Konstantin Frank

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Dr. Konstantin Frank

Dr. Konstantin Frank (1899–1985) was a viticulturist and winemaker in the Finger Lakes region of New York. He was born in Odessa, Ukraine (then part of the Russian Empire) and received his PhD in viticulture from the Odessa Polytechnic Institute, his thesis being on techniques for growing Vitis vinifera in a cold climate. After working for a time in what was then Soviet Georgia managing a large state-owned vineyard, he came to the United States in 1951. Speaking nine languages, English not being one of them, Konstantin was forced to take a job as a dishwasher in New York City. When he could save up enough, Konstantin moved with his family to the Cornell University Geneva Experiment Station in 1953. During the 1950s, he was a consultant to the Gold Seal Winery and established a Vitis vinifera grape nursery.[1] He urged New York State winemakers to move away from native North American grapes, including Vitis labrusca and other species, and instead plant Vitis vinifera, the traditional grapes of European winemakers. For 300 years, failed attempts to plant "Vitis vinifera" varietals were blamed on the cold weather. With extensive experience growing the European grapes in below freezing temperatures back in Ukraine, Konstantin knew it would be possible with the techniques that he developed.

His ideas were ridiculed. No one thought that Vitis vinifera would grow in the cold New York area. So in 1958 Konstantin bought a plot of land on the west side of Keuka Lake, about six miles from Hammondsport, NY. The first vintage released was in 1962 with a Trockenbeerenauslese Johannisberg Riesling made from botrytized grapes. In the twenty-three years that Konstantin owned his winery, he planted over sixty different varietals to prove to the world that the eastern United States could grow the noble European varietals. A scientist at heart, Konstantin wanted to prove to the world that the Eastern United States could grow vinifera varietals. In 1985, Konstantin died at the age of 86. His legacy is cherished in New York, paving the way for other Finger Lakes producers to grow the European grape varieties. In November 2001, Konstantin Frank was inducted into the Wine Spectator Hall of Fame for his outstanding achievements in the field of viticulture.

Konstantin's son, Willy Frank, became President after his father's death and amazed the industry by introducing a line of sparkling wines made in the traditional methode champenoise technique. He purchased a historic field stone house, then restored it into a sparkling winery and named it Chateau Frank. In 1993, Fred Frank, Konstantin's grandson, succeeded his father as President of Dr. Konstantin Frank Vinifera Wine Cellars. That same year, he introduced a value line called "Salmon Run" using grapes sourced from local farms around the Finger Lakes.

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