It is with great relief and joy that we thank Hashem for keeping us in life to reach this Yom Tov season. While I am grateful to feel safe most days, it has been a year of frightening moments paired with immense communal losses. We bring in our new year with our family units curtailed or smaller than usual, in vastly different ways and with many details altered from last Rosh Hashanah.
To that end, our wine tasting group expressed the hope that we all may more fully embrace the Shehecheyanu bracha this year, truly thanking Hashem for bringing us to this new year, and we ask Hashem that it be a year full of blessings, healing and infinite opportunities for kindness and goodness.
With that in mind, The Jewish Link tasting group is pleased to present choices of single varietals or unique blends that we feel are worthy of our Rosh Hashanah seudot and beyond, to truly welcome the season of our rejoicing.
The Ramon Cardova Albarino 2018 is an extraordinary treat; a peppy, delicious and tart white wine with layered scents of lime, orange and green apple. It is so clearly not a typical chardonnay or sauvignon blanc. It’s clear that the Spanish albarino grape is something different and special, and generally rare for kosher consumers to get the opportunity to enjoy. It’s produced in Rias Baixas, on the southeastern coast of Galicia, Spain. If you haven’t had a kosher albarino this year (and you probably haven’t, as there are few on the market), we encourage you to buy it, say your bracha and be blown away by this great $20, non-mevushal bottle. “It’s forcing my mouth into a smile,” raved Eva. “This is a wine to make a Shehecheyanu on,” added Jeff. But don’t just take our word for it: This wine scored 91 points out of 100 from several panels and reviewers online.
The Segal Wild Fermentation Chardonnay 2019 was a “fun, new wine” made by Barkan/Segal’s head winemaker Ido Lewinson, Israel’s newest (and the second-ever) master of wine. While this was the youngest wine of our tasting, what was special about this wine was the architecture: the very interesting nose, featuring lip-smacking scents of lychee, honeydew melon and red apple with a midpalate of citrus and some spice at the end, something like cloves or vanilla. “It’s nothing like a regular buttery California chardonnay,” said Greg. “No tannins at all,” said Daphna, referring to the fact that there was no bitterness or astringency to the wine, though it was not exactly a sweet wine. This retails for approximately $22.
We are always looking for wines that will “help out” those who enjoy sweet wines like Bartenura to expand their palates while not shocking them (or sending them away screaming) with something too dry. The Pacifica Evan’s Collection Washington Riesling 2017 really fits the bill. Moscato drinkers will likely recognize in this wine some fascinating differences from moscato in the riesling grape varietal. This wine has very fruit-forward aromas of pear and sweet lemon candy. On the palate, it’s round and subtlety sweet, with a teeny bit of acid on the end. Ari, who said he favors Hagafen Winery’s multiple levels of California rieslings, noted how different it was to try a Washington state riesling, but said this would be an ideal sweet wine on which to make Rosh Hashanah kiddush. “It’s an ‘upgraded’ sweet wine. More grown up than the blue bottle, but still entry level and accessible,” said Daphna. At $15 to $17, it’s accessible monetarily as well.
Another real treat and definitely a major Shehecheyanu option was the Tabor Single Vineyard Marselan 2016. This is a new grape for many kosher wine drinkers; it’s a French varietal that is a cross between grenache and cabernet sauvignon, and there are not too many 100% kosher marselans. “It’s “different from what we are used to, but delicious,” said Yeruchum. It has a beautiful vibrant purple color, a nice nose of sour cherry, dark berries and is very tannic, meaning one feels the dryness on the tongue at the midpalate and it keeps you coming back for another taste. From Tabor’s Revadim vineyard, which also has yielded Tabor’s delicious Tannat wine, it’s nice to see how this ecological vineyard is faring as they continue to create interesting and new offerings for the kosher-keeping community. “It’s so tannin-ey that I can’t be sure how it will fare in five years,” Yeruchum added, noting that this is definitely a “drink-now or for the next one to two years” bottle. This wine retails for around $40.
The Galil Mountain Winery Yiron 2017 is really an example of the best wines Israel have to offer. The flagship of Yarden’s Golan Heights budget line, the Yiron is a velvety Bordeaux blend that changes slightly each year, but “each year Yiron is a good wine. Drinking the Yiron is like visiting an old friend,” said Yeruchum. It has a rich nose of black fruit with herbal notes and vanilla on the finish. This year the Yiron contains 45% cabernet sauvignon, 34% merlot, 7% petit verdot and 7% syrah and was aged for 16 months in French oak. This blend is just delightful, and that’s why we included it in this tasting, which generally contains 100% single varietals. It’s that kind of wine that belongs on a Yom Tov table and we hope you enjoy it. This retails at a range of around $33 to $45.
For those looking to treat their palate to a classic Israeli wine made in the most natural of conditions, the Dalton Single Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2016 is grown in an organic vineyard and is a true success story of the Dalton line. This was a “really nice, thick, chewy” and a deep, dark cabernet, said Daphna. It has extremely soft, round tannins and shares many characteristics of a Napa Cab, showing a mouthful of dark berry and a bit of menthol/licorice at the midpalate and finish. It’s essentially drinkable now and will be great for drinking for at least three more years, mused Greg. Approximately $45.
Finally, and as I am truly saving the most exciting for last, I sort of want to rave about the Chateau Piada 2016 Sauternes. Made from semillon grapes, this white, sweet liquid gold-colored bordeaux wine is an incredible choice for Rosh Hashanah, either alongside a chocolate or honey dessert or as part of your “leb ehrlich” simanim appetizer of liver or foie gras. While I was told that a Sauternes should really be held and not opened for at least 10 years, we were thrilled with this nose of pineapple and lime, passionfruit and other citrus zestiness, and at the midpalate and finish, a beautiful scent of fuzzy ripe apricot. If you have the extra funds (and it is about $55 now), buy a second bottle to save for another year, as its value will only grow, as will its depth and character. If you are looking for an impressive sweet dessert wine to savor over a two-day chag, this is most certainly the one to choose. Serve it cold.
As always, with any wines we recommend, we hope our readers will enjoy them responsibly, cognizant that our children are present and ever-watchful. Shana tova umetuka!
By Elizabeth Kratz