Easter, Passover and Springtime Wines

Some of you know I have a new wine blog, Maggie’s Wine, and have written here a few times in the past about wine. With Easter and Passover just days away, and Springtime already here, moving to lighter and fresher wines while we watch the short miraculous period of buds breaking, daffodils and tulips popping and the patio looking pretty good again, it is time to talk about wine. So from my wine blog, the following are some suggestions that may introduce you to new products in your local wine department. First up below is Passover. I’m not Jewish but I worked in the wine industry for a long time and I know finding quality wine for the Passover Seder is not an easy task. (Shameless plug: If you like wine, spirits and food, I hope you’ll visit my new blog, Maggie’s Wine and look around while there. Take at look at the menu tabs. While not complete, I’m working on building databases. And a favor, if you are on Facebook please visit my page there and give it a ‘like.’

Golan Heights Winery, Yarden Cabernet Sauvignon from Israel

Golan Heights Winery, Yarden Cabernet Sauvignon from Israel


The eight-day festival of Passover (Pesach) begins on Monday at sunset, March 25th this year (technically, sunset begins the new day, so maybe you prefer March 26th). During the Seder meal, four cups of wine are drunk (and we’ll hope that’s not four eight-ounces cups, but a symbolic cup – four eight cups = slightly less than a full .750 ml bottle). For many years, Manischewitz flew out the door of the wine shop I managed, but slowly shoppers began to turn to wines of better quality as the modern-day wine renaissance of dinner wine grew in popularity. Sweet was out, dry was in.

The four cups of wine represent the promises of redemption. I can’t think of a better promise to drink to.

Depending on how many you are serving, price will likely be a consideration – but if not…:

“It’s absolutely amazing how it’s evolved,” says Michael K. Bernstein, owner of The Cask in Los Angeles, which stocks and sells exclusively kosher wines and spirits. “It’s mind-boggling how many different kosher wines there are.”

in recent years, a number of producers have begun making classic red and white kosher wines. A pioneer was Herzog Wine Cellars in Southern California, and there also is a growing wine industry in Israel.

Making wine kosher isn’t particularly hard, says Jeff Morgan, winemaker at Covenant, a winery in the Napa Valley that makes a kosher Cabernet Sauvignon that goes for $90 a bottle. The ingredients in wine are kosher; the trick is to keep things that way.

The basic requirement for doing that is to make sure that the grape juice and fermented wine is only touched or handled by Sabbath-observant Jews, which is what happens at Covenant, where associate winemaker Jonathan Hajdu is a Sabbath-observant Jew. Read more here and another interesting article on this Napa winery here.

On to some reviews, and I have to admit that I haven’t tried these wines but am relying on reviews from those who’s reputation relies on their opinions. If you have an opinion, let me know.

Natalie MacLean is an admirer of Israeli wines. She particularly likes Saslove Winery Cabernet Sauvignon from the upper Galilee and Yarden Golan Heights Winery Cabernet:

I’ve rated both of these wines 90 out of 100 and they’ll both age for a decade or more — long enough to get you through many Rosh Hashanah meals.”

Wine Spectator declares the following “outstanding” to “very good.” See the full list here.

VIGNOBLES DAVID Côtes du Rôhne Le Mourre de L’Isle 2010 Score: 85 | $17 A nice whiff of warm ganache gives way to lightly dusty cherry and black currant fruit.

RECANATI Merlot Galilee 2010 Score: 87 | $15A ripe red that displays interesting notes of sandalwood and spice, with some creamy elements. Features medium-grained tannins on the finish.

RECANATI Cabernet Sauvignon Galilee 2010 Score: 87 | $15Dried cherry flavors are flanked by notes of rose petal and savory herb. Lively sandalwood notes linger on the juicy finish. Kosher. Drink now through 2016.

GOLAN HEIGHTS WINERY Merlot Galilee Yarden 2008 Score: 89 | $22A suave red, with luscious dark fruit flavors that are accented by plenty of licorice and spice notes. The powerful finish features bittersweet chocolate and mocha, with hints of savory herb. Kosher. Drink now through 2017.

CARMEL Chardonnay Upper Galilee Appellation 2009 Score: 88 | $20 Lively, with plenty of fresh-cut peach and ripe melon flavors that feature a fresh juiciness. Offers hints of gooseberry and currant on the focused finish. Kosher. Drink now through 2016.

Carmel Chardonnay from the Upper Galilee, Israel

Carmel Chardonnay from the Upper Galilee, Israel

DOMAINE DU CASTEL Chardonnay Haute-Judée C Blanc du Castel 2009 Score: 90 | $50Offers a toasty aroma, with loads of ripe apple, guava and pear flavors that are richly spiced. There’s good balance and structure, with a finish filled with smoke and spice. Drink now through 2018.

Wine and Spirits Magazine – Tamar Genger (full list here) and here.

2010 Dalton Canaan Red 2010 (Galilee); $17.
Red Canaan is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Petit Syrah and Shiraz and is an ideal table wine for Seder night.  This is an easy drinking medium-bodied red wine that aims to please any palate with sweet fruit, with notes of black pepper, cherries and plums, low tannins and soft vanilla tones.

