A review of some recently released Kosher Wines.
By Louis Marmon
Washington Jewish Week April 7, 2005
“Good kosher wine” is no longer an oxymoron. Due to increased demand for alternatives to the traditional sweet wines, the quality and variety of kosher wines has steadily improved. The wines available for this year’s Passover demonstrate that this trend is continuing.
For a wine to be designated kosher, the wine-making equipment can only be utilized for kosher wines and only kosher materials can be used during production. Shabbat-observant Jews supervise the entire process and no artificial colorings or preservatives are added. Kosher wine which will be handled by non-Jews is briefly heated to make it meshuval. Using current techniques, this does not affect the quality of the wine. Wines certified “kosher for Passover” do not come into contact with any unleaven materials during production.
Some wineries, especially in Israel, may also follow specific agriculture rules. An example is “shnat shmita” or “sabbatical year,” that mandates that the vineyard not be planted or harvested every seventh year. These requirements add to the already demanding aspects of both wine making and living an observant life. After 20 years, the California based kosher winery Gan Eden is closing after Passover and owner Craig Winchell cites as his primary reason the “difficulties in providing Jewish education” for his children in the winemaking region of Sebastopol in Sonoma County. Another incident that may affect the amount of kosher wine in the current market occurred at Napa Valley’s Hagafen Cellars when the entire production of the 2002 Syrah and 2003 Estate Pinot Noir was lost. Last June, vandals opened the outdoor tank valves during the night and the wine spilled onto the ground.
The good news is that there remains plenty of kosher for Passover wine available. One of the best wineries in Israel is Golan Heights Winery, producer of Golan, Yarden and Gamla wines. The Golan Moscato 2004 is slightly fizzy with pineapple and apple flavors, making it a great wine for the first cup of the seder. Also very good is the medium bodied Golan Cabernet Sauvignon 2002 with currant, berry and plum flavors. Consider serving the Gamla Chardonnay 2002 with melon and fig notes and the Yarden Mount Herman Red 2003, a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc that has berry and mild spice flavors. The Yarden Cabernet Sauvignon 2000 is excellent with plum and black cherry flavors.
Located in the Jerusalem Mountains is Domaine du Castel, which produces some of the finest wines in Israel. Their “C” Chardonnay 2003 is full-bodied and delicious with fig, apple and citrus flavors. Also very good is the Castel Grand Vin 2002, a full-bodied red wine with spicy cherry and plum notes.
Another excellent Israeli winery is Dalton located in the Upper Galilee. The Dalton Sauvignon Blanc Fume 2003 has pineapple and peach notes while the Dalton Unoaked Chardonnay 2004 is medium bodied with citrus and apple flavors. Dalton Canaan Sauvignon Blanc-Chardonnay-White Riesling 2003 is lighter and with crisp citrus flavors and a nice finish. The Dalton Canaan Red 2003, a blend of 50 percent Cabernet Sauvignon, 30 percent Merlot and 20 percent Shiraz has soft tannins and plum and berry flavors.
Also located in the Upper Galilee is Galil Mountain Winery that produces the very good Yiron 2002, a full-bodied blend of Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon with blackberry and cherry flavors. The Tishbi Winery is in the town of Binyamin and their Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon 2003 is an easy-drinking wine with plum and currant notes.
Kosher wines are also made in other countries. From Spain, try the Cordoba Alba Tempranillo 2003, a rich fruit-filled wine with blackberry and mild chocolate flavors. An excellent value from Italy is the Langhe Nebbiolo 1998, which is a well-balanced, flavorful wine with a mild spice finish. Hagafen has produced a very good Cabernet Sauvignon 1999 and Merlot 2002 while white wine lovers should try the Hagafen Potter Valley White Riesling 2004. Also from California, the Herzog Lodi Zinfandel 2001 has great fruit and structure with characteristic spiciness.