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April 1, 2011 11:25 am

Holiday Shopping (Kosher Wine Buying Guide – Part I)

avatar by Yossie Horwitz

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Kosher wines on display.

The weeks leading up to Pessach are among the US kosher wine industry’s busiest, and more kosher wine is sold during this period than the rest of the year combined.  As the popularity of quality kosher wine continues to increase, the quality and variety of wines available to the kosher wine consumer are truly astounding.  While truly a blessing, the tremendous choice can make for a somewhat stressful shopping experience.  Additionally and most unfortunately, there is still a substantial amount of drek being pushed as quality wine; and many stores and online purveyors are selling old, dead and tired wines that are so far past their optimum drinking windows it’s practically criminal.  Remember – in general (and there are exceptions), white wines shouldn’t be sold more than two years past their vintage, and red wines three years (unless we are talking about the better and more expensive wines). As with every industry, caveat emptor.

In order to assist with your holiday shopping, every year I put together my Pessach Kosher Wine Guide.  Listed below are my personal favorites selected from the two price ranges included in Part I of the Guide: Under $16 and between $16-$29.99 (the entire list can be viewed here).

This Thursday I will send out Part II of the Guide and will post my personal favorites from the next two price ranges as well: between $30-50 and of Moshiach Wines (wines I would proudly serve the Moshiach, were he ever to grace my table).  I note that Moshiach wines sometimes include older vintages that I have been storing for a while in my cellar, and which are not always readily available at your local retailer.

It’s important to none that these lists are not exhaustive, but rather a sampling of wines I enjoy and think you will enjoy as well.  Also, while 2008 was a tremendous vintage for almost all Israeli wines, it was also Shmittah and therefore most wines were not exported out of Israel.  There are a number of 2008 Israeli wines being sold, including a number from the Golan Heights Winery, Galil Mountain and Odem Mountain. As with most halachik issues, there are numerous opinions with respect to drinking Shmittah wine outside of Israel (or at all) and one should consult their local Rabbi with any questions in this regard.

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BEST OF ANNUAL PESSACH KOSHER WINE BUYING GUIDE – PART I

Under $15.99

While this list includes many good and enjoyable wines, as a general rule, the wines in this price range are not complex, cellar worthy or sophisticated (with a few exceptions).  As oak barrels are a significant component of a wines cost, this list has plenty of white wines which typically spend little or no time in oak, resulting in lower prices.  As a general rule, any wine in this price range from Recanati, Galil Mountain or Dalton is going to be good, as long as it’s not too old.  Most of the wines on these lists qualify as YH Best Buys (wines I consider a particularly good way to spend your Lirot).

(1) Barkan, Classic, Pinot Noir, 2009
(2) Casa de Corca, Reserve, Douro, 2006
(3) Dalton, Estate, Petite Sirah, 2009
(4) Dalton, Chardonnay, 2010
(5) Galil Mountain, Pinot Noir, 2009
(6) Golan Heights Winery, Yarden, Gewürztraminer, 2010
(7) Recanati, Cabernet Sauvignon, 2009
(8) Recanati, Yasmin, White, 2010
(9) Tabor, Galil, Shiraz, 2009
(10) Teperberg, Silver, Syrah, 2009

16-29.99

This price range is actually the sweet spot for me.  As the prices of kosher wine continues to rise to ridiculous levels, there are a number of wineries that maintain a tremendous level of quality without pushing prices out of the reach of most people.  While the majority of truly great Kosher wines unfortunately reside in the over $30 price range, there are plenty of great ones here as well.  In general, I find Ella Valley, Dalton, Carmel, Herzog Special Reserve and the Golan Heights Winery to be consistent players in this field of great wines under $30, notwithstanding the fact that they all also have more expensive terrific wines as well.

(1) Carmel, Sha’al Late Harvest, Gewurztraminer, 2006
(2) Dalton, Reserve, Wild Yeast, Viognier, 2009
(3) Ella Valley Vineyards, Cabernet Franc, 2007
(4) Ella Valley Vineyards, Syrah, 2007
(5) Galil Mountain, Yiron, 2007
(6) Porto Cordovero, Fine Ruby Port, n.v.
(7) Recanati, Reserve, Petit-Sirah / Zinfandel, 2007 (also their Cabernet Franc)
(8) Segal, Single Vineyard Dishon, Cabernet Sauvignon, 2007 (a truly great wine and a YH Best Buy)
(9) Teperberg, Reserve, Cabernet Sauvignon, 2007 (probably Teperberg’s best wine yet)
(10) Yatir, Red Blend, 2006

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