Kosher Wine & Spirits

 

What is Bourbon?

 

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It’s Kentucky Derby time, (the Derby will be on May 5th, 2012) which means Americans are enjoying the classic mint julep cocktail, based on one of America’s most distinctive spirits: Bourbon. But what is Bourbon and how is it made?

Contrary to popular belief, Bourbon can be made anywhere in the United States. At the very least, the mixture of grains that make up a Bourbon must be at least 51% corn with the balance being any grain, including wheat, barley, rye, corn or rice. Also, the resulting whiskey must be put into new, charred white oak barrels. In order to be called a “Straight Bourbon,” the whiskey
must be aged for a minimum of two years. Incidentally, after these barrels have been used for Bourbons, they are often shipped to Scotland for the aging of Scotch whisky.


 

What Kind of Taster Are You? (Quiz)

 

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Tim Hanni, one of the industry’s top experts and holder of the Master of Wine title, says that tasting notes comparing wine to berries or chocolate is useless in helping most consumers find a wine they enjoy. His system, the “Budometer,” instead uses factors like how many taste buds a person has and—how they like their coffee.

To see where you fall on the wine taste continuum, take the following quiz:


 

Kosher Wine for Passover – Easy as 1, 2, 3, 4

 

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As the sun begins to set on the evening of Friday, April 6, 2012, Jews all over the world will gather together for the first night of Passover.  Throughout the narrative retelling the Exodus from Egypt, we drink four cups of wine to celebrate our freedom from slavery.  There was a time, not so long ago, when sipping the syrupy sweet Concord grape wine at the Seder was a form of cruel ancient punishment – symbolic, but not satisfying.   Now, we have so many amazing choices of wines to enjoy at Seder it can seem almost overwhelming.  Freedom has its challenges.

Let me try to make things a little easier this year with four tips on how to choose the perfect kosher wine for Passover and a few recommendations for your Seder.


 

Kosher for Passover Vodka That’s Worth a Shot

 

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I’m not a vodka drinker.   I remember years ago tasting kosher for Passover potato vodka that tasted like lighter fluid and I vowed to stick to wine for Passover from that point forward.  This year Vodka lovers can rejoice over at least two high quality, artisanal Kosher for Passover vodkas now being produced.  I decided to give it a shot.  Maybe two.

Last month, I shared my discovery of Zachlawi, a new artisanal distillery producing the popular Middle Eastern liquor, Arak.  Zachlawi is also kicking it with kosher for Passover vodka.   “Making vodka was not really my choice – rather it was my challenge,”  explains Zachlawi founder Marty Kairey.  He knew kosher for Passover vodkas weren’t so  good and there was no reason they couldn’t be great.  It was harder than he thought, but he created a fantastic Russian-style vodka.  Marty might have stopped there, but he couldn’t resist another great challenge.  After two years of R&D, Marty has another success, Sweet Potato Vodka.  Having tasted this new kind of vodka I have to say I am excited to bring this out for Pesach.  It actually has a sweetness that made it incredibly easy to drink.  Maybe I do like vodka.


 

Dalton Winery – Passover Wine...

 

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At a traditional Passover Seder, Jews all over the world come together to tell the story of our miraculous Exodus from Egypt.  Four cups of wine are served to commemorate our freedom and celebrate our deliverance from slavery.

One of my family’s Passover traditions is to select wines from Israel to enjoy at our Seder.  “Next year in Jerusalem“ takes on even more meaning when you raise a glass of wine from the Holy Land.


 

Purim Wine Recommendations

 

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While I count myself among those who enjoy wine with almost every evening meal, like many others I make an extra effort to have special wines o appropriately honor the joyous occasion in question.   However, while some holiday choices are obvious (Pessach = best possible wine for the Seder meal (I try not to used big expensive wines for the first few cups since they are tough to really appreciate that way); Chanukah = high-acid wines to match all that greasy & high-oil food), the one gives me some pause is the upcoming glorious Chag of Purim.  On one hand, it is by far the holiday most associated with drinking, with much of the action in Megilat Esther coming during the two “wine feasts” hosted by Queen Esther in an effort to defeat the evil Haman so appropriate homage to fermented grape juice is totally appropriate.  On the other hand, given folks proclivities for over-indulging during the festivities, it is usually slightly wasteful to bring out the really good stuff.

