Let the feasts begin. In the next twenty-five days, with ten days of Yom Tov and Shabbat, there will be 18 festive meals (19 if you count the meal before Yom Kippur). For most observant Jews, that will mean a lot of wines and a lot of meats–including that staple of the Ashkenazi holiday table, the brisket. Brisket is a very wine friendly meat, which can be paired well with almost any medium or full bodied dry red, such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, or Carignan. However, one of my favorite choices to accompany brisket (particularly when prepared in the traditional Ashkenazi fashion) has always been Syrah.
Syrah (also known as Shiraz) is a black grape believed to have emerged from France’s Rhone Valley more than two thousand years ago, and today is one of the world’s most popular varietal wine grapes. When well made, Syrah wines tend to have smoky, peppery, cherry and blackberry flavors–which is just the sort flavor profile that can help enliven a heavy meat like braised brisket.
Rosh Hashanah seems like a good time to review the current crop of kosher Syrahs and Syrah-based blends. Here are a few that would be excellent choices to serve with your holiday brisket.
Domaine Netofa, Latour Netofa, Lower Galilee, 2011: Pierre Miodownick, Royal Wine Corp’s chief winemaker in Europe, opened his own winery, Domaine Netofa, in 2009. At Netofa, Miodownick has exclusively planted grapes from the Rh?ne Valley, Spain and Portugal, which he believes are very well suited for terroir of Israel.
Latour Netofa, the winery’s premier wine, is an inky dark-garnet, full-bodied, Rh?ne-style blend of Syrah and Mourv?dre. The nose is dense, with elements of smoky oak, cedar, cherries, blackberries, pipe tobacco, and chocolate. Look for flavors of cherries, blackberries, black pepper, oak, smoke, and smoked meat, with hints of plums, cranberries, and herbs de Provence. While drinking very well now, the wine is still tight and needs a couple of years to fully develop. Best 2016-2021. Score A- ($33.74. Available at Linwood Wine and Liquor Company, 102 Linwood Plaza, Fort Lee,  944-5504).
Tulip, Reserve Syrah, Upper Galilee, 2010: Founded in 2003, Tulip Winery was the brainchild of then business school undergraduate Roy Yitzhaki. The winery is located on the grounds of a community for developmentally challenged adults, and regularly employs more than two-dozen members of the community who work in the vineyards, at the bottling plant, and at the winery’s visitors’ center. Made from a blend of 95% Syrah, and 5% Petit Vedot, which was aged for eighteen months in French oak, the Reserve Syrah is a full-bodied, garnet-colored, wine. Look for flavors and aromas of cherries, plums, oak, mocha, and smoke, with hints of violets and leather on the mid-palate, and a lingering note of black pepper on the finish. Drink now until 2018. Score A-/B+. ($39.00. Available at FillerUp Kosher Wines, 174 West Englewood Ave, Teaneck,  862-1700)
Montefiore, Syrah, Judean Hills, 2010: Montefiore Winery was founded in 2010 as a negociant winery (i.e., they purchase their grapes and contract for the production of their wine) by siblings Rachel and David Montefiore–descendants of the heir and nephew of Moses Montefiore, the renown 19th Century Jewish philanthropist–in partnership with Arnon Geva, an alumnus of one of Israel’s leading wineries, Domaine Castel. Montefiore’s 2010 Syrah is a dark-garnet, full-bodied, wine, made from 100% Syrah grapes, which was aged for fourteen months in French oak. Its herbal bouquet is redolent of star anise, fennel, cherries, plums, raspberries, mocha and smoke. Look for flavors of cherries, blackberries, vanilla, mocha, and anise, with a long finish of cherry brandy and grains of paradise, all on a woodsy background of oak, cedar, spicy tobacco, and old leather. Well-structured, with an abundance of powdery tannins, this wine should drink well until the end of the decade. Score A-/B+. ($44.00. Available at FillerUp Kosher Wines, 174 West Englewood Ave, Teaneck,  862-1700).
Agua Dulce, Syrah, Sierra Pelona Valley, 2010. This wine is made by Craig Winchell, the onetime owner/winemaker of the late, lamented, Gan Eden Winery. In 2010 Winchell was tapped to lead the winemaking team at Los Angeles County’s Auga Dulce Winery, and in this position Winchell began to produce a small amount of kosher wine. (Earlier this year the winery discontinued it kosher line.) Medium to full bodied, with a bright-garnet color, Winchell’s Syrah has a big nose of cherries, red currants, smoky oak, fennel, pencil shavings and brier. The flavor is dominated by cherries but has notes of black pepper, oak, violets, chocolate, and herbs. This Syrah also has a nice level of tannin. Best now until 2017 or perhaps longer. Score A-/B+ (This wine is not well distributed, but is available online for $33.99 at www.kosherwine.com.)
Please note: Wines are scored on an ‘A’-‘F’ scale where ‘A’ is excellent, ‘B’ is good, ‘C’ is flawed, ‘D’ is very flawed, and ‘F’ is undrinkable. Prices listed reflect the price at the retailer mentioned.
By Gamliel Kronemer