L’Chaim! These kosher wines are fine enough to impress any connoisseur.
Whether or not you’re Jewish, it’s hard to claim that early exposure to Manischewitz and Mogen David inspired your love of wine.
Unfortunately, these brands constitute the only experience of kosher wine that many consumers have. The sweetness of the Concord grapes (and the addition of high-fructose corn syrup, in the case of Manischewitz) is generally sufficient to nip a wine-drinking hobby in the bud. Equally unfortunate is the fact that high-quality kosher wines are now made all over the world, and many consumers are unaware of their existence.
What makes wine kosher? For starters, the wine must contain only kosher ingredients, including yeasts and fining agents. It must be handled during winemaking only by Sabbath-observing Jews, and the process is supervised and certified by a rabbi. There is an additional category of mevushal wine: mevushal literally means “boiled,” although today the product is more likely to be flash-pasteurized to preserve the aromatics. Once treated this way, it may be handled and poured by non-Jews and still remain kosher.
The two most widely distributed brands are Yarden, made by Israel’s Golan Heights Winery, and Baron Herzog, which bottles a collection from many different California appellations. Both wineries produce at least two dozen offerings in an assortment of grape varieties, styles and prices.
Wine lovers who are interested in exploring upscale, boutique kosher wines should consider the following options. Many are sold locally; the entire product line may not be available, but additional labels can be readily found online.
The motto of this small-production Golan Heights operation is “the secret is in the soil”—specifically, the volcanic basalt soil for which the winery is named. Prices for the Reserve Merlot and Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon hover in the $50 range, an excellent value for a carefully crafted, vineyard-designated wine aged for nearly two years in barrel.
Founded in 1995 in Galilee by the Haruni family, who moved to Israel from England, Dalton’s most popular wines are its two Canaan blends retailing for less than $20. The red combines Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Petit Sirah with dollops of Syrah and Mourvedre; the white is an off-dry mélange of Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Viognier and Muscat.
Continue to Page 2 for four more deliciously unique Kosher wines.
This small, family-run operation in the Judean Hills was the first Israeli winery to receive 90 points from Robert Parker. The wine to buy is the Castel Grand Vin ($70), a Bordeaux-style blend of Merlot, Petit Verdot, Cabernet Franc and Malbec.
Napa-trained Danny Valero traveled across Israel in search of the perfect vineyard site before landing in the Valley of Ella. The wines are full-bodied and concentrated, made from low yields; Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah sell between $15 and $30.
This is another family affair: Veteran winemakers Israel and Kami Flam launched their own business in 1998 with their children Golan, Gilad and Gefen. Their Reserve Syrah ($48) and Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon ($60) have garnered high praise from critics.
Despite being owned by Carmel, Israel’s largest winery, Yatir’s production hovers around 15,000 cases, tiny by today’s standards. It is best known for its flagship wine, Yatir Forest ($85), a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah.