Dr. Konstantin Frank
Dr. Konstantin Frank ignited the Vinifera Revolution, a movement that forever changed the course of winegrowing in the Finger Lakes and the United States. Dr. Frank’s vision, knowledge and determination are credited with elevating the New York wine industry from a state of happy mediocrity to a level that today commands world attention.
A European immigrant, Dr. Frank and his family arrived in the United States in 1951. After a brief stay in New York City, Dr. Frank, a professor of plant sciences who held a Ph.D. in viticulture, moved upstate to take a position at Cornell University’s Geneva Experiment Station. At Geneva, Dr. Frank attempted to share with his colleagues his vision of growing Vitis Vinifera (European) grapes in the Finger Lakes. His efforts were met by scepticism fueled by a 300-year history of failure to grow European varieties in the East, and hampered by a language barrier (Dr. Frank spoke six languages fluently, yet not English).
Dr. Frank believed from his years in the Ukraine that the lack of proper rootstock, not the cold climate, was the reason for the failure of Vitis Vinifera vines in the Finger Lakes region. He continued to promote his beliefs and to seek a sympathetic ear, which he found in Charles Fournier, a French champagne maker and president of nearby Gold Seal Vineyards. The two innovators shared not only a common vision for Finger Lakes wine, but also a common language, French.
Communicating in French, Dr. Frank revealed his research for growing the delicate European vinifera grape varieties in cold climates. For the first time the Northeastern United States could produce European varieties of wines. The revolution was underway!
In 1962, merely a decade after arriving in America, Dr. Frank founded Vinifera Wine Cellars. The winery quickly earned a reputation for spectacular Rieslings and its original planting of vines (Riesling, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Gewurztraminer, Cabernet Sauvignon and other European varieties) formed the backbone of New York’s world-class wines and champagnes.