If you’ve taken a dive into the kosher wine world, it’s likely that you’ve heard the name Yossie Horwitz. The corporate lawyer and father of five has been making his mark on the industry for 32 years and counting, with a number of significant accomplishments, most notably the creation of the Rosh Chodesh Club concept, as well as the establishment of “Yossie’s Corkboard,” an online forum for kosher wine complete with a newsletter distributed to over 11,000 readers. Horwitz is also famous at The Jewish Link as the founding judge of the annual Jewish Link Wine Guide—and, ahead of its publication last week, The Jewish Link’s own Moshe Kinderlehrer and Elizabeth Kratz welcomed Horwitz on their podcast to share about his origins and the significance of wine for kosher consumers.
Growing up in Israel, Horwitz rarely had exposure to wine from his parents, except for kiddush on Shabbat. That is, until a co-worker of his father’s brought a bottle of kosher Bordeaux to the Passover Seder when Horwitz was just 16, leading him to discover a wine store in Jerusalem owned by Avi Ben. Ben took the young Horwitz under his wing, allowing him to participate in weekly wine tastings. Shortly thereafter, Horwitz connected with the preeminent Israeli wine critic Daniel Rogov through Rogov’s wine forum and had the opportunity to accompany him and others from the group on visits to wineries around the country.
“It was something I could really sink my teeth into,” Horwitz shared of his initial interest in wine. “It’s never been a professional career for me, but some might say it’s a borderline obsession.”
Though Horwitz works a demanding job as a lawyer, he has poured energy into his love of wine for more than three decades. “If you love something enough, you make time for it.” He added that he views his role in this world as an educator on kosher wine, and especially enjoys the important role it plays in bringing people together.
“I think wine should be an integral part of everyone’s life,” said Horwitz. “Wine is certainly something that is intertwined with religious observance; it’s an elevated beverage which has a kedusha to it. It also serves as a social lubricant that brings people together in an age when so many are focused on differences.”
Horwitz’s mission to bring people together through wine manifested about 10 years ago in the creation of the Rosh Chodesh Club, which is now a global phenomenon involving groups of wine enthusiasts who bring their own bottles to share with each other. Horwitz explained that part of the enjoyment of wine is sharing it with people who can appreciate it, and he often found himself rummaging through his personal collection to find bottles that would be appreciated by his regular Shabbat guests, to no avail.
“I had plenty of wine, but I was depriving myself on the holiest day of the week designed for enjoyment, because my Shabbat friends wouldn’t value it in the same way as me.” Using a concept from the wine writers of The Wall Street Journal known as “Open That Wine Bottle Night,” Horwitz decided to create a setting where he could share his personal collection with like-minded aficionados who would appreciate it, while sharing their own wine as well. He reached out to a number of more local wine-loving friends and told them that if they were to participate in the new Rosh Chodesh Club, they would have to bring a bottle of wine that was at least seven years past vintage. And combined with phenomenal cooking from his friend YC, Horwitz had instant success on his hands.
“I could talk about the RCC for quite some time; it’s really my baby and it really has evolved,” he shared, noting that now there are 32 RCCs across the globe. “The RCC has created a significant sense of community for wine lovers around the world as well as lifelong friendships which have been formed over these dinners. Other than my children, it’s one of the things I am most proud of to date.”
And it seems that Horwitz has a knack for creating a widespread love for wine, demonstrated by the impressive distribution of his weekly newsletter, “Yossie’s Wine Recommendations,” as part of the “Yossie’s Corkboard” forum. What began as a list of wine suggestions to 250 people ahead of Passover back in 2005 is now a flourishing newsletter received by over 11,000 readers. “The growth of the newsletter really reflects the growth of the kosher wine world,” said Horwitz.
Some years after creating his newsletter, Horwitz was asked by his friend Michael Dorf, the owner of City Winery, to help create a wine guide for The Jewish Week. Horwitz worked tirelessly as the founding judge of The Jewish Week’s Wine Guide for 10 years, and helped relaunch this concept for The Jewish Link three years ago, working with our other Wine Guide judges to improve the system for judging and rankings.
“Now, the tastings are closer to my house!” joked Horwitz, who moved to Teaneck a year and a half ago.
In his many years of experience in the kosher wine world, Horwitz has seen significant changes to the availability of kosher wines, as well as the tastes and preferences of kosher wine consumers.
“Every observant family needs wine,” he explained. “There is a touch of alcohol in the kedusha of every single home. The fact that every religious person is a potential consumer of kosher wine makes it a very unique market. And it really keeps getting better and better.”
Listen to the full interview wherever you get your podcasts, or on our YouTube page at @jewishlinknews.
By Channa Fischer