Don’t Pass Over These Passover Wines!
I occasionally enjoy a glass of wine at the end of the day. I used to skip this during Passover. Why? I’m not a fan of super-sweet red wines that used to be the only option for Passover. They made me thirsty and gave me headaches. I usually joined the kids at the Seder and drank juice rather than that awful wine made by a very large kosher food company I don’t dare disrespect. But let’s face it, winemaking is a very special skill few can master and it shouldn’t be a side business.
Our kosher catering business does not provide wine but we are happy to discuss suitable wines with our customers. After all, Passover is a joyous time and our special menu for that week follows our pledge to deliver meals that meet modern culinary trends and tastes while adhering to kosher standards. Our Passover menu includes dishes you probably haven’t seen at too many Seders, such as farfel kugel and grilled salmon with mango salsa, as well as the traditional favorites like matzo ball soup.
Don’t Overlook the Fruit of the Vine This Passover
We thank Gd every Shabbos and holiday for the fruit of the vine. It’s yet another sign of His thoughtfulness.
Passover, of course, honors Him for delivering us from the worst situation a human can find himself in: slavery. And even as we are commanded to abstain from chametz (leavened products), we can still celebrate with wines that are a departure from Seders in the distant past.
As of this writing, COR hasn’t published its Passover guide for 2015, but you can find earlier ones on its website. The 2014 guide doesn’t include a specific listing but it does have contact information for three distributors that sell COR-certified Passover wines: Mazel, Simcha, and Grafstein.
Try These Well-Received Kosher for Passover Wines
If you’re shuddering at the thought of drinking a mass-produced wine, take heart: there are actually excellent kosher for Passover wines out there made in Israel, California, Italy, and other places celebrated for their wine expertise and passion.
A few months ago, the website Kosher Eye asked Yossie Horwitz, a well-known oenophile whose recommendations for kosher wines have appeared in Canadian Jewish News, Jewish Week, and other publications, to offer his choices for Passover wines.
Horwitz favors splurging a little for Passover wines because it is a special time of year. He looks for “top quality, medium bodied and relatively simple wines,” and admits a preference for red wines at Seders. However, vegetarians and people who serve fish may prefer white wines. Horwitz doesn’t include these on his list, although he swears by Castel wines; any from the 2008 vintage are “magnifique!”
From what I’ve read, most people really can’t tell the difference between a moderately-priced bottle of wine and one that reaches into the $80 range and higher. (Cheap wines, on the other hand, just taste cheap.) So I tend to look at mid-range prices for special events, say $25 – $50. Horwitz says the better kosher wines tend to cost over $30, but he does recommend a few for Passover under this amount. Here’s a sample:
- Ella Valley, Carmel Golan Heights, and Dalton are consistently good.
- Herzog Special Reserve is another decent and less expensive option.
- Horwitz likes Ella Valley’s 2007 Cabernet Franc and Syrah, Dalton’s Wild Yeast Reserve 2009, and Carmel’s Sha’al Later Harvest 2006 in particular.
For $30-$50, his recommendations include:
- Ella Valley Merlot 2005 (Merlot is the vineyard’s specialty) and its later Cabernet Sauvignon bottles
- Golan Heights Single Vineyard-Ortal Syrah 2004
- Capcanes, Peraj Ha’abib Flor de Primavera 2008, one of his favorite wines
- Four Gates Cabernet Franc 2006, but only available directly from the winery
- Covenant Lavan Chardonnay 2009, “almost a cross between a California Chardonnay and a French Chablis.”
Tip: Most of us have maybe a glass or two of wine with dinner. Four can be a lot. Make sure you have plenty of matzo for your guests to eat alongside the wine. Make extra charoset, too, to encourage them to balance wine with food. They’ll thank you the next morning!