Here I am, touring Upstate New York talking to students at various colleges about the joys of real cheese, book writing and German history – it’s an honor to be able to gently push some of you guys into a direction you might not have thought existed before we met! Reminds me of the affinage process, when cheeses are gently guided to mature into something the cheese”maker” has done a lot to get to, but can never be totally sure will happen in the end. Takes a lot of listening and attention and dedication, in both cases. All this to say that I’ve been in total cheese mode, with wine down the priority list, to :”stuff to drink and enjoy” – as opposed to taste and write about. Until somebody at my wonderful friend’s Naomi’s party last Sunday near Utica brought along a bottle of Dr. Frank’s Rkatsiteli from Lake Keuka, one of the larger ones of the twelve Finger Lakes in Upstate New York.
It was delicious, dry and bony, with the aroma of quince jelly – and it made me realize with a real jolt that hey, that great producer I’d visited years ago was actually around the corner! Well, relatively speaking, a 90 minutes drive from Ithaca, my next stop. And off I went, changing from cheese and German history to wine, for a morning. I had almost forgotten how beautiful this corner of the world is, even though spring has barely made it here. Fred Frank seemed happy to practise his (very good) German (his mother is from Hamburg) and we tasted along happily through his extensive collection.
Top of all, no question: Riesling, all of them, dry, semi-dry, the juicy Reserve and totally gorgeous and precious: the 2008 Bunch Select Late Harvest aka Trockenbeerenauslese; caramelized pineapple with an underlying acidity and mineral spiciness that made for such a creamy whole that it would have been very easy to empty the (half) bottle… In general, the continental climate up here and the stony soils make for utterly drinkable wines with remarkably low alcohol levels – if they are as well balanced, that is. The Franks have been around for four generations by now and gathered some experience on the way. Fred’s grandfather brought some eastern European varieties with him back in the old days, such as the Rkatsiteli, and more recently Grüner Veltliner has been a very successful addition on the 126 acres. I’d really like to pour this to a few Austrian wine guys, one day. In case you’re still not convinced if this is worth a trip (or at least a check online where the next source for these wines is): the Franks also make great sparkling wines in their stone caves, using the traditional methods – bring them on, says the bubbles girl in me… let’s be totally frank.
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