What Began As A Dream...
Started A Revolution
Dr. Konstantin Frank ignited the “Vinifera Revolution” a movement that forever changed the course of wine growing 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.
Konstantin's Introduction Story (2:35 mins)
Dr. Konstantin Frank earned his Ph.D. in Viticulture from Odessa, Ukraine in 1930 and became a leading expert in his field throughout Eastern Europe. Having survived through two World Wars and the Russian Revolution, Dr. Frank immigrated to New York in 1951 at the age of 52-years-old with empty pockets and no knowledge of English, in the hope of creating a brighter future for his family.
He fell in love with a special property in the Finger Lakes for its exceptional characteristics – poor soils and steep slopes. With decades of knowledge and experience, Dr. Frank successfully planted the first European grape varieties in the Eastern United States in 1958.
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 formed the backbone of New York’s world-class wines and champagnes.
Damian Frank, Konstantin's Father
Stanislava Petroskawa, Konstantin's Mother
The First Taste
The Frank Family
The Marriage of Eugenia Bartle and Konstantin
Earning His Ph.D.
The Invention of Hilling Up
Earning His Doctorate
Leaving the Ukraine
Arriving in America
Geneva Experiment Station
The shift towards French hybrids grapes was well underway by 1952. When Konstantin questioned the scientists about why vinifera was not being grown, he was informed of the well-established belief that they could not be grown because of the cold climate. When he insisted that they could be grown, his view was discounted as uninformed. His colleagues suggested that he refrain from pursuing this risky proposition, which ran counter to the views of the authorities. However for Konstantin, the vinifera proposal was not at all risky as he had been successful in growing thousands of acres of vinifera in a very cold, nearly subarctic climate on a commercial scale in Russia.
Charles Fournier and Gold Seal
Gold Seal Vineyards
Konstantin was faced with the extraordinary challenge of the number of soil types to be found in the Finger Lakes, "In my experience I have never met such enormous changing of soil types on such a very small area. In a row of 70 vines, the soil changed 7 times."
Gold Seal Experiments
Dr. Frank was forthcoming with his results, good or bad, he shared them all. By the late 1950s, there was a buzz of interest over what Dr. Frank was doing. Charles Fournier would later say, "I had been trying to grow hybrids since the 1930s and had some success but I knew hybrids were not the answer. I knew they would never make big wines. I thought Dr. Frank could bring us true vinifera."
Dr. Frank insisted that Gold Seal remove all of its French hybrids and replace them with vinifera, but the general line of thought was that it was, at best, a risky proposition and that a cold winter would end it all. Eventually, managers at Gold Seal began to balk at the scale of the vinifera program and the resources it was consuming.
The Beginnings of Dr. Frank's Home Vineyard
At the age of fifty-nine, he began to plant vinifera with weekend and evening help from volunteers. In addition to his research plantings, he began to plant some vines to be used for commercial wine production and started his own nursery, creating his own experiment station. He would produce and sell wine primarily to show the quality of the vinifera grapes.
Vinifera Wine Cellars
Sixty Different Varieties
American Wine Society
Building The Reputation
In the brief twenty years, he has received accolades from four New York governors and has been honored with "Dr. Konstantin Frank Day. A lengthy recognition and appreciation was read into the Congressional Record. His wines were served on a number of occasions at the White House, as well as for the visiting queen of England. His wine was served at the Wye River Conference between President Bill Clinton and Boris Yeltsin. It's said that the two leaders talked well into the night and sent out for more wine several times.
At the end of his life, there was no doubt about his impact and success. For all of his accomplishments, he is known as the "Father of Vinifera in the East."