The Innovative Man Who Changed Finger Lakes Wine History
How incredibly lucky are we to live so close to the stunning Finger Lake Region? People travel from across the United States to spend time visiting what is right in our own backyard.
When he was only a small boy in 1906, the uncle of Konstantine Frank gave him two glasses of wine, and a fascination with the drink was born. It was Dr. Frank who would grow up and during the second half of his life, would plant one of the very first wineries in the New York’s Finger Lakes.
Although he didn't plant the first Finger Lakes vineyard or even open the first Finger Lakes winery, Dr. Frank certainly was a pioneer in his field and changed the variety of grapes grown in the region.
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Born in Ukraine in 1899, Dr. Frank earned his Ph.D in Viticulture which is the cultivation and harvest of grapes in 1930. Interestingly, Dr. Frank did his thesis on techniques for growing grapes in cold weather which would come in handy in the far future.
After surviving two World Wars as well as the Russian Revolution, Dr. Frank who had become a leading expert in his field, decided to come to the United States in search of a better life for his family and generations to come.
In 1951, at the age of 52 with no money in his pocket and absolutely no idea how to even speak English (although, impressively, he knew how to speak in nine other languages), Dr. Frank made his way to the United States. Dr. Frank worked as a dishwasher in New York City until he saved up enough money to move to the Cornell University Geneva Experiment Station in 1953.
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For hundreds of years, attempts had been made to grow the common grape in North America, and each attempt failed with the climate being blamed for the failure. However, Dr. Frank was confident that he could succeed in growing grapes in cold weather as he had mastered growing European grapes in freezing weather in Ukraine. And so, in 1958, Dr. Frank planted the first European grape varieties in the United States on a small plot of land on the west side of Keuka Lake.
In 1961, Dr. Frank released his first wine, a German Riesling, and Dr. Frank’s Vinifera Wine Cellars was born, quickly gaining recognition for stellar quality wine. For 23 years, Dr. Frank proved to the world that European grapes could in fact thrive in the eastern United States, even going so far as to plant over sixty different European varieties.
In November 2001, Konstantin Frank was posthumously inducted into the Wine Spectator Hall of Fame and today, Fred Frank, grandson of Dr. Konstantin Frank, serves as President of Dr. Konstantin Frank Vinifera Wine Cellars.