Editor’s Note: This is the fourth part of a four-part Finger Lakes report, compiled over several visits Mikhail made to the region last summer. The previous posts can be found here: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3

Dr. Konstantin Frank

Meaghan Frank of Dr. Konstantin Frank Wines

I first met Meaghan Frank a year ago at the NY Drinks NY “Women Winemakers” seminar. Of course, I have been drinking the wines her family makes for years. I was hoping to visit the winery and when my good friend, Annemarie Morse, asked if I wanted to join her, I was happy to accept.

We began our tour with a look at the sparkling wine cellars and the history of the family. The Frank family history is directly intertwined with the story of the Finger Lakes region itself. Four generations have taken care of these vineyards, carrying on the legacy of Dr. Konstantin Frank. However, the family does not rest on its laurels but continues to improve and innovate.

A good example is the Rkatsiteli Amber, a wine aged in amphorae to reconnect to the traditional Georgian vinification and preserve the fruit of the grape while creating the deep textural note that makes Georgian wines irresistible.

The vineyards at Dr. Konstantin Frank

2013 Dr. Konstantin Frank Blanc de Blancs
Disgorged July 2018. Bright, light bubbles, hint of ginger and grapefruit. The palate is light, with citrus and hints of lemonade. That sweet citrus note continues toward the finish, adding zest and a sparkle.

2016 Dr. Konstantin Frank Riesling Eugenia Dry Riesling
Bright, mineral-driven and very dry Riesling. Serious on the opening, if a bit light on the mid-palate. Citrus-driven wine, stone and flint. Nice and zesty medium length finish

2017 Dr. Konstantin Frank Rkatsiteli Amber
Fantastic and unique. The wine spent 15 days on the skins and 5 days of cold soak. Honey, hay and grapefruit rind on the nose. Textured, crunchy palate, mineral notes, citrus – especially yellow grapefruit. Balanced and long on the finish. Really enjoyable. A lightly “orange” wine.

2016 Dr. Konstantin Frank Saperavi
I am continually impressed with how well this grape does in the cool Finger Lakes climate. The jammy, black fruit on the nose offer deep sweet notes of blackberry and plum. The palate has a textured, tannic black fruit. Sweet and savory herbs, good power in the mid-palate, rich note on the finish. Simply delicious – now and perhaps in a few years.

Sheldrake Point Winery

Our favorite place to stay in the Finger Lakes is Trumansburg. A lovely town, with excellent food, and quite centrally located – giving us easy access to many of the wineries in the area.

A short drive up the east side of Cayuga Lake brought us to Sheldrake Point Winery. My initial interest was in their gamay wines, an intriguing grape for the area. Gamay, famous for the delicious wines of Beaujolais, offers the red fruit and earthy tones of pinot, but with a riper and softer touch. I was intrigued by the possibility of this grape in the Finger Lakes. However, as we tasted through the lineup, I found the riesling wines quite intriguing.

And then we got to the sweet wines – which were truly spectacular. Especially the Cabernet Franc Ice Wine, full of strawberry and orange notes.

2008 Sheldrake Point Riesling
I am always interested in trying library releases; they provide a unique view into the way a wine can age in near-perfect conditions. This 2008 is an excellent example of this. Showing quite young, tropical notes dominating, but with undertones of yellow peach and sage. The mid is ripe, with a hint of late harvest fruit, and yet retaining a tang and notes of thyme. Rather intriguing!

2016 Sheldrake Point Riesling Archival Riesling
Ripe, tropical wine, lemon, kiwi notes along with floral and pineapple tones. There is a hint of mineral in the mid, though the wine is a bit soft and could use more brightness. Exotic version of riesling, especially for the Finger Lakes.

2016 Sheldrake Point Riesling Reserve
Intriguing, this showed the masculine notes I expect from a Rhine Riesling. Ripe core but with good minerality and a bright, serious finish. There is a hint of RS on the back palate, but the finish is clean and dry.

2015 Sheldrake Point Gamay Noir Reserve
Gamay is an interesting red grape for the Finger Lakes. This wine is elegant and earthy, not unlike a lighter Pinot Noir, but with a more mineral and tannic core, riper fruit that expected from the nose.

2013 Sheldrake Point Gamay Noir
With a few years on it, this Gamay showed a deeply earthy tones, licorice and ripe berry flavors. The wine is proof of the age-ability of the grape in the Finger Lakes and, perhaps, is an interesting direction for a light red wine in the region.

2017 Sheldrake Point Cabernet Franc Ice Wine
If you are seeking something unique, look no further. Strawberry essence, bright orange, cherry pie notes with a hint of cinnamon. Delicious.

Red Tail Ridge Winery

On this trip to the Finger Lakes region, I had several set goals. One of them was to discover more about the red wines produced in the area. This led me to Red Tail Ridge, not only for their pinot noir, but also for the rare Italian grape – teroldego. Hailing from northern Italy, it is a grape capable of giving rich, black-fruited wines, balanced with a core of acidity.

Since most cooler-climate red wines tend to stay on the red fruit side of the scale, I am always interested in a grape that could offer the deeper blue and black fruit tones, and still keep the brightness and freshness that is a hallmark of the region. Teroldego seems like an interesting option – and the one I tried at Red Tail Ridge, even from a cooler 2015 vintage, proved the point.

2016 Red Tail Ridge Winery Good Karma
A quite intriguing Riesling, with a kabinett level of sweetness. Sweet peach dominates, hints of ginger, needs a bit more acidity, but pleasant if a bit round.

2017 Red Tail Ridge Winery Gewürztraminer
The wine shows roses, lemon and ginger notes. There is a hint of minerality and a bit of oiliness on the palate. Balanced, showing good citrus notes on the finish.

2013 Red Tail Ridge Winery Riesling Block 907
This is an Auslese-style wine, made from selected bunches of late-harvest botrytized grapes. A powerful, ripe and tropical wine. Yellow peach melds with honey and mango, the sweet citrus notes of botrytis show, both on the nose and the palate. Sweet lemon curd leading to a ripe finish with hints of tart orange peel. 

2015 Red Tail Ridge Winery Pinot Noir Estate Grown
The cooler year showed in the lighter, earthier tones of the wine. The mid palate shows herbs, rustic notes and tobacco leaf. The bright cranberry note and fresh acidity make the wine a great match for lighter cuisine.

2015 Red Tail Ridge Winery Teroldego
Vinified in neutral French oak, the Teroldego is an impressively powerful, but fresh and deeply fruit driven wine. Savory herbs in the middle support the dark blue and black fruit. While full of ripe fruit, the wine carries its rustic power easily, balanced by the core of acidity and tannin. Excellent.


About Author

Mikhail was born in Ukraine, during the Soviet Union and moved to the United States with his family as a teenager. He grew up in Queens, where he still resides with his wife and son. He’s an adjunct professor of comparative literature at Queens College and John Jay College of Criminal Justice. He became interested in wine in the early 2000s and quickly joined the online community as well as the busy New York City crowd. His personal wine journey began with the love for German Rieslings, but it has evolved into an appreciation for various styles of wine – from the cooler climates like the northeast to the sherries of Southern Spain. While he enjoys writing and tasting wines, his true passion is photography. He is never without his trusty Nikon, trying to capture the emotion of the moment. He is passionate about the local culture and especially the farms, wineries and breweries of the northeast.

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