As a proposed compromise I hope people can get behind, in keeping with one of the missions of my newsletter to introduce folks to wines they may not be as familiar with (and paying homage to another time-honored Purim tradition, that of Ve’nahafocho (doing the opposite)), for this pre-Purim guest posting I have provided five recommendations of wines from varietals you may be less familiar with.  While these wines may be those you drink less often, they are delicious and highly recommended, guaranteed to enhance your Purim festivities, regardless of the path they may take…


 

How To Make The Perfect Cocktail

 

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Purim is coming, we’re so happy, we’re gonna make cocktails! Now that the especially long February is over, it’s time to spring into March with some class. Here are two delicious cocktails with my tips on how to get the most out of your drink.

For a full list of cocktails for Purim click here.


 

Arak – An Ancient Drink With A Modern Interest

 

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A few weeks ago, I discovered Zachlawi Fig Arak on Facebook.  I thought it sounded interesting and wondered what Arak was.  The next day I saw it in a friend’s house. Isn’t it weird how you discover something new and then you see it everywhere?  I sampled this sweet, strong fig Arak.  It was absolutely delicious and I had to learn more.

Arak is a Middle Eastern aniseed flavored liqueur with a long history.   It is made by fermenting grapes, dates, sugar, plums or figs with water, aniseed and sometimes more sugar.  It is usually served ice cold: 1/3 Arak to 2/3 water and ice.  As water is added, the Arak becomes milky in color which is why it is sometimes referred to as “Milk of Lions”.  It can also be mixed with fruit juice or tea.  Since fig Arak is a little sweeter than clear Arak, it can be enjoyed straight up.  It is best served alongside Mezze — middle eastern appetizers like Stuffed Grape Leaves or Hummus and Pita.


 

Spirit Recommendations to Lift Your Spirits This...

 

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Ah, Purim. As we return to the Heroics of Esther and Mordechai, I remember the bumblings of King Ahashverosh that much more. At the very least, he lightens the atmosphere of the story. It’s in this light-hearted theme that I like to imbibe on Purim. Don’t get me wrong, given the weather this time of year, I generally prefer heavier, smokier, more brooding spirits, but for Purim, it’s hard to say “Blessed be Haman” over a big, brooding dram. Instead, I tend to enjoy lighter, more “fun” beverages.

For vodka, my choice this month is Bootlegger, made in Gardner, NY.


 

Kosher Wine for Hanukkah

 

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The sun is setting and the Hanukkah lights are aglow.  The kids are quietly and patiently waiting to open their presents.   You have already cleaned up the dishes from dinner, wiped the splattered olive oil off the stovetop and are ready to sit back and relax.  Who am I kidding?  Hanukkah was never so simple!  Peeling, squeezing, slicing, dicing, frying, serving, cleaning.  Repeat.  Sound familiar?

It all looks so effortless on the plate.  The applesauce and sour cream have it easy.


 

Kosher Wine for Thanksgiving

 

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When you think of the great wine growing regions of the world, your imagination might first turn to the rich soil of Bordeaux or the rolling hills of Tuscany.  I look west to California.  America is blessed with sun kissed vines spread across the Golden State, producing outstanding wines that hold their own against Old World wines that trace their roots before the Pilgrims ever landed on Plymouth Rock.

California wine geeks love to tell the story about that day in Paris in 1976 when a red and white from Napa beat some of the most legendary Bordeaux and Burgundy wines from France in a blind taste testing that left the eight French judges speechless (quite possibly a first for the usually loquacious French).


 

New Kosher Wine for The Jewish New Year

 

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I’ve spent the last three weeks tasting some of the best new kosher wine for the New Year and my cork-pulling hand is getting tired.  I am not expecting much in the way of sympathy.  But a little help washing the glassware would be nice.

When summertime is over and the first winds of fall begin to blow, I run away from rosé and let go of pinot grigio to get ready for some wine suitable for the soulful introspection that accompanies Rosh Hashanah. Plus I pick a few bottles just for fun, something to enjoy while the bees are chasing my kids around the sukkah or when hosting a late night Simchat Torah celebration.


 

A Kosher Wine for Every Personality

 

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She was a real beauty.  Sparkling like gold.  Bubbly and vivacious, her charm and refinement were refreshing and unexpected.  Over the course of dinner, she seemed to really open up and I discovered things I had never expected to find.  That night I fell in love with French Champagne.

Every wine has a personality.  And there is a personality for every wine. I wanted to share my completely unscientific wine personality pairings to help you play matchmaker next time you are having a dinner party or guests over for Shabbat.


 

All About Wine

 

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Everything you ever wanted to know about wine, but were afraid to ask. (more…)


 

Kosher Wine from Israel for Passover

 

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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.