Passover began on Friday, April 3 and lasts eight days. It is a Jewish celebration in remembrance of the Israelites Exodus from Egypt as told in the book of Exodus, chapters 1-15. The most significant Passover observance is the avoidance of leaven bread throughout the entire holiday. This avoidance commemorates the fact that the Jews left Egypt in a hurry and did not have time to let their bread rise. Passover is traditionally observed on the first two nights with a Seder meal. It is a multi-sensory experience that involves of the retelling and discussion the story of the Israelites escape from Egyptian slavery, drinking four glasses of wine, partaking in symbolic foods on the Seder plate, then reclining in celebration of freedom.
The Seder meal includes: Matzoh: 3 unleaven matzohs as a reminder of the haste of the Israelites escape; Maror: bitter herbs, usually horseradish or lettuce, used to symbolize slavery; Charoses: a sweet combination of apples, nuts, wine and cinnamon symbolizing the mortar the Jews used to construct Pharaohs temples and buildings; Beitzah: a roasted egg symbolizing life and festival sacrifice; Karpas: a non-bitter vegetable such as parsley or celery symbolizing hope and redemption and served with a bowl of salt water representing tears shed; Zeroa: a lamb or goat bone symbolizing the paschal sacrificial offering and finally Wine: the four glasses of wine consumed during Seder represent the four-fold promise of redemption as prophesied by the Prophet Elijah, with one glass left for him to enjoy.
Once the Seder meal has concluded any number of foods can be served throughout Passover, as long as everything is kosher. Some typical Passover foods include lamb, beef, chicken, turkey, duck, goose and fish with scales, as well as any fruit, vegetables (except corn, green beans, peas), quinoa, spices and herbs. So there are an abundance of choices to prepare delicious Passover meals and no shortage of recipes for Passover found on just about every cooking web site and blog.
The real question is what wines pair best with Passover and since you will be drinking four glasses at Seder alone the wine better be good! I have had the great honor of receiving three wine samples from the generous people at Royal Wine Corporation, the top kosher wine importer in the United States as well as a premier manufacturer, importer and distributor of specialty wines, spirits and liquors from around the world. “Founded in 1848, Royal Wine Corp. has been owned and operated in the United States by the Herzog family, whose winemaking roots date back eight generations to 19th century Czechoslovakia. Today Royal Wine’s portfolio of domestic and international wines range from traditional wine producing regions of France, Italy and Spain, as well as Israel, New Zealand and Argentina. Additionally, Royal Wine Corp.’s spirit and liqueur portfolio offers some of the most sought after scotches, bourbons, tequilas and vodkas as well as hard to find specialty items such as flavored brandies and liqueurs.” Furthermore, Jay Buschsbaum, VP of Marketing and Director of Education with Royal Wine Corp just did an interview with Eater entitled, “Seven Things You Should Know About Kosher Wine.” It is a very informative read to expand your knowledge of kosher wine. I strongly encourage you to visit the Royal Wine Corporation web site so you can take in their impressive history as well as their extensive portfolio of wines, spirits and liquors – it is truly mind-blowing!
One key bit of information I learned in researching this article is not all kosher wines are permissible for Passover. What? As I understand all kosher wines are crafted under the supervision of a Sabbath – observing Rabbi and contain only kosher ingredients. However, kosher wines for Passover may not be crafted using bread mold for the yeast used in fermentation and they do not contain common wine preservatives or additives. You will know a wine is kosher for Passover by looking for a seal and a “P” on the rear label. Kosher wines lose their kosher status when opened and poured by a non-Jew; however, if the wine is mevushal, heated near boiling, the restrictions disappear and the wine remains kosher no matter who opens, pours or drinks it.
Enough talk on to the wines:
Our first wine comes from Baron Herzog Winery in Paso Robles, California. The Herzog family has a remarkable history of wine making (both kosher and non-kosher) beginning in Slovakia before WWII by Baron Phillip Herzog, hiding in the Slovakian countryside for safety during WWII; Eugene, Phillip’s grandson, returned to winemaking after the war only to be forced out of Europe three years later by the Czech communist regime. In 1948, Eugene packed up his family and moved to New York where he worked in a kosher winery with his sons. Long story short, in 1958, the company became theirs. They named it Royal Wine Company after Phillip. In 1985 they expanded the winery operations to California and here one of the lovely wines produced there.
