A 2021 resolution for wine lovers: try new wines!! A fantastic place to start is the award-winning wines from the best wineries in the Finger Lakes region of New York. Begin expanding your palate with varietals such as Grüner Veltliner, Blaufränkisch, Rkatsiteli, and Saperavi from Dr. Konstantin Frank, the most award-winning winery in the Finger Lakes region. I did and I liked it.
Dr. Konstantin Frank Wines
I’ve long been a fan of Grüner Veltliner, Austria’s signature grape. Grüner is known for its citrus fruit flavors and aromas of lime, lemon, and grapefruit. It also possesses green, herbaceous notes often described as white pepper, minerality, and acidity that explodes in the mouth. And, it pairs famously with one of Austria’s signature dishes: Weiner Schnitzel.
Wolfgang Puck’s Weiner Schnitzel is a classic pairing for Grüner Veltliner ©Priscilla Willis
Of the four varietals listed above, I was only familiar with Grüner Veltliner, but that soon changed. As a participant in a wine share webinar hosted by the International Food Wine Travel Association (IFWTWA) and the Corning/Finger Lakes Visitors Bureau, I received three bottles of wine from Dr. Konstantin Frank.
I started my tasting experience with Dr. Konstanin Frank’s 2019 Rkatsiteli, a varietal that I was unfamiliar with and anxious to try. This vintage garnered a 90 rating from Wine Advocate:
“The 2019 Rkatsiteli, from Keuka Lake vines planted variously in 1983, 1983 and 2003, comes in with seven grams of residual sugar, 9.2 of total acidity and 12% alcohol. The acidity pretty much obliterates the sugar here, leaving a crisp and somewhat nervy wine that still has great fruit, even as it seems a little lean on opening. The tension on the finish nicely lifts the fruit and slams it home.“
Rkatsiteli (pronounced cat-si-tel-e) is one of the ancient Georgian varieties linked to Dr. Konstantine Frank’s homeland of Ukraine that set their portfolio apart. When Dr. Frank began planting grapes on the west side of Keuka Lake in the late 1950s including Rkatsiteli and Saperavi. Konstantin viewed these varieties as treasured links to his homeland.
With the recent release of their Amber Rkatsiteli, which made Decanter’s list of 2020 White Wines of the Year, Dr. Franks’ winemaking team lifts Rkatsiteli to a whole new level by embracing a traditional Georgian winemaking technique using amphorae, porous clay oval receptacles similar to wine barrels. Unlike a wine barrel, an amphora doesn’t impart any flavors to the wine. An amphora, however, does contribute to the roundness, mouthfeel, and concentration of the wine and softens the flavors and tannins of Rkatsiteli.
History of Dr. Konstantin Frank Winery
The winery, founded by Konstantin Frank in 1962, is located near the quaint town of Hammondsport on Keuka Lake. The Dr. Konstantin Frank vineyards are situated on the southwestern hills of Keuka Lake where they have 70 acres planted with 11 varieties. The cooler microclimate of their vineyards lends itself to a more mineral style of Riesling and imparts acidity and elegance to their red wine varieties.
When Dr. Konstantin Frank, a doctor of agricultural science, arrived in the Finger Lakes he was captivated by the terroir of the region. He believed that the vinifera grapes that produced some of Europe’s and California’s finest wines would prosper in New York. He is regarded as the father of Finger Lakes wine for cultivating old vines and generously sharing his agricultural knowledge with others, and, in the process, changing the American palate for wine and proving his naysayers wrong.
The Finger Lakes’ terroir: cooler climate, glacial lakes, and acidic soil, is also perfect for the production of traditional method sparkling wine and I’m saving the 2016 Blanc de Blanc (rating 92) I received for a special occasion. Dr. Frank was named one of the Top 100 Wineries in the World for 2019 by Wine & Spirits Magazine. Dr. Frank’s winery is one of the oldest and most celebrated wineries in the Finger Lakes region and they continue to win national and even international recognition.
