Note: Scroll to the bottom for additional wine tasting resources from a number of writers!
It’s my favorite time of year. Not many food writers and kitchen aficionados say that in the weeks leading up to Passover, but it’s true. I love the seder. Sure, there’s all that cooking and cleaning but it’s worth it when the family sits around the Pesach Seder Table and pours the first of those four (or in our home, five), cups of wine.
The beautiful thing about the Passover seder, no matter how you slice it, is that everyone has a unique tradition. Some people prefer to stick to red wine at the seder to remember the blood spilled by Egypt, or some allude to a verse in proverbs “do not look at the wine as it reddens” as an indication that red wine, is somehow, superior.
Superior is up for discussion, as there are some outstanding white wines on the market. Popular can’t be debated.
The kosher wine market in the US leans heavily toward red wine, and heavily toward Cabernet Sauvignon. In fact, 75% of all red wine purchased from KosherWine.com in 2015 was the beloved Cabernet Sauvignon.
These are the wines that will make it to my Seder table this year and if you were lucky enough to have attended the private wine tasting event I facilitated a few night ago, you’ll have had the chance to have a taste too!
Covenant Lavan Chardonnay
Back in 2002, a chance meeting between Kansas raised, Napa Vintner, Leslie Rudd; Eli Ben-Zakan of Israel’s acclaimed Domaine Du Castel winery; and Jeff Morgan, West Coast Editor of Wine Spectator lead to the idea of creating the best kosher wine in 5,000 years. Thus Covenant winery was born, and they’ve done an excellent job ever since.
You might be rolling your eyes wondering if this wine is worth of the price tag because everyone’s pushing chardonnay. I promise you, this a top notch chard. It’s definitely worthy of the Covenant name on the label. It’s somewhat reminiscent of a white burgundy with a bite of acid and bursting with flavor.
This chardonnay is produced in Napa County, California and made with grass-grown grapes cultivated in a small vineyard located on Sonoma Mountain. This means that the grass isn’t tended to in the vineyard it’s left to grow. This has an effect on the terroir and therefore the taste of the grapes.
For those of you who travel to Israel, Gilgal is the US brand given to the well known Gamla wines from the Golan Heights winery. This is a delightful champagne style wine that is popular for it’s delightful fizz and it’s fresh, crisp flavor.
I keep a couple of bottles of Gigal Brut chilled at all times so there’s alway something ready if there’s a reason to celebrate! Plus, it’s an excellent price point and delivers excellent quality.
You’ll notice aromas of apple and citrus and an ever so pleasant tartness as you enjoy your first sip.
And now, I’m moving on to my red wine choices. Last year in sharing my Pesach wine recommendations, I took the position that you should start the evening with light and easy to drink wines, like Pinot Noir. This year, I am changing my tune and recommending you start with your bold big red wines, after all, you’re much more likely to remember the wine you drink at the start of the night.
Carmel Limited Edition 2010
This is a very approachable yet sophisticated blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot, Merlot and Cabernet Franc that is deserving of it’s price tag. The fruit and earth are so clear and pure.
This is an Israeli wine that’s been made in the classic Bordeaux style. It has beautiful aroma and it concludes with a very nice, long finish.
Elvi Clos Mesorah 2013
Clos Mesorah is an extremely popular Spanish blend dominated by 40% Cariñena, along with Garnacha and Syrah. This wine has lots of fruit, ripe cherry, and a wonderful aroma — paired with incredible structure of the Syrah.
Elvi is the only winery in Spain making kosher wine and this award winning wine could be considered to be their flagship kosher wine.
Tzora Vineyards Judean Hills 2013
If you’re looking to visit wineries in Israel, be sure to stop by at Tzora. This is a winery that know how to make an awesome product, and curate a wonderful experience at their visitor center.
This is a fairly big wine and I am planning on it for my second cup! This is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Merlot and Petit Verdot, grown on old terraces with top-soil of limestone rich in minerals. The result is very drinkable and very enjoyable.
Once harvested, this wine is aged for 12 months in French oak barrels. You should expect a wine with wonderful suave texture and a complex aromatic profile of dark fruit and hint of earthiness. The finish is fine and fairly long.
