From Guest Oenophile, Yossie Horwitz
The weeks leading up to Passover are among the US kosher wine industry’s busiest, with more kosher wine sold during this period than the rest of the year combined. As the popularity of quality kosher wine continues to increase, the quality and variety of wines available to the kosher wine consumer are astounding. While truly a blessing, the tremendous choice can make for a somewhat overwhelming shopping experience. To assist with holiday shopping, every year I put together my Passover Kosher Wine Guide, listing over 100 recommended wines in varying price ranges that would enhance a Seder table. While comprehensive, 130 wines can still be an overwhelming number of choices so, especially for KosherEye readers; I have selected my ten favorite wines in each price range (the entire list can be viewed here).
Given ones desire to honor the Seder, people tend to have the nicest wines possible, typically full-bodied Bordeaux-blends or robust Cabernet Sauvignon wines requiring time and appreciation. Being a traditionalist, I tend to choose red wines for all four cups. It is the holiday of freedom, so top quality wine is still a requirement. Therefore, I look for top quality, medium bodied and relatively simple wines. Some perennial favorites of mine include Recanati’s Reserve Petit Sirah-Zinfandel, the Capcanes Peraj Petita are two new arrivals – the Yarden’s Odem Merlot and the Domaine Netofa 2009. To the extent you are looking for well-priced whites, Yarden’s Odem Chardonnay, Recanati’s Chardonnay or Yarden’s Viognier are all good and affordable bets.
“Best Of” Annual Passover Kosher Wine Buying Guide
While this list includes many good and enjoyable wines, as a general rule, the wines in this price range are not complex, cellar worthy or sophisticated (with a few exceptions). As oak barrels are a significant component of a wines cost, this list has plenty of white wines, which typically spend little or no time in oak, resulting in lower prices. As a general rule, any wine in this price range from Recanati, Galil Mountain or Dalton is going to be good, as long as it’s not too old. Most of the wines on these lists qualify as YH Best Buys (wines I consider a particularly good way to spend your Shekels).
1. Barkan, Classic, Pinot Noir, 2009
2. Casa de Corca, Reserve, Douro, 2006
3. Dalton, Estate, Petite Sirah, 2009
4. Dalton, Chardonnay, 2010
5. Galil Mountain, Pinot Noir, 2009
6. Golan Heights Winery, Yarden, Gewürztraminer, 2010
7. Recanati, Cabernet Sauvignon, 2009
8. Recanati, Yasmin, White, 2010
9. Tabor, Galil, Shiraz, 2009
10. Teperberg, Silver, Syrah, 2009
This price range is actually the sweet spot for me. There are a number of wineries that maintain a tremendous level of quality without pushing prices out of the reach of most people. While the majority of truly great Kosher wines unfortunately reside in the over $30 price range, there are plenty of great ones here as well. In general, I find Ella Valley, Dalton, Carmel, Herzog Special Reserve and the Golan Heights Winery to be consistent players in this field of great wines under $30, notwithstanding the fact that they all also have more expensive terrific wines as well.
1. Carmel, Sha’al Late Harvest, Gewurztraminer, 2006
2. Dalton, Reserve, Wild Yeast, Viognier, 2009
3. Ella Valley Vineyards, Cabernet Franc, 2007
4. Ella Valley Vineyards, Syrah, 2007
5. Galil Mountain, Yiron, 2007
6. Porto Cordovero, Fine Ruby Port, n.v.
7. Recanati, Reserve, Petit-Sirah / Zinfandel, 2007 (also their Cabernet Franc)
8. Segal, Single Vineyard Dishon, Cabernet Sauvignon, 2007 (a truly great wine and a YH Best Buy)
9. Teperberg, Reserve, Cabernet Sauvignon, 2007 (probably Teperberg’s best wine yet)
10. Yatir, Red Blend, 2006
1. B.R. Cohn, Trestle Glen Vineyard, Cabernet Sauvignon, 2008. The first kosher wine from the legendary Bruce Cohn and a resounding success. Available directly from the winery
2. Capcanes, Peraj Ha’abib Flor de Primavera, 2008. One of my all time favorite wines.
3. Castel, Petit Castel, 2007. A “second” wine to the Grand Vin in price and name only, not quality.
4. Covenant, Lavan (Chardonnay), 2009. Just as successful as their 2008 wine. Almost a cross between a California Chardonnay and French Chablis.
5. Ella Valley Vineyards, Vineyard's Choice, Merlot, 2005. Merlot is Ella Valley’s specialty & it shows. The Cabernet Sauvignon is also really great but beware of older vintages that are past their prime.
6. Four Gates, Cabernet Franc, 2006. One of my favorite Cabernet Franc wines and truly a tremendous winery. The wines are only available directly from the winery.
7. Golan Heights Winery, Yarden, Single Vineyard-Ortal, Syrah, 2004. I drink tons of Syrah these days and this is an easy favorite.
8. Hagafen, Prix, Zinfandel - Moskowite Ranch/Block 61, 2006. A big and powerful Zinfandel with plenty of fruit, spice and chocolate coming together magnificently.
9. Recanati, Special Reserve, 2006. One of my all-time favorites and a severely underappreciated wine.
10. Yatir, Cabernet Sauvignon, 2006. As with every wine made by Yatir, this is an amazing Cabernet Sauvignon and well worth splurging on.
Moshiach wines are those special wines that I would proudly serve the Moshiach, were he ever to grace my table. For additional Moshiach Wines, check out my Best Wines of 2010.
1. Carmel, Limited Edition, 2005. Another example of Carmel’s move from power to elegance. An amazing wine that will age gracefully and provide years of enjoyment but is also ready to enjoy right now.
2. Castel, Grand Vin, 2004. 2007 is the current vintage in the US and is delicious. Get your hands on any Castel wine from the 2008 vintage. They are all magnifique!
3. Château Guiraud, Sauternes 1er Cru, 2001. The best kosher dessert wine. Period.
4. Covenant, Solomon, Cabernet Sauvignon, 2008. After many years, Leslie Rudd allowed a Covenant wine to be made from his acclaimed grapes. All I can say is – Wow.
5. Golan Heights Winery, Katzrin Red, 2003. After all these years the Katzrin is still the Israeli Rock Star of wine,one with the longest aging ability. The 2007 just released, isn’t yet ready to drink.
6. Golan Heights Winery, Yarden, Rom, 2006. An incredible new addition to the Yarden label. While surprisingly ready to drink right now, this wine will age for at least another decade.
7. Hagafen, Prix, Mélange, 2004. Hagafen’s flagship wine; well deserving of the title. The 2004 vintage remains one of the best kosher wines I’ve ever tasted; the 2006 is the current release.
8. Herzog, Generation VIII, Cabernet Sauvignon, To Kalon, 2006. Worthy of the famed To-Kalon vineyard. Tons of fruit, terroir, elegance all rolled into an awesome (& very expensive package).
9. Psagot, Single Vineyard, Cabernet Sauvignon, 2007. Easily Psagot’s best wine ever and worth buying as much of it as you can.
10. Yatir, Forest, 2003. Perfection in a bottle. Every vintage of this wine is amazing!
Yossie Horwitz, a card-carrying oenophile for more than 20 years, has been writing a weekly newsletter – Yossie’s Wine Recommendations – on kosher wines, wineries and other wine-related topics for five years. Sign up for his free weekly newsletter at www.yossiescorkboard.com and follow Yossie on Twitter @yossieuncorked, where he dispenses daily wine recommendations and tips as well as other oenophilic tidbits. Yossie and his newsletter have been mentioned in the New York Times, the Jewish Week and the Canadian Jewish News