Archive for the ‘Finger Lakes Visionaries’ Category

Interview Series: Finger Lakes Visionaries #3-Frederick Frank, President of Dr. Konstantin Frank Vinifera Wine Cellars

I was recently honored with an invitation to the celebration of the release of Dr. Frank’s N90 Riesling Clone and had an opportunity to meet and share lunch with Frederick Frank, President of Dr. Konstantin Frank Vinifera Wine Cellars. I found him to be gracious, down-to-earth and passionate about the future of the Finger Lakes wine industry.

Frederick, Willy and Dr. Konstantin Frank

Frederick, Willy and Dr. Konstantin Frank

Melissa Dobson: Tell me about how you selected the Finger Lakes region to pursue your passion for wine.

Frederick Frank: I spent many summers while in school working with my grandfather, Dr. Konstantin Frank. I enjoyed learning from him and realized at an early age that I wanted to continue the family winery. My father, Willy, took over the winery in 1984 from his father Konstantin who started the winery in 1962. Willy encouraged me to get a good education and experience before joining the winery full time. I received my B.S. from Cornell University School of Agriculture. After graduation I went to work for Banfi Vintners as a sales manager in New England. In 1982 I left Banfi to attend the Geisenheim School of Viticulture and Enology in Germany. I was then rehired by Banfi Vintners to be their Managing Director for Banfi Vineyards in Old Brookville, New York. In 1993 my father was hospitalized and asked me to return to Dr. Frank’s Winery as President. I have enjoyed working at Dr. Frank’s Winery and look forward to passing the reigns on to my son, Kyle, after he has completed his education and gained experience.

MD: If you could deliver a “State of the Finger Lakes Wine Region” speech today, which main points would you include?

FF: I have seen the Finger Lakes Wine Region experience many changes in the last 45 years.When my grandfather started the family winery in 1962 as an all Vinifera Winery he was laughed at and ridiculed by many industry and academic leaders. He was called ,”the crazy old doctor on the hill”. Today many of those industry leading wineries are no longer in business because they failed to adapt to changing consumer tastes demanding higher quality wines made from the Vinifera grapes. Recently the New York Wine & Grape Foundation hired the market research firm, Wine Opinions, to do a study on brand awareness among the 240 wineries in New York. The winery with the highest brand recognition among New York wineries was Dr. Konstantin Frank which was picked by 17% of the respondents. The winery that came in second had a 5% recognition rating. We have worked hard through three generations to increase the brand awareness of our winery and the Finger Lakes region. We have improved quality and increased production at the same time we have expanded distribution of our wines to over 30 states and several foreign countries.I believe the Finger Lakes Wine Region is becoming known as the best cool climate region in America. This gives us an advantage in producing wines from the Northern European grape varieties. Our cool climate then becomes an asset and allows us to compete among the best wines in America.

MD: Are you satisfied with the visibility and progress of the region? If yes, please explain why. If not, what are the strategies that you favor to raise awareness?

FF: We need to continue to work to improve the visibility and progress of the Finger Lakes region. This starts with wine quality and ends with wine marketing. Awareness for the Finger Lakes region will be improved by working together with all the wineries and attractions to promote the region.

MD: What are your greatest challenges in promoting your wine, both to consumers and to the trade?

FF: We need to continue to gain more recognition for our wines and the Finger Lakes region. We are a small region that has to gain more credibility by producing world class cool climate wines.

MD: What hopes and dreams do you have for the future of the Finger Lakes Wine Region?

FF: I believe the Finger Lakes Wine Region will continue to grow and gain more credibility as America’s best cool climate region. I am excited to see more of my fellow Finger Lakes vintners following Dr. Frank’s lead and planting Vinifera grapes. I want to thank you for your fine coverage of the Finger Lakes Wine Region.

Thank YOU, Frederick.

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Interview Series: Finger Lakes Visionaries #1-Scott Osborn, Owner of Fox Run Vineyards

Scott Osborn, Owner of Fox Run Vineyards

Scott Osborn, Owner of Fox Run Vineyards

To kick off my series of interviews of the thought leaders and visionaries driving the wine and culinary industries here in the Finger Lakes region, I’m happy to present you with my interview with Scott Osborn, Owner of Fox Run Vineyards on Seneca Lake.

MD: Tell me about how you selected the Finger Lakes region to pursue your passion for wine.

SO: I was originally from Rochester and after I began working in the wine business out in California I came back to visit family. I decided to go wine tasting and knew if I went I would be welcomed and would get to visit with the people who were making the wines. It was also my introduction into Cool Climate Wines which I was unfamiliar with coming from the California industry. I was told Santa Barbara where I worked was a cool climate. My last stop was Wagner and I tasted their 82 Chardonnay. I was blown away. It was an epiphany, one of many I have had while pursuing my wine career. I now understood what a real cool climate wine was all about. Over the next few days I decided I wanted to make Chardonnay like that and the only place I could do that was here in the Finger Lakes. So I went back to California and made plans to move back here and take my chances on finding work in a relatively unknown wine region. The reason I say unknown is that making wine from Vinifera in the Finger Lakes was unheard of outside of the Finger Lakes.

MD: If you could deliver a “State of the Finger Lakes Wine Region” speech today, which main points would you include?

SO: This is the place to grow and make Riesling!

This is the place for large outside investors who are interested in the wine business and investing, to invest in vineyards and wineries.

We need investment in larger hotels so more people can visit and stay over night.

The future is very bright and we are excited about it.

MD: Are you satisfied with the visibility and progress of the region? If yes, please explain why. If not, what are the strategies that you favor to raise awareness?

SO: I have mixed feelings. On one hand the progress of wine making and increased quality of our wines is going very well. The Rieslings of the Finger Lakes are some of the best in the world and we have the potential to make the best in the world.

On the other hand, our wines are not recognized for being as good as they are. This can be evidenced by reading the description of Finger Lake wines in the major wine magazines then compare those descriptions and scores to other descriptions of California or French wines with higher scores.

We need to keep pounding on the glass ceiling by sending our wines to be reviewed and eventually the tasters will start giving us the scores we deserve.

MD: What are your greatest challenges in promoting your wine, both to consumers and to the trade?

SO: Mostly getting Liquor stores and restaurants to give our wines the same chance they give wines from France, California, Italy, and Australia. Most of them still remember the old days of New York wines and can’t get out of the past. Our wines are better then most wines made in the world yet they won’t put our wines on their wine lists. The other is for our local consumers to order the wines when they see them on the wine lists. I always suggest that people order a Finger Lakes wine then one from another region but always order a Finger Lakes wine if it is on the wine list.

MD: What hopes and dreams do you have for the future of the Finger Lakes Wine Region?

SO: My dream is to be totally sustainable, having enough Riesling and other varieties so I can have the wines for sale all year round. I also want to see more vineyards and less development so we can keep the landscape the way it is so people always have a place to go to relax and enjoy this wonderful wine growing area.