Baron Herzog 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon, Paso Robles: This wine poured a dazzling vibrant violet into the glass and opened with a inviting aroma of red fruit and spice with a touch of earthiness. On the palate this wine delivers rich flavors of ripe red cherries, raspberries and plums, delicately balanced with spice notes, toasted hazelnuts and a touch of chocolate. It had a lively acidy with well-balanced tannins, leaving a rich mouth-feel and lingering finish. It offered a zest that was reminiscent of a Zinfandel, yet it was a beautifully balanced silky yet lively Cabernet Sauvignon. This was the first kosher wine I have ever tasted; it was outstanding and tasted no different than any other high quality Cab. This wine was mevushal. SRP $18; click here to buy direct from winery. I strongly encourage you to visit the Baron Herzog web site to learn more about their history, the winery, and view their entire portfolio of wines.
Our next wine comes from an iconic winery with an iconic owner. From the Carmel Winery web site: Carmel Winery is the historic winery of Israel. It was founded in 1882 by Baron Edmond de Rothschild, owner of Chateau Lafite in Bordeaux.
Carmel owns the two largest wineries in Israel, at Rishon Le Zion, south of Tel Aviv and at Zichron Yaacov, south of Haifa. Each has deep underground cellars built by Rothschild in the 19th century.
Carmel also has two small, state-of-the-art wineries close to key vineyards, to allow production of small quantities of handcrafted wines. These are Kayoumi Winery, situated in the Upper Galilee, and Yatir Winery, in the northeastern Negev.
The story of Carmel represents the story of Israel, and the recent developments of Carmel’s wines, symbolizes the revolution of Israeli wine in recent years
Carmel Winery Appellation Cabernet Sauvignon 2011, Galilee: This wine poured a deep violet into the glass and opened with black fruit, accompanied by cassis, toasted walnuts, leather and an inviting earthiness. On the palate this Cab delivered lush black berries, black raspberries, currants and ripe black plums, along with damp tobacco leaves, licorice, vanilla, and a touch of dusty earth. It was full of flavor with round acidity and integrated tannins. It offered a full mouth-feel and a lingering finish. It was quite lovely, a pleasing yet easy drinking Cabernet Sauvignon. This wine was crafted from grapes specially chosen from Upper Galilee. SRP $20; click here to find this wine online or ask your favorite local wine retailer. Please visit their web site to learn more about their great history and view their portfolio of wines.
From the Psagot web site: The Psagot winery was founded in the year 2003 and has been continually growing since. Today 8 different types of wine are produced, and in the year 2013 the wine bottles production was up to 200,000 bottles per year, a large part of which are exported to many countries in the world.
The quality wine vineyards of the winery are rooted on a picturesque limestone terraces, 900 meters above water level in the settlement “Psagot” in Binyamin. In the year 2008 the winery moved to its new location, just a 6 minute drive from Jerusalem’s Pisgat Zeev neighborhood. The winery which dwells in a beautiful stone structure overlooking the Kelt Wadi and the mountains of Edom, invites its visitors to enjoy great wine with a breathtaking view.
Psagot Edom 2012 Red Wine Judean Hills: This wine was crafted from 70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 6% Merlot, 19% Cabernet Franc and 5% Petit Verdot grapes grown in the hills of Judea. It poured a rich garnet into the glass and opened with a lovely aroma of dark berries, Asian spice and a touch of earthy funk. On the palate this rich, smooth wine delivered vibrant flavors of black cherries, currants and plums, with vibrant spice notes, cassis, leather, a touch of dusty earth, smoke, and a lingering bit of vanilla on the tongue. This was a very pleasing Meritage with ripe acidity and well integrated tannins in a body wine with a lingering finish. It was aged for 14 months in French and American oak. SRP $35; click here to find online or ask your favorite local wine retailer. Please visit the Psagot web site to learn more about this beautiful winery and view their entire portfolio of wines.
Each of these three wines are perfect pairings for your favorite Passover meal: brisket, lamb, steaks will all excellent choices. The Psagot Edom was the most full-body of the three and would pair well with pepper meats; the Baron Herzog, due to its lighter body, will pair very well with scaled fish; the Carmel Appellation Cab is quite versatile and will pair well with any Passover selection. I feel so honored to have received and enjoyed these three beautiful wines. Although they are Kosher Passover wines I strongly encourage all of you to seek out these lovely wines and try them any day of the week; any time of year and share your thoughts with me.
My Song Selection: As I searched for a song to pair with this article I kept coming across The Maccabeats. I love the tongue in cheek name that pairs a vital part of Jewish history with modern culture and as I listened to far too many of their videos I found them to be a very talented acapella group. When I came across their version of Les Miserables adapted for Passover I knew it was the perfect pairing. One of my all-time favorite stories altered to depict the story of Passover. Yes, this is it… Enjoy!
Get your own bottles of kosher wine from the Royal Wine Corp and let me know what song you would pair with them. Happy Passover. Cheers!