Tzora Vineyards Judean Hills 2013 is ready to drink now and will keep improving in the bottle in the next five years.
Matar Stratus 2013
Matar is new to market in 2015 and comes to you from the Israel Peltar winery. The Stratus is 100% Shiraz, grown in the Galilee region of Israel in a low yield vineyard. The grapes are harvested by hand and aged for 14 months in oak barrels.
Matar wines have gained instant popularity among kosher consumers since coming to market earlier in the year.
This is a deep red wine, almost purple in color. You’ll enjoy a very strong red fruit flavor including cherries and cranberries. In some ways, this wine is similar to pinot in its aroma structure and it has a medium finish.
Chosen Barrel Carrera
Chosen Barrel is a private label wine brought to you by KosherWine.com. Since coming to market in later 2014, it’s become a popular choice due in part to it’s quality price ratio (QPR) and it’s great flavor. Just last week this wine was awarded the number 2 spot in the Jewish Week’s blind taste test for red wine under $25.
The Carrera is a blend of 75% Cabernet Sauvignon and 25% Barbera. While the Cabernet Sauvignon offers strength, dominance and structure, the Barbera builds upon the fruit notes and adds a unique richness to the wine.
This blend was chosen by tasters who visited Israel to source grapes that could be used to develop a unique blend and bring to market at an excellent price point.
Shiloh Shor Barbera 2013
Barbera grapes are making a massive impact in the kosher wine world right now, possibly starting to eat into the market share traditionally seen by Cabernet Sauvignon. This is being driven as Israel tries to figure out their grape of choice (you also see this with the dedication of the Jezreel Valley who are working hard to work with the native Israeli grape, Argaman).
Amichai Luria, winemaker at Shiloh and a master of his trade, makes a great Barbera that is both delicious and fairly priced.
Take a moment to notice the depth of color in this wine, swirl and smell and notice the floral scent with notes of black prunes and a bouquet that echos coffee and chocolate.
This is another full bodied, very enjoyable red wine, and one that definitely deserves to be at your seder table.
Another wine that is fairly new to market, and one that quickly became a personal favorite of mine. Psagot have a reputation for making excellent wine, and for the first time they are bringing a wine to market at a $20 price point.
As much I enjoy this wine, I have heard some day that it’s a little confused — the balance between its fruitiness and spiciness is certainly unique — but I see that as a positive. This has fast become a wine I want to stock up on and store — it will cellar up to 2022, and from what I am seeing, it’s selling fast!
The wine itself is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz, from vineyards in the northern mountains of Israel, at a height of 900 meters. Psagot Sinai is a refreshing, fruity and beautifully balanced wine.
Excellent wine for this price point, especially given that it is mevushal.
Casa De Cielo Reserve Pinot Noir
In tune with offering a suggestion for a final cup of wine that is light and easy to drink, I recommend a new addition to the Casa De Cielo line. Like The Chosen Barrel, this is wine is exclusive to KosherWine.com.
Pinot is a light, drinkable and easy way to end the seder.
This particular pinot comes from Chile and is produced from grapes known for their structure. You’ll notice hints of cherry, strawberry and plums. Perhaps a herbal complexity too. All things considered, this is an easy to drink wine that isn’t going to be too heavy.
Simple structure and balance, clean finish, the alcohol isnt too strong and there are hints of acid in the finish that will linger.
Additional Wine Recommendations
That’s my round up of wine for Passover 2016, all of these wines and more can be purchased at KosherWine.com. If you’re looking for some additional wine reading for this time of year, I recommend the following posts (some of which I have written or contributed to).
- Top 100 Wines of The Year 2015 (Two Warm Challahs)
- My recommendations for Passover 2015 (Times of Israel)
- Wine pairings for the Passover Seder Meal (Kosher Like Me)
- 5 Wines For Your Passover Seder (Jewish Food Experience)
- The best kosher wine for Passover 2016 at all price ranges (Kosher Wine Musings)
Disclosure: I do work for KosherWine.com, but these choices are entirely my own and are not influenced by my work with the brand.