Wow… after all that snow, we’ve got some spring-like conditions and I’ve got some pink Finger Lakes sparkling wine from the one and only Dr. Kontstantin Frank, some fresh Gruyere Surchoix and Vermont common crackers to celebrate a fun little milestone. The wine is called “Célèbre” and today it is for a celebration of both warm air, sunny skies, and my new membership in the Wine Century Club.
In case you didn’t know, Dr. Konstantin Frank was a German man who came to the region in his 50s and was the first to grow and promote the culture of growing Vinifera vines in Central New York State, in the early 1960s. The New York wine industry was happy growing local varieties and remaining relatively obscure internationally. Dr Frank’s persistence and a new position in researching and experimenting with the old-world European varieties eventually put this region on the world wine map. He had a degree in viticulture and agronomy, experience as manager of a large vineyard in the Ukraine, and an ongoing interest in cold-climate viticulture. All of these helped land him a job at the Cornell Agricultural Experiment station in Geneva, New York. Despite much resistance to the idea that Vinifera could grow successfully in the climate, he succeeded in making believers then, and now. The region is now a blend of great wines made from Vinifera (particularly Riesling in many styles old and new) and many local stars like Cornell’s weather-resistant hybrid Cayuga, ice-wine star Vidal, Niagara and grape-juice-friendly Concord.
The Dr. Konstantin Frank winery has won about 79 gold medals since its inception, as well as awards for pioneering wine-making in the region. The property, and the wine room are located on a gorgeous plot on a hill above the western coast of Keuka lake. The vineyards are now over 50 years old, making them some of the oldest vines in the country. They are also the only winery I know to make the ancient varietal Rkatseteli —a racy, dry, peach-pear and honey-laden medium-bodied white.
In the glass, this lovely méthode Champagnoise rosé is a rich pink color with some orange hues. The bubbles are small and refined as a sparkling wine made in this method would display, with a nice consistent fizz stream. On the nose, wild strawberry and raspberry notes abound and on the palate these continue in the flavors therein. It is light and crisp, yet fruity. It also pairs very nicely with the dry hard cheese and the salty crackers. This sparkling wine is made with Pinot Noir and Petit Meunier — no Chardonnay here. I sipped this happily last July when visiting (more on Dr Frank here…) New York’s Finger Lakes region for the first time. I’m not a big bubbly drinker as it goes to my head too fast, but there is an occasion now and then that calls for it and I am enjoying this one again… which of course is why I bought it in the first place.
The Wine Century Club is a wonderful organization with many international chapters that celebrates the exploration of grape varietals. There are thousands out there, and while many of us have tried several, this encouraged me and the other members to go out there and try as many as possible. To fully explore the diversity and potential of the grape. There are several levels, with the initial application and membership beginning at 100 varietals. I am now working on level 2, “Doppel,” and eventually “Treble,” “Quattro,” and “Pentavini.” A few of my fellow favorite wine-bloggers are members and through their writings I discovered the club and began my quest. There are nearly 1,400 members around the world. I might just have to buy the t-shirt.
Next weekend I am heading back to the North Fork of Long Island for another anniversary celebration. I will be sure to review some wines I am yet to discover. Can’t wait!