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Wine Talk: Holiday Wines

Easter is the celebration of new life and rebirth. Many times its timing coincides with Passover, and each marks the first feast of spring after many cold winter nights. Many families today observe traditions from more than one religion. The wider your circle of friends, the higher the likelihood you may be invited to share in a meal that memorializes events from Biblical times. There are many examples of wine being enjoyed throughout the Old and New Testaments. It is nice to honor that tradition during these holidays. The first miracle Christ performed and the only act requested by his mother in the New Testament was to make wine at the wedding of Cana. So here are some Easter and Passover picks.

A great start to any holiday is a Napa Valley Chardonnay from California. There are many very good ones, but one of the great ones is Franciscan Estate Chardonnay 2014. This is a well-structured Chardonnay from Napa Valley with flavors of green apple, pear, and lemon. It is a double fermentation Chardonnay that has been aged in Oak. If you are serving chicken or fish this Easter, you will want to have a couple of bottles of this on ice. A Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand is always a good idea anytime of the day or night. One of my favorites is Oyster Bay from the Marlborough region 2015; very crisp and lemon flavor like biting into a fresh grapefruit. Finely, a Viognier, would be an interesting change. This unique white is a great cold weather wine. I like Lake Erie Viognier made by Presque Isle wine cellars from Pennsylvania. This wine has rich melon and peach aromas with traces of butterscotch. It goes great with ham and chicken dishes and is great with cream based seafood.

One of the great gifts of god is Cabernet Savignon. This year’s pick for Cabernet is William Hill Estate North Coast Cabernet Sauvignon 2014. A rich Cabernet Sauvignon with flavors of blackberry, black cherry, mocha, and butterscotch, this has good mouth feel and a nice bright finish. If you are doing Lamb this Easter this Cabernet Sauvignon will bring out the best flavors in herb-rubbed lamb which is my favorite. Pino Noir is another great red that will work well with holiday foods. Almost any Pino Noir from Russian River Valley will work and is from Sonoma. MacMurry is quite herbal and a nice change. Any Pino Noir from Russian River Valley in Sonoma should work quite well and the prices range from $15.00 to $40.00 and they are all good. Malbec is a great change and a great Easter wine. Mendoza in Argentina is the Malbec place and Costco has a fantastic Malbec for under $10.00. It is so good I can’t tell you, and it would make a great holiday wine!

To be considered kosher, a Sabbath-observant Jew(s) must supervise and handle the entire winemaking process, from the time the grapes are crushed until the wine is bottled and any ingredients used, including finings, must be kosher. Wine that is described as “kosher for Passover” must have been kept free from contact with chametz; examples being grain, bread and dough. When kosher wine is produced, marketed and sold commercially, it would normally have a hechsher (“seal of approval”) of a kosher certification agency, or of an authoritative rabbi who is preferably also a posek (“decisor” of Jewish law), or be supervised by a beth din (“Jewish religious court of law”).

In recent times, there has been an increased demand for kosher wines and a number of wine producing countries now produce a wide variety of sophisticated kosher wines under strict rabbinical supervision, particularly in Israel, the United States, France, Germany, Italy, South Africa, Chile and Australia. Two of the world’s largest producers and importers of kosher wines, Kedem and Manischewitz, are both based in the Northeastern United States.

The use of wine has a long history in Judaism, dating back to biblical times. Archeological evidence shows that wine was produced throughout ancient Israel. The traditional and religious use of wine continued within the Jewish diaspora community. In the United States, kosher wines came to be associated with sweet Concord wines produced by wineries founded by Jewish immigrants to New York. Beginning in the 1980s, a trend towards producing dry, premium-quality kosher wines began with the revival of the Israeli wine industry. Today kosher wine is produced not only in Israel but throughout the world, including premium wine areas like Napa Valley and the St-Emilion region of Bordeaux.

No matter what our religious beliefs may be, it seems this holiday season is a time for wonderful family get togethers and a time for family and friends to rejoice in our traditions and our blessings. Choose some great wines to enjoy together in this holiday season and you will be glad you did!

Ray Spaziani is the Chapter Director of the New Haven Chapter of the American Wine Society. He teaches wine appreciation classes at Gateway Community College, the Milford Board of Education as well as Moltose wine and beer making suppliers, and is a member of the International Tasting Panel of Amenti Del Vino and Wine Maker Magazine. He is an award winning home wine maker. Email Ray with your wine questions and wine events at

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