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Passover Wines: Four Minds on Four Wines

Passover Wines: Four Minds on Four Wines

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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

Ari Erie is the founder of the 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

Gary Veynerchuk 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 of 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

Jay Buchsbaum is the Director of Fine Wine Education for Royal Wine Corp., the largest producer, importer and distributer of kosher wines and spirits in the world.

Daniel Rogov

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.

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.

First Cup

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: 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.

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.

Daniel: 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.

Second Cup

Ari: 2004 Ella Valley Chardonnay (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 complement to a Seder meal.

Gary: 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.

Daniel: 2006 Herzog Special Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon (Napa Valley, California); $30. Dark garnet, medium- to full-bodied, with soft tannins and lightly spicy wood integrated nicely to highlight traditional Cabernet aromas and flavors of black currants, blackberry and black cherry fruits, those complemented nicely by notes of toasted rye bread and, on the long finish, notes of oriental spices.

Third Cup

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: 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 mouthfeel and a round, approachable drinking style.

Daniel: 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.

Fourth Cup

Ari: 2005 Rimon Pomegranate Dessert Wine (Israel); $27. Every Passover Seder needs a dessert wine to go with the afikoman! 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.

Editor's Note: According to Rabbinic authorities this wine may not be used as one of the four cups. However, it is Kosher for Passover.

Gary: 2005 Yatir Cabernet/Merlot/Shiraz (Judean Hills, Israel); $32. This gets me excited because the blend incorporates two 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 lychee.

Daniel: 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.

Tamar Genger is the founder and Executive Editor of joyofkosher.com, the world's first social network for Jewish cooking enthusiasts. Tamar is a Registered Dietitian with a Masters in Health Studies and lives in New York with her family.
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carol heffern March 22, 2014

SWEET CONCORD WINE we enjoy Mogen david concord grape under $10 a large bottle Reply

James MO March 27, 2013

I think I'm the cheapest guy here Manischewitz $4, those expensive wines are to dry for my taste anyway. Reply

Shaul Faulkner Long Beach, CA March 15, 2013

Shirah Wine Company If you are looking for an exciting wine then try anything from Shirah Wine Company. I love their wines and always recomend them to everyone. Try Power to the People (Sirah) and the new vintage of Coalition is excellent. If you like Big California wine then you have to try Shirah Reply

Anonymous Phx, AZ May 13, 2011

Gluten and sulfite free, organic wines Ruth Charnow,
Contact me: oiram2011@aol.com for additional information and where to purchase Reply

Chaim Shmuckler Virginia Beach, VA April 24, 2011

Passover Wines For more than 30 years we have had the N.V. Baron Hertzog and various Israeli wines (Ben Ami, being the favorite). However, for the first time I added several bottles of Kesser varieties of Cabernet and everyone enjoyed them very much. Reply

Anonymous Jerusalem April 13, 2011

Passover Wines 1) I meant that there is no dry grape juice.

2) If the last comment related to my question, as the moderator thinks, then it does not answer my question. Reply

Ruth Charnow Cherry Hill, NJ April 13, 2011

Any gluten free wines organic or natural? For Passover-no sulfites please Reply

Anonymous April 11, 2011

Passover Wines What about a person who suffers from diabetes, and for whom, therefore, sweet wines (and inevitably sweet) grape juice is dangerous ...

At the same time, the alcohol in wine affects the influence of life-saving medication ...

And there seems to be no sweet grape juice. I have been informed by a winery employee that it is impossible.

On Shabbat, Melo Lugmav of dry wine gets by. One cup diluted 2/3 would also do. But 4 cups diluted = 1.33 cups. Reply

Anonymous Scottsdale April 8, 2011

Red wine Red wine for the four cups is what we learned in school, is that not the preferable way to go? Reply

Nosson Beijing April 7, 2011

For those who just like it lite If you just want it light and dry but not to fry just take the moscato all the way through :)
Sorry to all those experts Americans like moscato its almost like um ginger ale but tastes much better:) Reply

ruth housman marshfield hills, ma April 6, 2011

Fine Wine, Fine Bouquet! I read these fabulous descriptions and I am ready for the Vineyard! I can't drink too much wine because it makes me very sleepy, very fast, and so I take delicate sips, except for that Manischewitz which is almost too sweet for my palate. These sound, Divine. And Vine is within the word, Divine.

I was looking at the name Dahlias this morning. Since I got an email from, The Bulb Lady a place that clearly is about all things flowering. I suddenly saw, within the word, ALIYAH, as in making pilgrimages and settling in Israel.

Now that it is spring, I am getting heady with the wine of it!

All is redolent! A kind of fragrance in ascent.

These wines are making me very thirsty. I love how they are described, as if, one could taste, in the very words, that savoring. Reply

Mrs. Sara Esther Crispe April 5, 2011

EDITOR CLARIFICATION I am sorry for the confusion caused by the Editor's Note being put in the wrong place. The only wine which may not be used for one of the four cups is the POMEGRANATE DESSERT WINE because it is not made from grapes. All of the others are completely fine, as are ANY Kosher for Passover wines made from grapes. Reply

Yohanon Hollywood, FL April 5, 2011

Wines What I REALLY would like to know is which wines are "sweet" (but not typical syrupy i 'kiddish' wine) "semi-sweet" and "dry." My wife likes a sweet(er) wine; I prefer less sweet (Gobi Desert is about right).
Please H_E_L_P this wine ignoramus ,
TIA Reply

Grantman Atlanta, GA via jewishwestcobb.com April 4, 2011

2005 Galil Mountain Yiron Why is this wine kosher for Passover but can't be used for one of the four cups?

Can you explain for those of us not 'up to snuff' on the intricacies? Reply

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