Thursday, May 28, 2015

Weekend Tastings 5/23/15 - Dr. Frank Champagne

Weekend Tastings 5/23/15 - Dr. Frank Champagne

   I always enjoy the trip from my house on Seneca over to Keuka Lake. Just outside of Dundee, I pick up Route 230 and on to 87 in Wayne and sometimes the only vehicles I pass for miles are farm tractors. That is the beauty of the Finger Lakes. It's still very rural and unspoiled for the most part. As I come to the end of 87, I look for the old barn right where the road starts to descend. There is a clearing there that provides a stunning panoramic view of the south end of Keuka Lake below, giving a preview of what lies ahead. 

   Driving through Hammondsport, where signs make you aware that it was one of Budget Travel Magazines 2012 Coolest Small Towns, you get a sense that this is truly a cool small town and it beckons you to stop and browse its shops or get an ice cream or even have a leisurely glass of wine at the local taverns. Once out of town, you start the climb up Greyton H. Taylor Memorial Drive, rising high above the lake until you level off right below Bully Hill.

   My destination today is Dr. Frank Vinifera Wine Cellars, not for their excellent Riesling, but for their Champagne (yes, I said it; Sue me France!). Chateau Frank is the Sparkling Wine part of the business. According to the Dr. Frank's website "Willy Frank purchased an old stone winery (in the 1980's) just down the road from Dr. Frank's and called it Chateau Frank. When Willy purchased it, the owners had been restoring it as a champagne cellar, which made it the perfect investment. The champagne cellars at Chateau Frank went very deep into the earth providing the same year round cool temperatures one might find in a champagne cave in the limestone hills of France. With a champagne cellar in place and a climate in the Finger Lakes similar to the French Champagne region, Willy then planted Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Meuner, the three classic French Champagne varieties." See more about the history of Chateau Frank at

My main reason for stopping here is that Chateau Frank sparkling wines have been tearing up the wine competition circuit, with Best of Class awards in several recent competitions. I have been enjoying Chateau Frank sparklers for many years and the main reason I like them is that the fruit is always front and center, not buried in a dusty dryness like many Champagnes. But it's been a long cold winter since I've been here and time to sample the current fare. I spotted my old friend Alan behind a tasting bar and he beckoned me over. Alan poured me the 2008 Brut, 2009 Blanc de Noirs and Celebre.

2008 Brut: Methode Champenoise. A blend of 60% Chardonnay, 35% Pinot Noir, 5% Pinot Meunier from the first pressing free run juice, five years in bottle in their underground cellar in contact with lees. What pleases me is the definition of the fruit and the subdued yeastiness. It's easy for the fruit in sparkling wines to get lost in the other components, especially the yeast flavors, but not here. Well defined components of acidity, lemon curd, that distinctive Dr. Frank lime, and low key sourdough toast, but all integrate seamlessly on the palate for a powerful flavor consensus. And a bargain at $24.99. Ready to drink now for your favorite celebration.

2009 Blanc de Noirs:  Methode Champenoise. 100% Pinot Noir whole cluster pressing, four years in bottle in their underground cellar in contact with lees. The acidity here is still a little hot, this could age well. The flavor profile for me is a bit more lemon peel, apple skin and lime zest than the '08 Brut, but still very approachable and again, the fruit does not take a back seat, with a strong finish. $29.99

Celebre NV: Cremant method. 100% Riesling whole cluster pressing. Very bright on the front palate with pear and apple battling it out, while the 3% residual sugar brings out the honeyed lemon, with a very long smooth classic Dr. Frank lime and mineral finish. It's well-structured, but this sparkler doesn't take itself too seriously and just wants to have fun with you. A good go-to sparkler for mixed company. $20.99

See you on the Trail!  Rob Lane

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