Willy Frank, a tireless promoter of New York state wine, died of a stroke Tuesday, March 7 in Naples, Fla. at the age of 80.
Willibald “Willy” Konstantin Frank was the son of Dr. Konstantin Frank, the pioneering Finger Lakes winemaker who taught Eastern growers how to cultivate vinifera grapes in the icebox winters of upstate New York.
At Dr. Konstantin Frank’s Vinifera Wine Cellars on Keuka Lake, the winery his father established in 1962, Frank labored tirelessly to create a viable business while embellishing the reputation of his father and proselytizing for his wines and those of his neighbors. He visited retailers and distributors on a non-stop schedule and he entered and attended more wine competitions and spoke at more culinary events than just about any winemaker in the United States.
Frank built his first career as a salesman of photographic equipment, traveling weekends from his home on Long Island to the Finger Lakes to help his father.
In 1980, while still working part time for his father, Frank established Chateau Frank, specializing in sparkling wines. Dr. Frank was more viticulturalist and scientist than businessman, so when he died in 1985 Frank inherited a cellarful of questionable wines, many without labels or identification and more vinegar than drinkable beverage. He sold off the lot for pennies on the case and began putting his father’s house in order.
Applying the business skills and promotion techniques he had learned over the years, Frank rebuilt a rundown winery, making it into a leader in New York State.
He is survived by his wife Margrit, son Frederic, daughter Barbara, sisters Hilda Volz and Lena Schelling and five grandchildren.
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