Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The Kiddush cup floweth over - kosher wines for Passover

This blog post is another of those pieces that originally appeared in the pages of the Washington Examiner back on March 21th, 2007. This one actually IS still available online at the Examiner website, so you could either go there directly by clicking here, or simply read below.

WASHINGTON - As Passover begins the evening of April 2, Jews will recount the biblical story of the exodus from Egypt to the Promised Land while enjoying traditional festive food and kosher wine.

Kosher wines in the United States have most often been associated with sweet and heavy Concord grape wines made by companies such as Manischewitz or Mogen David. But there is no reason for kosher wine to be qualitatively any different from non-kosher wine, nor need it be sweet.

Here then are some of the better and more interesting kosher wines to look for this Passover.

Abarbanel, Riesling, Vin d’Alsace, France, 2004 — This delicious, balanced, elegant medium-bodied dry wine begins with a delightful whiff of the florist’s shop, before offering its primary aroma and flavor bounty of citrus and tropical fruits along with sour apples, peaches, flinty minerals and honey, all balanced against the nicely assertive but not overly pronounced acidity. A pleasure to drink, with or without food. Critics’ grade: 4/5 stars

Barkan, Cabernet Sauvignon, Altitude +720, Reserve, Israel, 2003 — Grown in the Har Godrim vineyard near the Lebanese border (720 meters above sea level), this full-bodied, tight, concentrated, intense wine is exhibiting lovely notes of currants, cassis, cherries, herbs, eucalyptus, mint, coffee and even some tobacco, but it is still gripped by firm tannins if slowly integrating tannins — give this one room to breathe, or another year or so in the bottle. Critics’ grade: 4/5 stars

Capcanes, Flor de Primavera/Peraj Ha’Abib, Montsant, Spain, 2003 — A stunning wine. This delicious oak-aged, deep, dark ruby-colored blend (40 percent Grenache, 35 percent Cabernet Sauvignon, 30 percent Carignan and 5 percent Tempranillo grapes) is nicely balanced between tannins, acidity, wood and fruit, with aromas and flavors of black currants, plums, sweet blackberries, raspberries, cherries and mocha, with intriguing overlays of coffee, white pepper, licorice and minerals, with something very much like mint emerging on the lengthy finish. Critics’ grade: 5/5 stars

Carmel, Gew├╝rztraminer, Late Harvest, Single Vineyard, Kerem Sha’al, Israel, 2005 — This sweet, elegant dessert wine has some lovely depth to it, with pronounced aromas and flavors of apricots, peaches, nectarines, litchis, cinnamon, honey, pineapple and rose petals all set against nicely balancing acidity, preventing the whole from seeming too sweet or sticky. Critics’ grade: 5/5 stars

Hagafen, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, 2002 — Another stunning wine. This sumptuous yet graceful, harmoniously balanced, complex, slightly spicy wine offers layers of aromas and flavors, including currants, black cherries, cedar wood, licorice, black pepper, chocolate, eucalyptus, cassis, blueberries and mint, with a marvelous earthy finish with spice, berries and something slightly menthol. Critics’ grade: 5/5 stars

Noah, Tevel, Shiraz-Cabernet Sauvignon, Israel, 2005 — A purplish-colored, medium-bodied fairly well-balanced effort with pleasing aromas and flavors of cherries, slightly stewed strawberries, cranberries, cassis, black pepper and other spices, and with an intriguing, slightly burning, slightly astringent finish that is yearning for a bit of flesh (steaks, roasts, etc.). Critics’ grade: 4/5 stars

Recanati, Chardonnay, Israel, 2005 — This wonderfully crisp, controlled, rich yet elegant wine is even better than previous vintages, with more minerality and complexity and less of the pronounced oak and butter notes. Refreshing and food-friendly, the wine offers beautiful aromas and flavors of green apples, vanilla and tropical fruits, with some slightly spicy, racy notes throughout. Critics’ grade: 4/5 stars

Recanati, Sauvignon Blanc, Israel, 2005 — This outstanding crisp, clean, firm, rich, pale straw-colored wine has tasty and zesty aromas and flavors of freshly cut grass, almonds, bell peppers, asparagus, citrus fruits and even some melons, with a very pleasing earthy, slightly smoky background. Critics’ grade: 4/5 stars

Recanati, Special Reserve, Israel, 2001 — Another stunner of a wine. This full-bodied, complex, serious, enticing and elegant wine (96 percent Cabernet Sauvignon, 4 percent Merlot) exhibits aromas and flavors of dark berry fruits, plums, vanilla, Mediterranean herbs, black pepper and dark olives, with hints of mocha coffee balanced against soft, seamlessly integrated tannins and a little oak. Critics’ grade: 5/5 stars

Yatir, Sauvignon Blanc, Israel, 2005 — This light-golden colored, food-friendly wine is nicely tart, dry and tight, with slightly intense and defined aromas and flavors of grapefruits, passion fruits, gooseberries, Granny Smith apples, hay, honeysuckle, citrus peel and lemongrass. The finish drops off a bit, feeling flat and stripped. Not altogether balanced, but pleasing and enjoyable. Critics’ grade: 3/5 stars

Rating system
5/5 stars Excellent
4/5 stars Very good indeed
3/5 stars Good
2/5 stars Kind of drinkable
1/5 stars Cough medicine

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