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Taste ‘Innovative’ Wines From The River at Ahavath Torah’s Evening of Wine and Whiskey

On Saturday evening, February 13, at 8:30, the community is invited to taste more than 100 wines and 75 sprits at Ahavath Torah Sisterhood’s Evening of Wine and Whiskey, which will offer deep discounts on both well-loved favorites and new classics. While many brands will be represented, wines from the new distributor The River will be featured. The event is being curated by Scott Maybaum of Wine Country Stores.

Only a half-dozen years ago, the kosher wine trade in the U.S. was all but controlled by six well-established wine importers. However, as the demand for kosher wine has continued to grow, a handful of new importers have started to establish themselves. These new importers have primarily focused on creating portfolios that focus on boutique wineries that produce unique, innovative wines.

The River Wines is a good example of one these new importers. Founded in 2011 by husband-and-wife team Ami and Larissa Nahari, The River currently imports wines from seven different Israeli wineries, including both boutiques as well as big-name wineries Tishbi and Bravdo. Their portfolio also includes a kosher l’Pesach vodka from Finland, a sparkling wine from Spain and the wines of Californian garagiste Shirah Wines.

The Naharis have done a good job creating a portfolio that contains some truly unique wines. Below is a selection of but a few of the wines that The River will be exhibiting at the Ahavath Torah tasting.


Tishbi Winery

The Tishbi Winery was founded by Jonathan Tishbi—his family had been vintners in Zichron Yaacov since the 1880s—who decided to open a small winery when the price for wine grapes in Israel collapsed in the early 1980s. While many of Tishbi’s earliest wines were not particularly noteworthy, by the late 1990s the winery had modernized its production facilities and started making some truly remarkable wines—it is a trend that has continued to this day.

Tishbi, Estate, Malbec, Single Vineyard, Givat Ada, Shomron, 2011: While these days Malbec is mostly planted in South America, this one-time Bordeaux staple grape is starting to be planted in a handful of Israeli vineyards, including one of Tishbi’s. This is Tishbi’s third vintage of varietal Malbec. Bright garnet colored, and medium-to-full bodied, this 100 percent Malbec wine was barrel aged for one year. It has a rich bouquet of smoky oak, cassis, cherries and blackberries. Look for flavors of cherries and oak blending with berry and plum notes, all on a smoky, earthy background, and a hint of black pepper. Ready to drink now and for the next three years.

Tishbi, Estate, Ruby Cabernet, Single Vineyard, 2013: Ruby Cabernet is a crossbreed between Cabernet Sauvignon and Carignan which was created 1936 by Harold Olmo at UC Davis in California in an attempt to create a grape with the quality of Cabernet Sauvignon, and the heat resistance of Carignan. The varietal has never been widely planted, and is mostly used as a blending grape. However, there are a small but growing number of wineries around the world, including Tishbi, that are starting to produce Ruby Cabernet varietal wines. 2013 is Tishbi’s second vintage of varietal Ruby Cabernet. While the grape may be called “Ruby,” this full-bodied wine had a dark and inky garnet color. Look for an earthy, vegetal nose with notes of plums, cherries and smoky oak. The flavor has elements of cherries, cranberries and plums at the front of the palate, while the finish is more vegetal, with a note of asparagus and a slight, but pleasant, bit of astringency. Well-structured, with rustic tannins, this wine should drink well for the next 3-5 years.


Shirah Wines

Gabriel Weiss, 36, and Shirah’s lead winemaker, started his love affair with wine while living in Lakewood, New Jersey. “We [my brother Shimon and I] just started tasting wine, we thought it tasted good, and it got us all fired up.” In 2004 Gabriel moved to California to work as a cellar hand at Herzog Wine Cellars, and in 2005 Shimon followed Gabriel to California, and they started making their own wine. In 2011 the brothers began selling their wines commercially, under the name Shirah wines, and they have developed a well-deserved reputation for producing interesting wines made primarily from Syrah and other Rhône Valley varietals. Yossi Berkowitz, The River’s VP for sales, calls Shirah wines The River’s “headliner.”

Shirah, Syrah, Santa Barbara County, 2013: Made from Syrah grapes grown at six different Santa Barbara vineyards, this medium-to-full bodied, bright garnet colored wine has a fruity bouquet of cherries, raspberries and, intriguingly, lychees, all on a slightly green background. Look for flavors of cherries, raspberries, currants, plums, oak, pastrami and black pepper, with an earthy, mineral undertone. Drink within the next four years, or perhaps longer.


Twin Suns

Twin is a line of mevushal wines produced in California by the Weiss brothers in partnership with The River. Larissa Nahari, The River’s marketing director, told me last year that their goal with Twin Suns is to create a line of approachable, easy-to-drink wines—and I believe they have succeeded.

Twin Suns, Chardonnay, Monterey County, 2014: Straw colored and light bodied, this delightfully crisp, semi-dry Chardonnay has flavors and aromas of pineapples, lemons, apples and coconut. Look for hints of cream and hay on the finish. Icy cold, this would be a very refreshing wine on a warm, spring day. Drink within the next year.

Visit http://www.ahavathtorah.org/sisterhoodevents or email [email protected] to sign up for the February 13 event. The price is $25 per person or $45 per couple in advance. Prices at the door will be slightly higher.

By Gamliel Kronemer

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