Visiting Dr. Konstantin Frank
Following Dr.Konstantin Frank’s commitment to uncompromising quality, third-generation Frederick Frank assumed leadership of the winery in 1993. He expanded production with the introduction of a value brand, Salmon Run, and continues the legacy of innovation. Fourth-generation winegrower Meaghan Frank brings her education in business and winemaking to focus on winery operations, wine direction, staff satisfaction, and guest experience.
With the introduction of the Guided Tasting Experience, the winery has reimagined and reinvented your wine tasting experience. Parties of 6 or less (pre-booked) travel through an instructional guided tasting of 5 wines while learning about the production of sparkling wines, the history of the Vinifera Revolution, why old vines are important to wine quality, innovations in winemaking techniques, and more. At each of the 5 stations, guests have one choice from a selection of 3 wines with a Dr. Konstantin Frank branded glass to take home.
Dr. Konstantin Frank – 9749 Middle Road, Hammondsport, NY 14840
More of the Best Wineries in the Finger Lakes
Pleasant Valley Wine Company
Established in 1860, Pleasant Valley Wine Company holds the distinction of being the first winery in the Finger Lakes AND the proud designation of U.S. Bonded Winery No. 1. In 1865, the winery invested in champagne-producing equipment and produced 20,000 bottles of Sparkling Catawba which put Pleasant Valley and the Finger Lakes region on the path to more accolades and recognition.
Two years later, Pleasant Valley’s sparkling wine shocked the world of oenophiles (connoisseurs of wine) when it was awarded an honorable mention at the Exposition Universelle in Paris and became the first American sparkling wine to be recognized in Europe. In 1873, the winery’s champagne took first prize. Pleasant Valley’s champagne is the only sparkling wine that can be labeled “champagne” as it was produced before Champagne was decreed an Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée (AOC) in 1936.
Pleasant Valley Wine Company has survived the Civil War, Prohibition, and several ownership changes. In 1995, the winery returned to local family control once again. Their Great Western Champagnes continue to be honored in European competitions and grace the most prestigious wine lists in America. The Visitor Center houses a comprehensive wine museum and the eight stone buildings on the property are listed in the National Register of Historic Places.
Pleasant Valley Wine Company – 8260 Pleasant Valley Rd, Hammondsport, NY 14840
Domaine LeSeurre Winery
Owners and winemakers, Celine and Sebastien LeSeurre were born into families who hand-crafted wine in Champagne, France for six generations. After assisting in the production of 15 vintages around the world, the husband-and-wife team fell in love with Keuka in 2011. Together, they built Domaine LeSeurre Winery – literally by hand! They began clearing their property in September of 2012 and opened their winery in October 2013. Savor their fantastic wines and the stunning view of Keuka Lake bluffs while learning the traditional processes used to produce them at Domaine LeSeurre’s gorgeous tasting room and patio.
Domaine LeSeurre Winery – 13920 St Rt 54, Hammondsport, NY 14840
Weis Vineyards released their first vintages in May 2017. Three months later, they won “Double Gold” and “Best of Class” at the 2017 New York Wine & Food Classic Competition (seven medals total). Born into a multi-generational winemaking family in Germany, Hans Peter Weis came to the United States to pursue his passion. He honed his craft while working as a winemaker in California as well as over a decade in the Finger Lakes. Peter and his fiancée, Ashlee, opened their own winery dedicated to traditional, handcrafted, exceptional, dry German-style wines. Visitors can taste their award-winning wines in a charming, former one-room schoolhouse dating back to the late 1800s. On busy summer weekends they also do tastings in the adjacent barn adorned with twinkling lights. In January 2018, Wies won Double Gold, Silver, and Bronze awards in the prestigious 2018 SF Chronicle Wine Judging Competition.
Weis Vineyards– 10014 Day Rd, Hammondsport, NY 14840
With changes due to Covid19, please check each winery’s website or call for information on tastings and hours of operation.
When you decide to travel to the Finger Lakes region visit the Corning/Finger Lakes website for help in planning your trip. You don’t want to miss a thing! From its natural beauty and the abundance of outdoor activities to wine trails and beer trails and a history of innovation (Thomas Edison, Corning Glass, aviation)—craft your adventure of fun in the Finger Lakes!
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