Monday, January 24, 2022

It’s an exciting time for our Jewish Link Wine Guide tasting group, as we gear up for our winter tastings. Our plans progress toward presenting the second annual Jewish Link Wine Guide before Pesach this year. We hope that the COVID restrictions that were in place last year will be significantly lessened so our judges will be able to taste wine in less restricted circumstances. We are also thrilled that our first annual guide was so well-received that we are welcoming an ever-increasing group of winemakers and distributors to our rankings.

In fact, we have been deep in training over the last weeks, going over story ideas and assignments for the magazine and calibrating our palates for the larger tastings. We also combined our wine tastings for pre-Thanksgiving and Chanukah, with an eye to recommending a number of newer wines for our readers to enjoy. Feel free to refer back to the article I published two weeks ago, “Thanksgiving Wines for Both the Budget Conscious and Big Spenders” (November 11, 2021), and see that as a complement to this article.

We continue to be concerned with keeping prices affordable for our readers, and while we don’t always succeed at the elusive QPR (quality price ratio), we are hitting it out of the ballpark by recommending the Elvi Cava Brut ($18.99). This is a bubbly, lovely dry white wine, and for those unfamiliar with Cava, this is a Champagne-style beverage specifically from Spain, made in the traditional Champagne method. In a recent tasting with Elvi’s David Cohen Aletà, he said that the fact that the bubbles aren’t so overwhelming encourages the underlying delicious wine flavors to shine. This is a unique mix, for the kosher consumer certainly, of the Spanish grapes macabeo, xarelto (or possibly tzarelo, in Spanish) and perelada. It’s also half the price of any kosher French Champagne, so this is something to really enjoy and savor when you are celebrating the miracle of Chanukah. This is a very easy-to-drink bubbly and it’s great as an aperitif before a meal or to serve with white meat or fish. In fact, any wine from Elvi—the first kosher winery to operate in Spain since before the expulsion of the Jews in 1492—we can strongly recommend, with our highest regards.

Our team also recently tasted a vertical—the same wine from five different vintage years—of Herzog Special Reserve Russian River Chardonnay ($32.99). This is a soft, oaky, buttery chardonnay that is likely best at the 2018 and 2019 vintages right now, because the fruit and the finish are perfectly in balance. For those who like to serve dairy latkes with sour cream and cheeses, we can’t think of a better accompaniment. This is a truly beautiful California wine and an absolute jewel among Herzog’s excellent reserve selections.

We are also very happy to recommend the Netofa Tal Qassar Red 2019 ($29.99), a Rhône-style blend of grenache and syrah. This Israeli wine made by Pierre Miodownik has been aged for 10 months in French oak barrels, and is really a lovely wine designed to be enjoyed with food. It has a fragrant nose, a lighter color than many Israeli reds, and a more gentle soft mouthfeel. We would definitely recommend pairing this with roasted chicken or turkey with rosemary or other green herbs.

We greatly enjoyed the Israeli Lueria Barbera 2019 ($42.99), a very welcome new wine, with deep, dark red fruit flavors, available at Filler Up in Teaneck and imported by Red Garden. It has medium to lower acidity but high tannins, which gives it a beautiful balance. For those who love Israeli cabs, this is a great different grape to try out. It has a nice finish and an ideal mouthfeel and nose of cherry and blackberry. This would be a terrific pairing for barbecued or slow-cooked red meats and charcuterie.

The same food pairings go for Segal Whole Cluster Syrah 2018 ($29.99), which is slightly more fruit forward than the Lueria but no less enjoyable. It’s an Israeli fruit bomb, but we really enjoy its slightly peppery spice and strongly recommend it with smoked meats, including turkey and jerky.

The Twin Suns Special Edition Mourvèdre 2018 ($37.99) is our recommendation as a pairing for steak and roasted red meats. This is chewier and bolder than wines like the restrained Tal Qassar, and is a “typical Weiss brothers production,” according to our team members who are fans of Shirah Wines. The Twin Suns wines are a joint project between the Weiss brothers and The River Wines. We see this as a “Shabbos Chanukah” wine; it would go great with brisket and latkes.

Whatever wines you enjoy, please accept our best wishes for a Chanukah sameach!

By Elizabeth Kratz

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