This year, I propose a slight variation on the now familiar refrain that closes each Passover Seder. Before you pour one of the four cups of wine at your Seder meal, stand up and proudly declare: “Next wine from Jerusalem!” I guarantee your guests will not be disappointed.
Two thousand years before grapevines were planted in the venerable wine regions of France and Italy, wine was being produced in the land of Israel. Visiting one of the 250 wineries scattered throughout the country is a lesson in tradition meeting technology. Winemaking in Israel is both art and science, with plenty of help from nature. Boasting dry, hot summers, a short wet winter, occasional frost and cold Negev nights, Israel has the potential to become one of the premier wine growing destinations in the world.
There are five recognized wine regions in Israel: Galilee, Samaria, Samson, Judean Hills and the Negev. Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Shiraz are among the most popular grapes you will find bottled by the talented winemakers that have firmly established roots in the ancient land.
Israeli wines are a source of special pride for our people. With little financial support and the same pioneer spirit that infused Israel’s transformation into a modern state, Israeli winemakers have planted, pruned and picked their way to craft wines of distinction. Israeli wines are worthy of a place at your Seder table and all year round. As we celebrate the true meaning of freedom and our hope for redemption, you can taste the holiness of the Promised Land and the character of our colorful people with each glass.
This year, I sought out some smaller Israeli wineries to share at my Seder. In deference to tradition and personal preference, I will be serving red and wearing white.
Our friend Daniel Rogov, wine and restaurant critic for the Israeli daily newspaper HaAretz, graciously offered to share his tasting notes for our Passover wine selections. Rogov is the author of a number of wine and culinary books, including Rogov's Guides to Israeli & World Kosher Wines 2011 and his frequent musings on the world of wine and food are available at Wine Lovers Page.
**Editor's Note** Daniel Rogov, Israel's leading food and wine critic, passed away in September 2011.
This year, we will be enjoying:
2007 Psagot Edom (Judean Hills); $28. A Bordeaux blend of 59% Cabernet Sauvignon, 19% Merlot, 12% Cabernet Franc and 10% Petit Verdot. Showing medium- to full-bodied (leaning toward the full), with its once-firm tannins and generous spicy wood and acidity now integrating nicely, opens in the glass to show generous spicy black fruits, those yielding to notes of cassis and Mediterranean herbs. Long and generous.
2007 Alexander Sandro Cabernet-Merlot (Galilee); $21. Deep garnet toward royal purple, medium- to full-bodied, reflecting its 14 months in French and American barriques with firm tannins and notes of spicy cedarwood. Nothing odd about blending Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot (70% and 26% each) but somewhat unusual in that the wine was also blended with 4% Sauvignon Blanc. On the nose and palate blackberry, cassis and raspberry notes, those on a background of earthy minerals and Mediterranean herbs.
2007 Tzuba Cabernet Sauvignon (Judean Hills); $25. Mediumto full-bodied, with gently gripping tannins.Dark garnet with purple and orange reflections, opening with red berries, those yielding comfortably to currants and wild berries on a gently spicy background. Fruits and tannins rise on the finish.
2009 Domaine Netofa Latour (Galilee); $38. Developed in French oak, showing garnet toward royal purple, a medium- to full-bodied red with gently caressing tannins.On first attack plums and black cherries, those parting to make way for blackberries and rising on the moderately-long finish notes of black pepper and bittersweet chocolate. Mouthfilling and generous.
2006 Yatir Red Wine (Judean Hills); $29. A complex blend, of Merlot, Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvigon, Malbec, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot (35%, 24%, 20%, 10%, 8% and 3% respectively). Not showing any specific varietal traits (but with such a blend one would not expect that) but indeed showing full-bodied, with soft, gently gripping tannins and reflecting its 12 months in oak with near-sweet cedarwood notes. On the nose and palate a potpourri of black fruits, those supported nicely by notes of spices and espresso coffee.
2007 Shiloh Shor Cabernet Merlot (Judean Hills); $24. Dark garnet with purple and orange reflections, full-bodied, with spicy oak in fine balance with fruits and acidity.Opens with red fruits on the nose and palate, those shifting comfortably in the glass to blackberries, blackcurrants and wild berries.
I wish you and your family a chag kasher v’sameach!
May we all raise a glass together next year in Jerusalem!