April 19, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Savouring Some Special Sips: Six Delightful Wines for the Pesach Festivities

In the traditional Jewish liturgy, Passover is referred to as the “Festival of Matzoh, the time of our freedom.” And during the Seder, that ceremonial celebration of the Jewish people’s freedom, no single food is more symbolic of freedom than the four glasses of wine that are imbibed. While matzoh is the “bread of affliction,” wine is the drink of free men.

Since wine does play such a symbolic role during the Seder, there are many Jewish wine lovers who serve their very best bottles of wine for the four cups. However, I take a different approach: During the Seder I like to serve more medium bodied, easy drinking, reds (this year’s choices likely include City Winery’s Bubbie, and Terra di Seta’s Chianti Classico), but for the other six yom tov meals I’ll rummage through my cellar to find some of those special wines that I’ve been looking forward to re-tasting.

Though all very good, the wines that I chose for this Passover’s yom tov meals are not necessarily the best wine that I’ve tasted in recent years—they’re simply wines that I found interesting, or really suited to my palate, on first tasting. Below are a few of those wines I’d like to revisit during this Passover.

The Whites:

Laurent Perrier, Champagne, Brut L-P, non-vintage: Passover is a celebration of freedom, and I know of no better way to celebrate anything than with a glass of Champagne. Laurent Perrier consistently makes one of the best (and alas one of the most expensive) kosher champagnes on the market. This dark, straw-colored sparkler, with its rich mousse of tiny bubbles, has a rich mineral content and a luxurious mouth feel. Look for flavors and aromas of apples, apricots, heather, and toasted challah, with a delightful hint of crème brûlée on the finish. Score A/A- ($79.99. Available at Queen Anne Wine & Spirit Emporium, 247 DeGraw Avenue, Teaneck, [201] 692-1555)

Hagafen Cellars, Dry White Riesling, Napa Valley, Rancho Wieruszowski Vineyard, 2012:

There are few wines that I fine as refreshing as a crisp, dry White Riesling. However, Riesling has become somewhat unfashionable among kosher wine drinkers, and there are very few quality Rieslings on the market these days. So I was very excited when Hagafen released their first dry Riesling last year. Light-to-medium bodied, with a dark-straw color, this dry Riesling has a delightful bouquet of apricots, peaches, longans, and citrus. Look for flavors of apricots, lychees, and citrus, with an intriguing note of coconut. Crisp, well balanced and refreshing, this wine should drink well for the next two years. Score A/A-. ($21.00. This wine is currently only available direct from the winery: www.hagafen.com, [888] 424-2336)

The Reds:

Chateau Moulin Riche, Bordeaux, Saint Julien, 2011: When it comes to red wines, my tastes run towards restrained, elegant, Old-World wines, and I am a particularly big fan of classically-styled Bordeaux blends. The recently released 2011 Moulin Riche is both elegant and (at least compared to similar Left-Bank kosher Bordeauxs) affordable. Composed of 71% Cabernet Sauvignon and 29% Merlot, this full bodied, dark, garnet-colored cuvée has a rich bouquet of cherries, cassis, and toasty oak with just a whiff of eucalyptus. Look for flavors of cherries, cassis, and espresso on the front of the palate, plums and cherry brandy on the back of the palate, and a nice layer of oak running throughout. While drinking well now, this wine will start to show at it best in about a year, and should then cellar well until 2018. Score A- ($54.00. Available at FillerUp Kosher Wines, 174 West Englewood Ave, Teaneck, [201] 862-1700.)

Chateau de Parsac, Bordeaux, Montagne Saint-Emilion, 2011: This is just the sort of elegant, easy drinking wine that I like to enjoy with an everyday meal. I liked this vintage of Parsac so much on first tasting that I bought two cases of it. I’m now down to my last bottle, which I am saving for Passover. Made in the heart of Bordeaux’s Right Bank, this medium-bodied, garnet colored blend of 80% Merlot and 20% Cabernet Franc is a truly delightful wine. Look for flavors and aromas of cherries, currants—both red and black—blackberries, toasty oak, pipe tobacco, and a hint of smoked meat. With a goodly amount of powdery tannins this wine is everything a budget Bordeaux should be: approachable, well balanced, and lively. Drink now until 2016. Score B+ ($21.75. Available at FillerUp Kosher Wines, 174 West Englewood Ave, Teaneck, [201] 862-1700.)

Auga Dulce Winery, Cabernet Sauvignon, Sierra Pelona Valley, 2010: This wine was 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 Auga Dulce Winery, which is located in Southern California’s Los Angeles County. During the 2010 vintage, Winchell produced a small amount of kosher wine for the winery. When I first tasted this Cabernet last fall, the wine was not showing well, and I made a note to re-taste it in six months. Last week I re-tasted it and was delighted to find that it had grown into a very interesting wine. Garnet colored, with a medium-to-full body, this lively cabernet has a bouquet redolent of cherries, chocolate, and wild flowers. The flavor is dominated by cherries, with notes of cassis, smoke, anise and black pepper. Drink within the next two or three years. Score A-/B+ ($33.99 This wine is not widely distributed, but is available online from www.kosherwine.com.)

Alexander the Great, Amarolo, Upper Galilee, 2007: Tasting hundreds of wines each year, I find it rare that a wine label will really stick out in my memory. However, Alexander the Great’s Amarolo has one of those rare labels that I vividly remember: Made of millimeters-thick embossed metal, Amarolo’s label is New-World bling, but inside that bottle is a wine which is all Old-World charm. This blend of 40% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Merlot, 7% Petit Verdot, 6% Cabernet Franc, 4% Shiraz, and 3% Grenache grapes that were dried on mats for 70 days in the Italian Amarone style, is a dark, garnet-colored, full-bodied wine, which has an abundance of silky tannins. Look for flavors and aromas of cherries, cassis, and smoky oak, with delightful notes of, crème de cassis, cigar smoke and old leather. This wine is drinking well now, and should comfortably cellar until the end of the decade. Score A.

Please note: Wines were 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

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