2010 Shiloh Legend (Judean Hills); $35.  A blend of Shiraz (45%), Petite Syrah (40%), Petite Verdot (9%), Merlot (6%), aged for 8 months in French oak barrels separately, and an additional 8 months after blending.  This is a deep dark red with black fruit aromas and an aroma of cocoa, leather and mint with a full, lingering finish.  You’ll be fighting with Elijah for the last glass!

2009 Ruhlman Gewurtzaminer (Alsace); $17.  Violet and rose aromas, mineral notes and a lingering tropical finish.  This is a complex white with the right balance of acidity and richness to pair well with turkey, veal or other flavorful light meats. A wonderful find and one of my new faves!

Eric Asimov writing for the NYT (all kosher) see complete list here:

Montsant from Celler de Capçcanes (Spain) – $20: “lovely, spicy, earthy”

White: Abarbanel Vin d’Alsace Riesling 2009 (Mevushal) $21 – …floral and earthy, more savory than fruity.” More on Arbanel Kosher here.

Elvi Adar Brut for about $21 – pleasant, light and easy to drink,” “not profound. Fine and airy…” (I’ve seen other reviews not so complimentary)

Drappier Carte d’Or Champagne – $60 – “highly satisfying,” “straightforward nonvintage.” Dominant grape Pinot Noir.

Tio Pepe, classic fino sherry – a kosher version. The “tangy, saline flavors of this sherry are a good representation for the tears of slavery. dry, pure, tangy, refreshing.

Asimov also suggests KosherWine.com as a source.

While there will not be a Passover Seder at my house, if there was, the chocolate-orange liqueur, Sabra, would be in at least one of my “cups.” If you haven’t enjoyed Sabra, you really should. The first story I was told about Sabra was that the name described the Israeli female soldier: hard on the outside soft on the inside. I never forgot that serious-minded, but charming description, and have had a bottle continually in my home. When I looked for the official meaning of the word Sabra, I found “thorny on the outside, soft on the inside.”

That it for Kosher. Sending wishes for Passover blessings to my Jewish friends, and especially to findalis, who many of you know. She is in the hospital fighting pneumonia and high-blood pressure. See my complete Passover wine article at Maggie’s Wine.

Easter – Springtime:

I have three luscious wines for an Easter or springtime table. Two are Chenin Blancs. What? You don’t like “sweet” wines? Two of these are technically dry and very food-friendly, perfect for the foods associated with Spring and Resurrection Day.

1)  L’Ecole 41 Chenin Blanc  (Washington State) is from 30-year-old vines, incredible for a U.S. white wine, and especially for Chenin Blanc from the States. The nose of this Chenin is pungent, rich, elegant. Without tasting, pear, apple and delicate dogwood or maybe honeysuckle were prominent – like a waft right off the branches in a light breeze. On the palate the wine has crisp acidity, balanced with lushly ripe melon and peaches, a slightly sweet perception as appreciated in the ripe fruits we love, and on to a dry, completely clean finish. At 0.86% residual sugar and 13.5% alcohol. Residual sugar is 0.86% – this is a dry wine. Read the entire article here along with a recipe for Lemon-Dill Chicken Salad-Stuffed Eggs and some food pairing advice.

L'Ecole No. 41 Chenin Blanc 2011, Washington State

L’Ecole No. 41 Chenin Blanc 2011, Washington State

2) Gundlach Bundschu Gewurztraminer (Sonoma California) is California’s longest-continuously-owned family winery.  Light, crisp, dry with the characteristic touch of white pepper – ripe pear, juicy clementines, pretty floral hints, nicely balanced acidity, medium-bodied with a silky mouth-feel and a fresh and vibrant finish. One-hundred percent Gewurztraminer in the bottle, all estate grown and zero residual sugar – that means dry.  This winery is celebrating 155 years of operation in Sonoma. Full article here.

3) Sauvion Vouvray 2011 – a French wine from the Loire, 100% Chenin Blanc, off-dry on the palate, but crisp with nice minerality, hints of pear, fig and melon – aromatically lovely. The traditional Easter table of ham and tiny roasted potatoes, quiche or other egg dishes, maybe even French Toast, would be well-served with this beautiful Chenin Blanc. I don’t know the residual sugar in this bottle, but it will be perceived as sweeter than the two above, but I promise your Aunt Ellie, who likes to sip her sweeter wine before bedtime, will enjoy this gorgeous, quality wine.

Like most Americans, I most enjoy Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay, and I don’t like to break the budget to uncork a bottle. Here are a few references you might be interested in:

Tracking Sauvignon Blanc, Graves, Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé around the World

Line 39 Sauvignon Blanc and Pan-Seared Pork Chops

White Burgundy in the Bottle, Chardonnay or Both?

If you like wine, spirits and food, I hope you’ll visit my new blog, Maggie’s Wine and look around while there. Take at look at the menu tabs. While not complete, I’m working on building databases. And a favor, if you are on Facebook please visit my page there and give it a ‘like.’. I’m on Twitter @maggieswine.

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  • Thank you for the suggestions. We’ve had Yarden, which we liked years ago, but, I think, our pallet evolved, and they just didn’t seem so great. Then we tried California kosher, but I just like the idea of Israeli wine for Passover.