To grapegrowers in the Finger Lakes of the 1950s, Konstantin Frank probably seemed foolish. The conventional wisdom was that New York was suited for American varieties and hybrids; Europe's great vine types could not survive the cold. Frank planted them anyway, and proved they could thrive.
Born in Odessa in 1899, Frank earned his Ph.D. researching methods of growing Vitis vinifera in cold climates. After managing a vineyard company in Soviet Georgia, he emigrated to New York City. Moving upstate for a job at Cornell University's Geneva Experiment Station, Frank saw a wine industry built on bulk wines made from grapes such as Concord. He argued that vinifera was the future, and after testing his ideas, established Dr. Konstantin Frank's Vinifera Wine Cellars on Keuka Lake in 1962, where he successfully grew and vinified Riesling and Gewürztraminer. He showed that the Finger Lakes could produce quality wines and inspired vintners across the country. Frank died in 1985.