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King Riesling

Courtesy of Dr. Konstantin Frank Vinifera Wine Cellars

Dr. Konstantin Frank will forever be known as the father of Finger Lakes wine. When he emigrated here from the Ukraine and started his own winery in 1962, it changed the entire course of the region’s winemaking history. His determination and perseverance to grow European vinifera vines in our cooler New York State climate ultimately set us on a path to greatness. Today, the Finger Lakes appellation is known worldwide for its crisp and refreshing white wines, with Riesling proudly leading the pack.

So it couldn’t be more deserving that a Riesling wine from the Dr. Konstantin Frank Vinifera Wine Cellars would set all kinds of records this year with the awards it has been receiving. The Dr. Frank Semi Dry Riesling 2013 has hit it out of the ballpark, and the kudos just keep on rolling in.

It all began the minute this wine was released to the public, just over a year ago at an annual Riesling Release party at the New York Wine and Culinary Center in Canandaigua, New York. The event was a showcase for all of the newly bottled 2013 wines, and event attendees were allowed to vote for their favorites. The lineup was excellent, and all wines were thoroughly enjoyed, but the Dr. Frank Riesling brought in more votes than any other. It was just a small sign of the big things to come.

Soon thereafter, the 2013 Semi Dry Riesling won gold medals at the Indy International Wine Competition, the Long Beach Grand Cru Competition, the Eastern Exposition Wine Competition, and the New York State Fair Wine Competition. It then went on to garner a 92-point score by the Beverage Testing Institute World Value Wine Challenge in October of 2014, 

where it was also named as one of the Top 10 White Wines $15 and Under.

In January, the new year kicked in with one of the biggest wine competitions in the country—the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition, held in California. Over 6,400 wines were entered from twenty-eight states, making it a competition record. A diverse array of professional wine judges set out on a task to evaluate each wine and select winners in each category from best Chardonnay, to best Riesling, to best Sauvignon Blanc and beyond.

Of all the top winners, a sweepstakes award is given to a wine that stands out from the rest in categories of best white, best red, best sparkling, and best dessert wine. These wines are the tops in the country, setting the bar from coast to coast.

Dr. Frank Semi Dry Riesling 2013 came away with a Double Gold Medal and a tie for the Best White Wine of the competition. Not too shabby, considering they tied with a Napa Valley Chardonnay that retailed for double the price of the Riesling.

As an aside, over the past six years of the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition, a Finger Lakes wine has been awarded Best White Wine of competition in four of those years. And all four have been from Keuka Lake in the Finger Lakes. Keuka Spring Gewürztraminer 2008 took top honors in 2010. Dr. Frank Gewürztraminer 2010 nabbed it in 2012. Then Keuka Spring Riesling 2011 stole the show in 2013. Now, Dr. Frank’s Semi Dry 2013 has come out on top in 2015. These are great honors for the wineries, the winemakers, and the region as a whole.

And we continue. A few weeks later, at the Florida State Fair International Wine Competition, the impossible happened. The Dr. Frank Semi Dry Riesling 2013 pulled off another “Best White Wine of Competition.” Keep in mind that these are all “blind tastings,” where the wines are rated without the judges knowing where the wine is from. Earning two consecutive “Top Awards” in the wine industry is practically unheard of. Yet, this was just another testimony to the incredible quality of a wine that consistently impresses the palates of professionals in every possible setting.

As if that wasn’t unprecedented enough, the aforementioned wine was then awarded the coveted John Rose Award as “Best in Class Riesling” at the Finger Lakes International Wine Competition held in Rochester in March. This event included 3,708 wines from 940 wineries, twenty-seven countries, six Canadian provinces, and all fifty United States. Somehow, this spectacular Riesling (which is how I will now refer to this wine), once again showed itself to be in a class by itself. As a judge at this event, I can attest to the incredible quality and quantity of Riesling 

wines that were entered in this competition. To stand out amongst all of those wines is truly a feat.

When informed of this prestigious accolade, Dr. Frank winery owner and president, Fred Frank, grandson of the founder, was in awe. “In our fifty- three years of winemaking, I can’t recall another year in which our Rieslings have won so many top awards,” he said. “We are honored.”

To follow that, this spectacular Riesling then took gold medals at the Pacific Rim Wine Competition, the Amenti del Vino International Wine Competition, the Tasters Guild International Wine Competition, the Los Angeles International Wine Competition, and the Great Lakes Wine Competition.

Any questions?

As a Riesling lover, I find this wine to be as versatile as they come. A touch of sweetness, balanced by that classic Riesling acidity and lots of rich fruit flavors, makes it easy to sip and great to pair with food. It can please any palate it meets, from dry wine lovers to sweet wine lovers.

The wine also carries the unique flavor of its home, or “sense of place.” This is referred to as terroir in wine speak. The geological makeup of Dr. Frank’s vineyards finds its way into each glass, and you’ll notice a hint of slate minerality that sings through the ripe peach and apricot fruit flavors in every sip.

Maybe Wine Enthusiast Magazine puts it best: “Plump white peach and yellow cherry flavors are plush and pure, but braced by an exhilarating stream of lime and lemon zest. Deftly structured, and nuanced by hints of dust and mineral, this is a widely accessible yet deeply satisfying Riesling.” Oh, and this was accompanied by a very applaudable 90 point score. Ho hum.

But the most amazing thing of all about this record-setting wine is that it is still available for you to purchase. As for me, I have stocked up on provisions to last me for some time. No need to drink up quickly either, because this quality of Riesling has an inherent longevity that can conceivably make it better with age (if that is even possible). And I look forward to revisiting this treasure in the years to come to see what kind of magic actually occurs in that bottle. In the meantime, I am happy to savor and celebrate the success of a Finger Lakes legend, and toast to many wonderful years ahead! 

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