Better Than Chanukah Gelt

December 6, 2012

Four Gates Winery

Our Chanukah wish list including some kosher wines and a bunch of the great spirits we’ve recently enjoyed.

Chanukah gift-giving is really just an American transmogrification mimicking Xmas of the actual Jewish custom of giving Chanukah gelt (money). Still, we have nonetheless given in to modern convention and have compiled a list of a few things that we wouldn’t mind being given.

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Making Kosher Wine – In Italy

November 28, 2012

Glen Grant

Reviews of the Borgo Reale Chianti Vespertino 2009 and several Glen Grant Single Malt Scotch Whiskies.

There have been Jews in Italy since Judah Maccabee sent ambassadors to the Roman Senate in 161 BCE. Conditions have varied during the subsequent centuries depending upon the dispensation of various pontiffs and secular rulers. The ravages of World War II severely diminished Italian Jewish life but there still remains evidence of its vibrant culture including the magnificent Moorish-styled Great Synagogue of Florence and a smaller one in Siena. Like Jews everywhere, the Jews of Italy were influenced by the local conditions, customs and agricultural products. So it is interesting to speculate what types of grapes Italian Jews utilized to create their kosher wines.

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The “New Wine” For Jews

November 25, 2012

Covenant Solomon Lot 70

Reviews of the Covenant Solomon Lot 70 Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 and several SMWS single cask Scotch whiskies.

While wine has a pivotal role in Jewish life, whisky and other spirits, especially single malt Scotch whisky, have become quite the rage in shuls all across the country. Rare is the kiddush these days that does not offer at least a cheap single malt. (There are, of course, synagogues that are completely dry – but such institutions are wholly foreign to us – we mean, come on, “dry”? Really, why bother?) Reflecting this trend is the newly formed “Jewish Whisky Company,” an independent bottler that offers single cask whiskies under its “Single Cask Nation” label (; the first of these whiskies will soon be released, and likely reviewed here).

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Gift Guide For Wine Connoisseurs Offers Good Words, Good Cheer

November 21, 2012

Iconic Spirits

Some recently published books that would be perfect gifts for the wine-lovers on your list.

A veritable feast of new publications are this year’s recommendations for holiday gifts for wine lovers, beginning with “Iconic Spirits — An Intoxicating History,” by Mark Spivak, the former host of NPR’s “Uncorked” and a prolific writer on food, wine and spirits.

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Shaken, Not Stirred

November 14, 2012

Herzog Late Harvest Orange Muscat

A review of the Herzog Late Harvest Orange Muscat 2011 and a look at the Martini.

We are often asked how and why kosher wine in the United States began as sweet, syrupy drek. The simplest answer is that the Jewish immigrants who settled in the northeastern United States way back when discovered that the only locally available grapes suitable for wine production were American varietals like the Concord grape. The only way to make the wine both palatable and easy to produce, however, was to add a huge amount of sugar to the grape juice – it aided fermentation and improved the taste of the product.

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Hot Tips On Mevushal Wine

November 8, 2012


What is “Mevushal” anyway? Also a review of Dalton Safsufa Merlot 2009 and Famous Grouse Blended Scotch Whisky.

One of the most confusing aspects of kosher wine is the concept of yayin mevushal or “cooked” wine. The following discussion might seem academic, but we are continuously asked about this, so we thought a brief treatment is warranted. For a wine to be made kosher (according to Orthodox standards, and presuming here that all the ingredients, as well as the vineyard practices, already conform to Jewish legal requirements), it must be produced exclusively by Sabbath observant Jews.

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Cork It

October 30, 2012

Five Stones

A review of the Five Stones Shiraz 2010 and the SMWS # 23.72 Bruichladdich Single Malt Scotch.

One of the most beloved rituals in the world of wine snobbery is the extraction of the cork. Cork comes from the bark of the cork oak tree, or Quercus Suber that grows in Spain and Portugal. The use of cork as a closure for wine bottles began in ancient times (in Egypt and some parts of Asia, and then also in Greece and Rome), but it was very far from the closure of choice. The success of cork as a closure depends upon its tightly fitting into an opening with a relatively uniform diameter. So it was not until glass bottles were being made with more or less uniform openings, in the 17th century, that cork truly became the closure of choice.

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Chasidic Bootlegging

October 29, 2012

Four Roses Small Batch Limted Edition

A review of the Ramot Naftaly Barbera 2007 and the Four Roses Limited Edition Small Batch Bourbon for 2012.

A few years ago a 300-family Montreal chasidic congregation paid a $20,000 fine to the Quebec civil authorities. Its offense? Supplying their community with kosher wines.
This chasidic shul, Congregation Toldos Yakov Yosef Skver, was raided in 2009 by the organized-crime unit of the Quebec Police Department. Le Fuzz confiscated nearly 900 liters of kosher wines and spirits including banana liquor and peach schnapps. Several members of the shul and the congregation itself were charged with importing and distributing kosher wines that had not been obtained through the province’s alcohol regulatory commission, Societe des Alcools de Quebec (SAQ).

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Second Label Doesn’t Mean Second Rate

October 7, 2012

Tio Pepe Fino Sherry

A review of Yatir Red Wine 2007 and Tio Pepe Fino Sherry.

A great many wineries produce what is called a “second wine” or, more commonly these days, a “second label” in order to make use of grapes not selected for blending into their “first label” wine. This practice enables producers to be more selective in creating their “first label” wine without having to sacrifice quality for profit by devaluing their brand just to make use of excess grapes. This practice also allows them to diversify a little across price-points, and generate a second revenue stream – often to support greater investment in their “first label.” Selling wine at $100 a bottle is great, but if you also have quality wine to sale at $25 a bottle, you will likely sell more wine across both price points. This allows producers to harness their brand name and distribution network to make the most of their quality juice.

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