Tuesday, November 30, 2021

The Jewish Link Tasting Group had a wonderful time, as always, tasting an ever-increasing array of kosher wines in advance of our upcoming holiday feasts for Thanksgiving. Turkey pairings are notoriously tricky, so we took our job seriously. We finalized our recommendations with a couple of great chardonnays, both very different from one other, and a few other solid, food-friendly whites and reds that we are sure people would generally enjoy along with their seasonal meals.

We also continue to be very conscious about affordability, and therefore try very hard to recommend wines under the $30 price point, and ideally, under the $25 price point, which is a cost we know is really at the high end as a “modest weekly Shabbat purchase.” However, some of my readers have specifically asked about recommendations for higher-end wines as Thanksgiving pairings. Sometimes one needs impressive choices for wine-loving guests who may not yet be in-the-know about the amazing world of kosher wines. To that end, we have covered both price point ranges by including two suggestions for higher end wines at the end of this article.

So without further ado, on to the recommendations:

We greatly enjoyed the Israeli Yaffo Image Chardonnay 2020 ($29.99), available exclusively on kosherwine.com. This is a lovely fresh, crisp wine with notes of nectarine and citrus, with no sense of oak at all. It’s a really easy-to-drink, medium-bodied wine that has a balanced, fruity finish. In contrast to this chardonnay, we also recommend the Goose Bay Chardonnay 2019 ($23.99), from New Zealand. This wine has some citrus and fresh fruity acidity, but it also is super-buttery from aging on the lees (a method that adds dairy-tasting notes of butter and cream to a white wine). We should note that there are also still inventories in local kosher wine stores of the Goose Bay Chardonnay 2016, at about a $16 price point. This is a great deal, so don’t be fooled by the lower price; it’s a good buy and a great pairing for turkey. It may lack a little of the crisp acidity of the 2019 but it makes up for it with its “old school oaky chardonnay, like butta,” presentation, according to our wine guide judge Jeff Katz.

We also feel that no one can go wrong with Vitkin White Israeli Journey 2020 ($24.99). This is a classy white that includes an unexpected yet masterful blend of white grapes: 45% colombard, 50% grenache blanc, and bits of chenin blanc, viognier and gewurztraminer. This is a beautiful blend, with a beautiful nose of flowers and lemon, aged in French oak. It will pair very well with any turkey or chicken dishes. Don’t serve this one too cold; that might get in the way of your enjoyment of all the flavors. Maybe remove it from the fridge around 20-30 minutes before serving.

A great and very affordable turkey-friendly red is Pacifica Evan’s Collection Columbia Gorge Pinot Noir 2019 ($20). This Oregon-made wine is extremely well balanced and a great example of what cool-climate American regions are doing with pinot noir, a notoriously difficult grape to grow. The Pacifica label is owned by Philip and Sheryl Jones, who also own Goose Bay in New Zealand, so it was a lot of fun to taste and recommend wines from both of these regions in the same article. The fruit is this pinot noir is very restrained, with sort of muted, unripe berry notes. It’s a classic cool-climate pinot, and very easy to drink. Very food-friendly.

Another solid choice for the red wine lovers among us is the Ramon Cordova Rioja Crianza 2018 ($21.99). This delicious wine is made from 100% tempranillo, and while we know it is definitely not a natural fit with turkey, we also know that not everyone serves turkey on Thanksgiving! We suspect anyone serving red meat this season would enjoy having this awesome bottle at their fingertips. Not to work too far forward into our next article, but this is a great bottle for latke and brisket season as well. This Spanish wine is just so vibrant, with strong notes of berry, plum and spice. This wine was aged for 12 months in American oak, which definitely gives us that vanilla and autumn spice goodness.

We also want to shout out some love for Netofa LaTour Red ($29.99), mainly because our wine guide judge Yeruchum Rosenberg said it’s so good that we can’t taste this wine and not put it in the article, even if it has nothing to do with turkey or Thanksgiving. This Rhone-style blend of syrah and mourvedre is grown in Netofa’s vineyards in the lower Galilee, an area known for having one of the best grape-growing climates in Israel. This elegant, chewy, delectable red wine, made by kosher wine’s living legend Pierre Miodownik, was aged in French oak, as is his tendency. It is truly a pleasure to drink and a beautiful example of Israeli wine making at its finest. This is a fruity, medium-bodied wine with lovely tannins, and is a perfect accompaniment to roasted red meat or winter beef stews.

Now for the big spenders: The Paul Briard Champagne ($59.99), available exclusively at kosherwine.com, is a natural fit for turkey and Thanksgiving generally. This is a really nice, dry bubbly wine with bread, biscuit and brioche aromas, perfect for welcoming guests as they arrive or to enjoy along with the traditional turkey and trimmings. However, considering that it is an actual champagne (wine) from Champagne (France), the price point is higher than your average prosecco, but hey, it’s Thanksgiving… Let’s live a little!

Finally, to really wow your guests who might try to decline dessert, knock their socks off with a dessert wine. I strongly recommend the Yaacov Oryah Skin Macerated Late Harvest Viognier 2020 ($44.99), which is available, at long last, on liquidkosher.com. This wine is not just unbelievably balanced, with strong notes of honey and lychee, but also just absurdly, delicately delicious. It’s easy to appreciate, but has a lot of complexity. Yaacov Oryah, the longtime winemaker for Psagot, is a cult hero in Israel for his “orange wines,” and I know I’ve said it before, but I will say it again: If you only have the chance to try one Oryah wine this year, make it this one.

By Elizabeth Kratz


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