Some suggestions for Passover wines.
By Louis Marmon
Washington Jewish Week April 10, 2008
The four cups of wine served at Pesach gives each guest the opportunity to expand their wine horizons. The significant increases in quality kosher wine producers around the globe and their willingness to try different varietals have enhanced the choices available for this year’s sedarim. This improvement is most readily apparent in Israel, which has been the recent recipient of some very favorable wine press. But it can also be seen in the kosher wines from locations as diverse as California, Spain, Italy, France, Australia and New Zealand.
White wines tend to be lower in alcohol which helps reduce the sleepiness associated with the long meal. Many of our European ancestors only had white wine at their sedarim because of the notorious “blood libel” that falsely accused Jews of using Christian blood for their ceremonies.
For the first cup, consider the light and slightly sweet non-vintage Villa Santero Moscato ($ 8), with a touch of bubbles and citrus flavors. Another semisweet wine is the Hagafen Lake Country White Riesling 2007 ($ 18) with its peach and pineapple notes. A bit drier choice is the Baron Herzog Sauvignon Blanc 2006 ($ 10) produced from grapes grown in California’s Central Coast region. Much fruitier than its New Zealand cousins, it has delightful melon and lychee flavors and a nice finish. The Gamla Sauvignon Blanc 2006 ($ 14) is a perennial favorite with crisp tropical fruit and fig flavors; the Yatir Sauvignon Blanc 2006 ($ 20) is also very good with green apple and citrus notes.
For the second glass, pour something with a bit more body such as the tasty Goose Bay Pinot Noir 2006 ($ 20) from New Zealand’s South Island. Strawberry and raspberry flavors predominate with a good balance and the structure to stand up to the lighter foods in the beginning of the meal. If you would prefer to stick with white wines and are willing to try something a bit different, serve the floral scented Yarden Golan Heights Viognier 2005 ($ 15 ) that has pear and peach notes, or the tangy melon and grapefruit flavored S’forno Pinot Grigio 2006 ($ 9).
Alternatives for the Chardonnay lovers are the well-structured Ella Valley Vineyards Chardonnay 2006 ($ 23), which tastes of pears and lemons, or the fruitier Recanati Chardonnay 2006 ($ 12), with mango aromas, pineapples in the middle and a slight oakiness at the end. The Barkan Chardonnay 2006 ($ 9) is a real bargain with its good fruit flavors and a surprisingly extended finish. Another consistently first-rate choice is the apple scented Hagafen Chardonnay 2006 ($ 19), which has layers of citrus and apricots, along with a touch of spice.
Wines with more structure and body are appropriate for the third cup of wine. Consider the Binyamina Special Reserve Shiraz 2005 ($ 19), with plum and spicy red berry fruit, or the Dalton Syrah Reserve 2005 ($ 33), containing 10 % Viognier, which adds a floral component to the peppery dark fruit and long finish. Herzog Special Reserve Syrah Edna Valley 2004 ($ 29) is wonderfully complex, containing dark plum, spicy blackberry and chocolate at the end. Another excellent choice is Yatir Cabernet-Merlot-Shiraz 2005 ($ 28), with red berry, cherry and spice leading into a remarkably prolonged and elegant finish.
The last cup of wine can go in one of two directions. The first is to stick with full-bodied red wines such as the tasty Galil Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon 2006 ($ 13), with earthy blackberry and dark fruit flavors, or a softer choice like the medium-bodied Tabor Adama Merlot Volcanic Soil 2005 ($ 20), with plum, red berry and truffle notes. Also pleasant is the Binyamina Cabernet Sauvignon Teva 2006 ($ 13), a medium-bodied and nicely balanced effort that has blueberries and cherries leading into oak and chocolate during the ending.
Another strategy is to end the seder on a sweet note with a dessert wine. The Carmel Late Harvest Gewurztraminer Sha’al 2005 ($ 15) is simply delicious with nicely balanced peach, apple, honey and spice flavors. Another well-made effort is the Yarden Heightswine 2004 ($ 21), a rich, slightly spicy wine with pear and apple notes. The exceptional Tzora Or Dessert Wine 2006 ($ 27) has a bit of mint tagging along with the luscious honey, pineapple and lemon that leads into the very long rich finish. For something a bit less sweet but still tasty and nicely balanced, try the Baron Herzog Late Harvest Chenin Blanc 2004 ($ 16) with its honey, apple and melon flavors.