After all the cleaning, cooking, table setting and frantic preparation for the Passover Seder is over, you might think the easiest part of the meal would be opening a bottle of wine. But for some of us, after the Four Questions comes the dreaded fifth… “Cabernet or Chardonnay?” We invited four special guests to gather around our Joy of Kosher table to share their recommendations for the four wines to serve on Seder night.
Ari Erle is the founder of Israel Wine Company and an international winemaking consultant. Ari has worked at several famous wineries in the Napa Valley, such as Colgin Estates, Clos Du Val and O'Shaughnessy Estate Winery.
Gary Vaynerchuk is a self-trained wine and social media expert who has revolutionized the wine industry with his unconventional, often irreverent commentary on wine and his creative use social media tools like Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube to reach an untapped audience to promote his video blog Wine Library TV and his family’s New Jersey wine shop.
Jay Buchsbaum is the Director of Fine Wine Education for Royal Wine Corp., the largest producer, importer and distributor of kosher wines and spirits in the world.
Daniel Rogov is the wine and restaurant critic for the Israeli daily newspaper HaAretz. He is also the author of wine and culinary books, including Rogov's Guide to Israeli Wines 2010 and Rogov's Guide to Kosher Wines 2010 . Rogov's internet forum can be found at: http://www.wineloverspage.com.
The selections by our panel of wine lovers span four continents and reflect the incredible quality and diversity of kosher wines that are widely available. “Simply stated,” says Rogov, “there need be no contradiction between fine wine and the laws of kashrut and even the most dedicated of wine-lovers can now find a large selection of excellent wines that will fit comfortably on the Seder table.”
We hope you decide to enjoy some of these wines at your Seder and we would love to hear about what you are planning to serve for Passover.
Ari: 2005 Yaffo Cabernet Sauvignon (Ella Valley, Israel); $24. I love this winery. It is a really high-quality, small, family run winery. It was originally opened as a city winery in Yaffo (hence the name) and they just finished building a winery in the Ella Valley. The family's oldest son studied winemaking in Burgundy and they own their own vineyards in the Jerusalem Hills. This fantastic Cabernet is from Yaffo’s vineyard in the Ella Valley. It spent 14 months in French Oak barrels and has aromas of black plum, cacao, black chocolate and carob. Nice, dark color and big mouthfeel. The tannins are full and round and coat your entire mouth with a long finish. This wine is one of my favorites for the price.
Gary V: 2008 Goose Bay Sauvignon Blanc (New Zealand); $16. Yes, you can find good kosher wines being made all over the world, even in New Zealand! This fresh and crisp effort offers a blast of grapefruit and that razor sharp acidity I adore in New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc.
Rogov: 2008 Hagafen Sauvignon Blanc (Napa Valley, California); $17. Light gold in color, medium-bodied and unoaked, with crisp acidity highlighting aromas and flavors of mineral-rich citrus and citrus peel, mango and kiwi fruits. Generous, mouth-filling and long.
Jay: 2006 Herzog Special Reserve Pinot Noir (Edna Valley, California); $30. An elegant, silky red with fine-tuned layers of cherry, raspberry, anise and spice flavors. Complex without being heavy or too overbearing. A very high quality California red that is a perfect start to a great Seder.
Ari: 2004Ella Valley Chardonnay, 2004 (Ella Valley, Israel) $23. I chose this Chardonnay because it goes very well with food and is a fantastic deal. The wine is from Ella Valley, which is one of the best kosher boutique wineries in Israel. This winery is located in the valley where David defeated Goliath. Brilliant golden yellow color, ripe, complex aromas of pear, spiced apple and hazelnut and well integrated oak flavors. This is not your typical California Chardonnay. The nice acid level on this wine gives it a good, crisp structure that will be a perfect compliment to a Seder meal.
Gary V: 2003 Baron Herzog Special Reserve Syrah (Edna Valley, California); $30. An outstanding Syrah from an iconic Kosher winery in California. Reminiscent of some of the blockbuster Syrah-based wines of the Northern Rhone, but with a little California sunshine in the glass.
Jay: 2003 Barons Edmund & Benjamin de Rothschild (Haut-Medoc, France); $30. The second cup of wine is a blend of Cabernet (60%) and Merlot (40%), a delicious and prestigious choice. Complex yet delicate. Full-bodied with herbal and spice flavors. Blackberries and tobacco on the palate with a long finish.
Rogov: 2006 Herzog Special Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon (Napa Valley, California) 2006; $30. Dark garnet, medium- to full-bodied, with soft tannins and lightly spicy wood integrated nicely to highlight traditional Cabernet aromas and flavors of blackcurrants, blackberry and black cherry fruits, those complemented nicely by notes of toasted rye bread and, on the long finish, notes of Oriental spices.
Ari: 2002 Ella Valley Vineyard’s Choice Merlot (Ella Valley, Israel); $33. Great balance in this wine. Aromas of plum, black cherry fruit, pepper, fennel. Velvety pomegranate in a lingering finish. Distinct sense of earth in this wine.
Gary V: 2004 Carmel Kayoumi Cabernet Sauvignon (Israel); $30. A standout Cabernet that really brings it with a deep, dark color followed by waves of dark fruit and smoke. Long, delicious finish.
Jay: 2007 Ramon Cardova Rioja (Rioja, Spain); $14. For the third cup, a wonderful Spanish wine (100% Tempranillo grapes) that is supple, soft with a full mouth feel and a round approachable drinking style.
Rogov: 2005 Recanati Special Reserve, (Israel); $27. Deep royal-purple, full-bodied, with firm, still rough-edged tannins, those integrating nicely with light spicy wood and fruits to show fine balance and structure. A blend of 84% Cabernet Sauvignon and 16% Merlot, this is a big, rich and bold wine, with concentrated layers of currant, blackberry, anise and cedary oak flavors.
Ari: 2005 Rimon Pomegranate Dessert Wine, (Israel); $27. Every Passover Seder needs a dessert wine* to go with the Afikomen! From the Galilee, the aroma of this pomegranate wine reminds me of the first rain in the Fall. It smells like a handful of pomegranate seeds that you just took a big bite into. The taste is sweet with an intense burst of pomegranate juice. Both the aromas and taste are much more elegant than any pomegranate juice I have ever had. Some might want to even use it to cook a dessert syrup. This is truly a unique product, bound to attract a new group of health conscious wine drinkers.
Gary V: 2005Yatir Cabernet/ Merlot/ Shiraz (Judean Hills, Israel); $32. This gets me excited because the blend incorporates 2 of my favorite grapes, Petit Verdot (12%) and Cabernet Franc (15%) along with Merlot (37%) and Shiraz (36%). Yatir makes truly world class wines and this one rates with the best of them.
Jay: 2008 Bartenura Moscato (Italy); $13. Finally, dessert wines! In a gorgeous blue bottle with a light fizz (frizante in Italian), the Bartenura Moscato is the single most popular Italian Moscato in the United States. Bursting aromatics of flowers and the delicious crowd-pleasing, semi-dry flavors of sweet lemons, pineapples, and tropical li chi.
Rogov: 2005 Galil Mountain Yiron (Galilee, Israel); $27. A Bordeaux-plus wine—that is to say, 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 44% Merlot and 2% Petit Verdot, plus 4% Syrah. Full-bodied and concentrated but simultaneously soft and elegant, with generous cassis and black fruits, velvety tannins reflecting its 16 months in French oak with gently spicy and dusty wood, all of which lead to a super-long finish. Perhaps the best to date from this winery.