Tasting Note: Dr Konstantin Frank 2006 Rkatsiteli, Finger Lakes

It’s kind of a tribute to the complicated nature of wine distribution in North America that I had to go to California to finally taste a wine from New York’s Finger Lakes, which are only a few hours drive from my home in Quebec.

How did that happen? Well, Lenn Thompson, the great defender of New York wines on the Lenndevours blog, along with his Finger Lakes correspondent Melissa Dobson, had conspired to bring one of New York’s most unique wines to the Wine Bloggers Conference, so that the dozens upon dozens of bloggers present at Santa Rosa’s one and only Flamingo Resort could discover the good stuff that’s produced out East.

It was certainly not the only wine that they had brought out. In fact, there was a host of them at an informal tasting held late on the opening night of the WBC at the home of one Pinotblogger. I’ve already mentioned an excellent cabernet franc from Wölffer, from that evening, and I should add to the list some very pleasant and crisp rieslings, both from Long Island and the Finger Lakes (one from Sheldrake Point was very nice, though I’m a bit disappointed to see on the winery web site that it was chaptalized…).

But the most intriguing wine that had come from the Empire State was the 2006 Rkatsiteli from Dr Konstantin Frank’s Vinifera Wine Cellars, the most renowned producer in the Finger Lakes region – if not all of the Northeastern US. Indeed, Dr Frank was named the Greatest Wine Producer in the Atlantic Northeast region for the fifth year in a row, in Tom Stevenson’s 2009 Wine Report. And judging from what I’ve tasted, it seems well-deserved. I’d had a sip or two at the WBC, and asked Melissa Dobson if I could bring a bottle home to write more thorough tasting notes. I’m very glad she let me do so.

Now, although it is virtually unknown in North America, the rkatsiteli grape is actually one of the most widely planted in the world, thanks to its great popularity in countries of the ex-Soviet Union. It is apparently an ancient variety, traced back to 5000 years ago in Georgia, one of the cradles of winemaking.

A lot of tasting notes on rkatsiteli compare it to riesling and gewurztraminer, and from a general standpoint, my impressions of the 2006 Dr Frank Rkatsiteli fit that comparison, if only because of the balance between sweetness and crisp acidity. There is something reminiscent of the best of Germany and, maybe even more, Alsace in that pale straw wine showing intense aromas of pineapple, apricot jelly and a bit of powdered ginger. With just a touch of residual sugar, the wine was fresh and bright, thanks to significant acidity, and drank very well over four days, developing a bit more spicy flavours and aromas as it went.

On reflexion, it might well feel a little closer to a sylvaner, or more specifically, to a Swiss Johannisberg, as they call sylvaner in that part of the world. Lovely stuff, in any case.

I drank it with a poached fillet of cod, on the first night, and with some cheese and charcuterie, for the last glass, and the second match felt the best. I would warmly recommend drinking it with sauerkraut. Or just by itself, on a summer evening. Or Indian summer evening. Or just about any time, really.

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10 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. You made a great point- We had to travel to CA to try this wine from NY!

    I loved this wine. Though I won’t say it was the best wine I had all weekend, it was one of the most memorable, and I really want to try this again.

    Great notes.

  2. Thanks Hardy. I always look for wines that stand out, and this one certainly did. With all the wines we had, for any one of them to stand out so well is a tribute to just how good it is.

  3. Remy, I’m so glad that you enjoyed the Rkatsiteli. I hope to have another opportunity to share the wines of NY with you and our other blogger friends at a future WBC!

    I’m curious about your view on chaptalizing wine. This is a new concept to me, what is it about the process that you aren’t fond of? I would like to understand it more.

  4. Well, I always prefer wines to be made as naturally as possible. Chaptalizing, though an admitted practice, is not a natural process: adding sugar to encourage fermentation and higher alcohol levels is obviously not just getting the most out of the grapes you got. It is a bit of trickery.

    I feel the same about, say, reverse osmosis or other compensatory or remedial winemaking practices. Controlling what you get in the vineyard as best you can, and then dealing with it straight in the cellar: I know it’s easier said than done, but to me, that should be how you go about it.

  5. I understand it better now. Thanks for walking me through the process, Remy.

  6. I came home with a bottle of Rkatsiteli also which I opened on Thanksgiving to have with charcuterie and couldn’t agree more, Remy. I brought the open bottle to my sister’s for Thanksgiving dinner of turkey and ham; we has some before the meal and at the start and all who has some really enjoyed it. We then finished with Willows “The Doctor” sparkling shiraz… which I loved but my husband asked for more Rkatsiteli!

    Both wines made for great dinnertime stories which you want at holiday time also!

    I haven’t posted my notes yet but will link to you when I do!

  7. Dr. Frank’s Rkatsiteli is one of the few Finger Lakes wines worth drinking. Since we discovered it a few years ago, we’ve been getting a half case of it every year. I found your site because I had just opened a bottle of the 06 and was looking for a review just to compare to my own experience.

    • I’m glad we agree on the Rkatsiteli. Hope to see you again on this blog.

  8. I just tried this at the Culinary Institute of America (Hyde Park) in a flight of whites. I was definitely intrigued.

    • Judging from what I see in my site stats, many people are intrigued by this signature wine of Dr. Frank’s. It’s certainly worth discovering.

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