With Passover just around the corner, we thought we’d highlight a couple of wines to enjoy over the festivities.
One of the newest and hottest-selling Israeli kosher wines to hit the U.S. market is the 2012 Pasco Project #1 ($25) made by the critically acclaimed winemaker, and our friend, Lewis Pasco. A blend of 59 percent cabernet sauvignon, 37 percent merlot, and 3 percent petite sirah all grown in the Shomron (West Bank), the Pasco Project #1 is a big wine, packed with jammy, concentrated, dark berry fruits, intense, drying, slightly powdery tannins, solid acidity, some mild spice and herbal notes, with a definite overlay of toasted oak.
This well-crafted wine needs proper cellaring to mature in the bottle, balance out and allow the various elements to cohere. While pleasant drinking now, it has much promise of future enjoyment with just a bit of patience.
Another Israeli wine to consider is the Dalton Petite Sirah 2011 ($24), this is an aromatic, rich and velvety beauty with some sweet dark berry fruit and spice notes, some nice earthiness and a lovely finish with additional notes of black pepper and French vanilla.
Another new option is the 2010 Galil Ela ($22), a blend of 45 percent syrah, 45 percent barbera, 7 percent petit verdot, and 3 percent cabernet franc, all grown in the Upper Galilee. This is the latest blend from the Galil Mountain Winery, offering lovely notes of dark fruits, herbs, oak, pleasant acidity and a slightly creamy texture.
Moving on to some lighter options, consider the Recanati Rose 2013 ($15). Made of 70 percent barbera and 30 percent merlot, this bright, aromatic, pink wine offers aromas and flavors of strawberry, raspberry, under-ripe peach, and some citrus with a hints of soft spice and some refreshing, crisp acidity.
Away from Israel, consider Spanish cava, Spanish sparkling wine, produced mostly in the Cataluyna region surrounding Barcelona. Cava is very palate-refreshing, making it versatile enough to be an inexpensive, guest-greeting aperitif, as well as an ideal accompaniment to the many complex flavors found in appetizers and spicy foods. A recently released kosher for Passover version is the Freixenet Excelencia Brut Cava ($15) that opens with stone fruit, apple and floral aromas that expand nicely into melon and citrus flavors. Made solely from the macabeo grape, this would make a worthy candidate for the first of the four cups at the seder. Another worthwhile cava is the nonvintage mevushal Elvi Cava Brut ($20). Aged for 12 months before disgorging, this Spanish sparkler shows bright citrus aromas and flavors that ride on a light frame of tight bubbles and notes of apples and yeast, along with a mild spiciness in the pleasantly long finish. This food-friendly, moderately priced sparkler is also a great choice.
Spirits-wise, we thought we’d stick with Spain and revisit sherry. Even though sherry isn’t really a spirit but a fortified wine, we really enjoy it — and thought we would once again recommend the kosher-certified Tio Pepe Fino Sherry ($24; be certain to check it is the kosher version as the nonkosher version is very widely available and the kosher version is a much more limited, more expensive run).
Tio Pepe Fino Sherry is a bone-dry fortified wine, offering a pleasing mix of flavors including almonds, walnuts, fruits, fresh olive oil, salty crackers and Granny Smith apples. Tio Pepe has a lovely long and smooth finish that is dry, refreshing, a little tangy, and a tad herbaceous. It is an excellent aperitif and seriously whets the appetite; regionally it is most commonly enjoyed with the meal itself. Not for all tastes, but an excellent and pleasurable wine, it should be drunk young and well chilled — ideally within a few hours of opening. L’Chaim!