor Vineyard

John McGregor and his McGregor Black Russian Red have always been an enigma in the FLX. In the Spring of 1980 he planted Saperavi, Sereksiya Charni, Rkatsiteli and Sereksiya Rosé in a limited area of his vineyard. From that first planting his Saperavi and Sereksiya Charni has expanded to 4 acres. In 1985 John made a small experimental batch from these grapes and bottled it in half bottles. McGregor Saperavi and Sereksiya are bottled together and produces over 300 cases per year. That number is certain to rise as more Saperavi vines are planted over the next 3-5 years.

If you are wondering what McGregor Black Russian Red Saperavi & Sereksiya blend taste like here is how John McGregor described it to me ” It’s a very rich, dark red wine that typically spends over two years in oak barrels. It has great structure and depth with flavors typically reminiscent of black currents, blackberries and elderberries entwined with a sweet oak character. It has plenty of tannic structure and generally high acidity, lending it well to long-term cellar aging.” 1985 Saperavi (label)

McGregor Saperavi is entered into few , if any, annual competitions but earlier vintages have been awarded Double Gold and Gold Medals. The 2010 vintage received an 87 point rating in the May 2014 issue of Wine Enthusiast magazine. After decades of hard work Black Russian Red has grown into what John calls “The Cult red wine of the Finger Lakes.” No matter what you call it the one thing you can call it is “Successful.” The label to the right appeared on the McGregor 1985 Saperavi bottle. Thanks John McGregor for the invaluable help you gave me with this article.    McGregorwinery.com 

Will Saperavi develop into the signature Red wine of the East? The quality is certainly there and the vines are able to express the terroir of the vineyards in which they are planted to produce a wine on par or better than their Russian counterparts. The demand for Saperavi is increasing to the point where demand is out pacing supply while supply is also increasing but at a slower rate because of many factors. I believe Saperavi will find its place as the top varietal Red wine of the East but it will take time simply because there are so many obstacles to overcome and that things move slowly for new wine grape development in any region of the world. If you can’t find Saperavi from one of the producers mentioned in this post I recommend that you try a Saperavi from any of the regions where it’s made. Help me tell the secret of Saperavi  wine to wine lovers everywhere. Please repost this article. 

 

      

Around and Around We Go

Tall bottles of Riesling At Herman J. Wiemer Vineyards

Tall bottles of Riesling At Herman J. Wiemer Vineyards

     Our drive to Finger Lakes Wine Country took us from the rolling hills of Southwestern Pennsylvania through the center of the state pass Penn State University then into the Northern Tier, home to some of the most rugged and sparsely populated mountains in the East. We crossed the New York state line south of Corning and drove north to our first destination Watkins Glen. Watkins Glen is on the southern tip of Seneca Lake, the largest of the eleven Finger Lakes. We drove up the east side of the lake through a torrential downpour on our way to Wagner’s Vineyards and it’s Ginny Lee Café for lunch while the storm passed. They have a large wine menu ranging from currently popular varieties and blends to Niagara, a regional classic. Wagner’s also has a brewery on site, a growing trend around the lakes. I always manage to find a very drinkable Chardonnay and this year was no different with me purchasing the 2012 Reserve Chardonnay. By the time we had finished lunch the rain had stopped and the skies began to brighten. Before we left the east side we stopped at another winery but found their offerings not as good as other years and we left empty-handed.

     We usually stay on Seneca Lake but this trip we stayed at the northern end of Keuka Lake in the small town of Penn Yan. You are constantly skirting the lakes because there are no bridges to mar their natural beauty so good planning is a must to save time and miles. On the way to our hotel we traveled back through Watkins Glen and drove up the west side of Seneca Lake to the world-famous Riesling producer Herman J. Wiemer Vineyards.

    I find that many wine makers are limiting or eliminating taste descriptors from their tasting notes. I agree that their overuse has led to people not forming an opinion of their own and I will be using less of them in my posts beginning now.

      The Riesling I tasted in the H.J. Wiemer tasting room was as stylishly produced as my surroundings, sophisticated and well-made with depth and balance. These Riesling could be easily matched to a myriad of food or enjoyed by themselves glass after glass. Riesling is what H.J.W. is known for and rightfully so , but the other wines they produce can be easily overlooked because the Riesling is so good. Ignoring the Sparkling, Noble Select Dessert and Reserve wines could cause you to miss out on something very special. Note: The Sparkling wines are aged on lees for up to 72 months, hand-riddled and hand-disgorged. After loading our trunk with our newly found treasures of Riesling and a Rosé Cuvée we were on to Keuka Lake.

Herman J. Wiemer Vineyards

Herman J. Wiemer Winery

 

Herman J. Wiemer Winery

Herman J. Wiemer Winery

Clearing skies over Wagner's Vineyards

Clearing skies over Wagner’s Vineyards

Riesling Paradise

  •       When someone asks me what I think is the best “All Purpose Wine” I laugh and give them my best answer “Riesling”.  It may sound too simple but when you consider the range of styles, producers, regions, and choices from very dry through sweet culminating in excellent dessert wine, the answer is actually a very complex one.  This wine is extremely food friendly and you can easily find a Riesling that will pair well with any cuisine.  You probably heard the saying “There’s an app for that” and when it comes to food pairings it can be said “There’s a Riesling for that”.  Riesling is produced globally by a host of very fine wineries but the frontrunners in quality have always been from the French Alsace Region, Germany and Austria.  Australia also markets some nice Riesling but anyone that has followed this blog knows I favor the Finger Lakes Region of New York and their world-class Riesling.  I have listed below a few favorites that should give you a good start on your search but there are plenty of others waiting to be discovered . 
  • Keuka Lake                      Seneca Lake                                Cayuga Lake
  • Ravines                             Herman R. Wiemer                   Swedish Hill
  • Dr. Frank’s                       Three Brothers                           Knapp
  • Heron Hill                        Belhurst Castle
  •                                             Standing Stone
  •                                             Lamoreaux Landing