A huge mea culpa…even a mea maxima culpa from Trader Bill on this beautiful (snowing in Minneapolis) Thanksgiving Day. May a pox be on the stores like WalMart that feel the need to be open on this day that should reserved for family and friends.
This could be a huge season for internet sales as not only are many stores posting their sale items today – some with free shipping – Amazon has hired 100,000 (not a typo) part-time employees for the weekend (at least). That number alone is a large company, right?
Now to the reasons TB hasn’t updated the blog in a month: how could he have writers cramp…er…block…after that 4,200 mile journey to visit wineries in New York, Vermont, and Ontario Canada (sorting through the ones on the way, Wisconsin, Ohio, Pennsylvania will take some time and possibly another trip as only wineries that make vines from vitis vinifera vines are what we are about (i.e. no fruit wines, but will consider some who use cold weather grapes like the Marquette).
So besides having work and personal things to tend to, I read two incredible books, the first on the wine warehouse fire at Mare Island, where I was stationed. That book turned out to be much more: a history of winemaking in California from a very interesting perspective of the author! More than that it reveals the dark, sordid side of the wine industry. Highly recommended: Tangled Vines by Francis Dinkelspiel (available on Amazon Prime in hardbound OR as I would recommend, a Kindle edition).
The second book was given to me by Meagan Frank at her family’s winery in the Finger Lakes region of New York; Finger Lakes Wine and the Legacy of Dr. Konstantin Frank, by Tom Russ. I couldn’t put it down as it is rare that one reads a book on a family history that is objectively written, i.e. warts and all. Dr. Konstantin Frank was the East Coast version of the great Andre Tchelistchieff, and might have been as well or better known were it not for two things.
First, the obvious: he was in New York state where he immigrated to from Germany/Russia (the Ukraine), also like Tchelistchieff. They became good friends and collaborated from time to time. Both had even more impact on the business by training promising young people who later became winemakers on their own thanks to the recommendations provided to these students who excelled in the view of these experts.
TB had the privilege of meeting Tchelistchieff in San Francisco back in 1981 at a Bordeaux wine tasting he and Anthony Dias Blue held – illustrating how primitive the California wine industry was even at that time. Fifteen years after Robert Mondavi, followed by Alice Waters and Julia Child, piqued the interest in California wines, only 30 people were present! For Andre the list of protege’s is long because of the rapid growth of the California wine industry, while the most memorable name associated with Dr. Frank is Kevin Zraly who went on to start the Windows on the World Wine Course and School, and at a very young age of 25 and became wine director of the famous Windows on the World restaurant that sadly disappeared with the twin towers in 2001.
The second is that Dr. Frank was a genius…however he was opposed to American wine grapes (correctly as they are not wine grapes unless you consider Welch’s wine, yet even today most of the grapes in New York are of the Concord variety…it takes a lot of grapes to meet the needs of Welch’s. Furthermore, he was violently opposed to French hybrids, and crusaded against them as they could cause disease. This theory was refuted by science but even then he continued to preach against them openly, thus alienating some recognized East Coast winemakers. Part of this flaw was the need to be in total control at all times, making him a great teacher but not allowing those who stayed on, including one of his sons and later the other. Finally, he was forced to let go of control of the winery and today it remains in the family with grandson Fred Frank as president, and now his daughter Meaghan learning the business (she gave me a private tasting and I found her both charming and knowledgeable).
Here is a link to the complete book, but you should consider buying it: Dr. Konstantin Frank
Ok, TB so that is what you were doing, but that is no excuse. Besides personal issues noted above, reading the Finger Lakes book threw me for a loop. I had intended to begin with Long Island wineries (don’t turn up your nose!), both North and South Fork, then proceed to the Hudson River, then the Finger Lakes which have many different microclimes and soil conditions. From there to Ontario and the great ice wine producers, and again making some surprisingly good wines. Due to the book, I feel I have to begin with Dr. Frank’s winery and the Finger lakes, then Long Island, and finally the Canadian wines. So watch for blog updates and if you are still with TB, click on follow so you will know when there is an update (nothing is worse than going to a blog or website that has not been updated, right? Right! Unless what the blogger says is a waste of your time. TB will do his best to keep them interesting…and shorter than this one!
Happy Thanksgiving to all of you, friends and readers!
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