Notes From a Kosher Tasting
Posted: April 09, 2009
For years, I worked as a wineconsultant on the sales floor at the Highland Park Binny's store. This time of year, I'd find myself repeating this same conversationmany times a day: "Where is the Kosher wine section?" a customer would ask. "Right over here, sir." I'd reply. "Let me show you." The customer would then ask: "Are any of these Kosher wines any good?" "Yes." The customer would pause, take in the wall of kosher wines, side to side, and then ask: "Really?" "Yes." There are a lot of good wines out there that happen to be kosher. Recently, I was able to sit in on a short seminar focusing on some wines from the Royal Wine Corp. portfolio a major importer and distributor of kosher wines. With Passover quickly approaching, here are a few wines you might want to try. There's something for everyone, from the once-a-year wine drinker, tothe nerdiest wine nerd (that's me). Easy to Drink Wines From California A great wine for the casual drinker is the Baron Herzog Cabernet Sauvignon Jeunesse (I'm told Jeunesse means youth in French). This soft, slightly sweet red is designed for easy sipping, and lacks that tannic bite that people who don't drink a lot of wine don't like. We have a lot of customers who aren't Jewish that love this wine because of its light, easy to drink nature. We also tasted the Baron Herzog Old Vines Zinfandel, a much deeper wine showing rich, dark raspberry and just enough tannic support to keep it solid another good value. New to Binny's are two new blends by Weinstock simply called "Red by W" and "White by W". Both are light and soft. The red, a blend of zinfandel and syrah, is an especially good value. My tasting notes include the phrases baking spices and pie filling. Both of these blends usually sell for $10.99, but they're being launched at Binny's at the crazy low price of $7.99 through April 7th. Interesting Reds From Spain We tasted two reds from producer CellerCapçanes, from the Montsant DO in Spain. Capcanes offers a wide range of wines, just a couple of which are kosher. The 2006 Peraj Petita, a grenache-based blend, is made in a modern style,with good jammy fruit and tight underlying tannins. Its bigger sibling, the Peraj Ha'abib Flor de Primavera, is less compact the fruit on the nose submits to a layer of vanillan oak influence, and the deeper fruit on the palate is intertwined with herbs like anise and tobacco. These wines are impressive, if a little pricey compared to non-kosher Montsant peers. Good Stuff from Israel Domaine du Castel holds a certain levelof respect in the wine world as one of the most solid producers in Israel today. The Blancdu Castel, 100% Chardonnay (I tasted a mature 2003) is done in a Burgundian style, with a presence of baking spices that don't overwhelm the brightness of fruit. The 2003 is still vibrant and youthful. The PetitCastel shows a lot of good fruit on the nose. It's done in asurprisingly modern style, and is lighter than I was expecting (whichisn't to say it's light, just lighter than I was expecting) with asolid tannic foundation. The winery's flagship wine, the GrandVin, (I tasted 2005) has more restrained tannins; the fruit andearth also seem a bit reigned-in. While not necessarily subdued, thefocus of this wine seems to be on balance and finesse. Finishing up the tasting were the winesof Yatir: the Yatir Cabernet-Shiraz-Merlot,and the YatirForest (a blend of Cabernet, Merlot and Shiraz). I always confuse these wines (can you blame me?) so it was good to get the chance to finally taste them. The 'self-titled' blend is a heavy modern blend, with good fruit and great weight, closer in style to an Australian blend than to a French one. The Forest is deeper still,impressive with layers of complexity cocoa, blackberry, tea leaves and other herbs, and medium tannins on the finish. These wines are interesting enough that I hope they draw notice from fans of all wine and not just those seeking kosher wine. Still, I worry that theprice tag might be a touch high compared to similar, non-kosher wines. This list of good kosher wine is by no means exhaustive. And of course, the Binny's wine staff has tried most of these wines and is always eager to offer assistance. Don't forget to check the list of Kosher wines Binny's has on sale through April 7th.