Start shopping now to get primo Passover wines
Due to several requests from last year, I’m posting my Passover wine recommendations sooner. Most email informed that some of my selections took time to acquire. Several others observed there were too few higher-end recommendations and no low-end.
Fortunately, one of my contacts works with Royal Wine Corp., and she provided a great deal of info. I sampled and screened several from her extensive list for your enjoyment. I plan on following up with more options next week, so stay tuned. Those wishing more ideas may email me and I will happily provide reviews not described here, if I have sampled them.
Royal Wine Corp, founded in 1848, may be the best-regarded company for its wide range of kosher wine. Its portfolio includes selections from traditional wine-producing regions including United States, France, Italy and Spain as well as new kids on the block such as Israel, New Zealand and Argentina. It also markets a wide range of spirits including brandies and liqueurs. Royal claims its wine portfolio ranges from $5 to $500. Royal owns and operates the Kedem Winery in upstate New York, as well as Herzog Wine Cellars in Oxnard, Calif., a state-of-the-art-facility.
Passover or Pesach 2023 begins at sundown Wednesday, April 5 and runs through Saturday, April 15. This remembrance and celebration describe the flight of the Jews from Egyptian bondage to freedom. The first evening for those living in Israel and the second for those who are part of the diaspora. Thousands of years of tradition direct a defined 15-step program of tastes, sounds, sensations and smells.
It starts with a hardboiled egg, a sign of mourning for the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple. For many this is done prior to all festive celebrations. It’s followed by veggies dipped in saltwater; flat, dry cracker-like bread called matzah; bitter herbs, often horseradish (no additives), escarole or romaine lettuce, dipped into charoset, a paste of nuts, apples and pears. Four cups of wine are imbibed, and keep in mind that Jewish children, girls at 12 plus 1 day and boys at 13 plus 1 day, reach the beginning of adulthood. Those who wish an in-depth look can find The Maror - All About the Bitter Herbs, and The Seder Plate at Chabad.org. These are meant to signify the travails endured during the flight from Egypt. They are staged with directions from Haggadah and interspersed with prayer, song, readings from the Old Testament book of Exodus and remembrances. Dinner follows. It may include items like chicken/matzo ball soup, gefilte fish, roast chicken, sweet and sour roast brisket, baked fish that has scales, raw beet salad, potato kugel and flourless chocolate cake.
The following wines are all kosher; keep in mind they are vintage specific. Golan Heights, for example, has at least four separate labels of Chardonnay. My recommendations, unless I refer to other winos, are based on actual sampling. Let’s start with Golan Heights Winery Yarden Sauvignon Blanc 2020 or 2018, 92 and 91 McD. The 2020 was a stellar year for them. It is a worthy selection for any time of year. It will keep at least four years in a cool, dry space. Best of all, both can easily be found under $20. I was completely surprised at the 2020s because all reports claimed it was a difficult year due to COVID-19 and terroir issues. Their 2019 Yarden Chardonnay, a tropical profile, is drinking well now. The Katzrin 2019, for those who prefer bigger, buttery, oaky Chard, shows at 91 points. Approachable now but will improve over the next few years. I enjoyed this and expect it to age gracefully as the rough edges of youthful wine integrate. Those choosing to drink it soon will do well to chill to 55 F, then pour to aerate as it warms and stands in a decanter or glass. Herzog Special Reserve Zinfandel, $22, 87 McD, is fairly priced. Blackberry, cherry nose, hints of five spice, tobacco, white pepper and coffee on the fruit-filled palate. A top-flight choice, Jezreel Icon Israeli Red Blend, gets 92 McD for the 2017, available at $90 in Pikesville, Md., for sure. Worth every penny.