The minute I found out that Dr. Konstantin Frank was doing special tastings of sparkling wine in their 1886 Reserve Tasting Room I knew I had to go there. I love dry sparkling wine- I love the bubbles, I love the bread crust yeasty notes, I love the acidity and brightness, I love everything about it. So my partner and I, along with my parents who also share my affinity for sparkling, headed out to Keuka Lake for an early morning tasting.
The 1886 Reserve Tasting Room is not located at the main Dr. Frank tasting room, but is instead located in a historic cobblestone building (built in 1886) that was once used as the Western New York Wine Company. The winery went out of business during prohibition, but it was purchased in 1980 by the son of Dr. Frank, who wanted to use it to begin making traditional méthode champenoise sparkling wine. The first sparkling wine was released in 1985.
Now, the 1886 building serves both as the site for the production and storage of sparkling wine, and as an event space for special reserve tastings.
From Vine to Bottle to Glass
We began our morning with a sample of 2016 Dry Riesling, which had notes of nectarine and tangerine, as well as citrus and mineral that carried onto the palate with a nice zingy acidity to balance the oily mouthfeel. Once we were given a brief introduction to the winery and 1886 room, as well as to our host Allen, and his helpers Katie and Kelsey, we headed outside into the vineyard to see a newer planting of Chardonnay that was destined to become sparkling. Next we wandered over to see a planting of Pinot Meunier, one of the lesser known grapes of classic sparkling wine.
Next, we headed into the cellar beneath the 1886 home and were greeted by thousands of bottles, stacked neatly into rows, ready to age and become bubbly. Allen walked us through the process of fermentation, disgorgement and aging that create a good bottle of sparkling wine. While these methods were demonstrated, we sipped at a glass of 2007 Brut, that had a nuttiness to it, as well as shortcrust and hints of citrus peel with a surprisingly nice acid at the end.
Pairing Sparkling with Deliciousness
We headed back upstairs into the reserve tasting room, and began the main event- a pairing of four sparkling wines with four small bites.
2012 Blanc de Blancs has a nose of pastry dough, pear, and slight hints of nuttiness, with a nice wet stone minerality and bright acidity. It was paired with roasted cauliflower, manchego, lime, and a pepita-cilantro gremolata, that brought out even more of a nuttiness to both the food and wine, with the acidity of the wine balancing the richness of the cheese and gremolata.
2012 Brut has notes of grapefruit, early grey tea, lemon, and herbs, with a great acidity and lightness. It was paired with a rosemary butter cookie with lemon curd and candied stone fruit. This was probably the oddest pairing, because the lemon curd made the acidity in the wine ridiculously high, to the point where it tasted like a sour warhead or other intense lemon sour candy. Honestly, I thought it was super fun, but others weren’t as thrilled.
2012 Blanc de Noirs has granny smith apple, raspberry, and hints of pastry crust with a lingering raspberry note and lower acidity. This had the best pairing of all the courses- a green olive pâté with pine nuts and fresh camenbert. The wine became even more intense and savory, the acidity jumped with the olive to leave a nice lingering taste, and all the notes in both were accentuated.
Célèbre is a slightly sweeter sparkling made from Riesling, and it has notes of apple, pear and honey with a nice acidity to balance the sweetness. This was paired with a pear and custard tart, which sadly I couldn’t eat because it had nuts in it. I ended up with just pears, which emphasized the pear in the wine, but didn’t do much else. Everyone else really seemed to love this pairing and said that it emphasized a spiciness in the wine that they didn’t notice before.
We ended with a final tasting on the first floor of the 1886 house, where we could try any wine from Dr. Frank and Salmon Run’s lineup.
Planning Your Visit
Hours: The 1886 Reserve Tasting Room is by appointment and only available during their tasting experiences. September’s is themed around Sparkling Wine, and October’s is themed around Harvest, where you can try wines directly from the barrel. These take place every weekend: Saturday at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m., and Sunday at 2 p.m.
Tasting Fee: $35 for non-members, $25 for Dr. Frank club members, which includes a tour of the 1886 property and house, two introductory wine tastes, four half glasses of sparkling wine, four small bites, and the opportunity to taste their full wine catalog.
Final thoughts? If you can, try to go to one of these tastings. Dr. Frank’s is an important landmark in the Finger Lakes, and doing a special tasting gives you the chance to learn more about the heritage of the winery. A big thank you to Allen, who led the experience and made it both informative and fun.