One of the newest companies in the domestic kosher wine market is AY Wines, a New Jersey-based company co-owned and managed by Ari Lockspieser.
An attorney by trade, Lockspieser is also a fine wine consultant to the JCommerce Group (parent company of KosherWine.com and JWines.com).
“Our concept is very simple,” Lockspieser explained to me recently over the phone. “We decided to try to bring to the kosher world some of the respected wines that are currently outside of the kosher market’s frame of reference, and do so with the explicit buy-in of the
winery or winemaker.”
The goal, he told me, “is to facilitate — from harvest to bottling — kosher wines that the winemaker will be proud of and that the consumer will love.” AY Wines, he said, “aims to make the wine that the winemaker is already producing kosher.”
AY Wines sources, facilitates, imports and distributes limited runs of kosher versions of popular wines from respected non-kosher wineries. Ultimately the idea is to expand the kosher wine market, and the knowledge and experiences available to kosher consumers. Currently all their wines are OU certified, and they are also pursuing additional kosher supervision to cater to an even wider audience.
Their first project was a small run of 200 cases of three kosher wines from Paumanok Vineyards, an estate winery on the North Fork of Long Island, N.Y. Through AY Wines, Paumanok began producing 200 cases of kosher versions of three of their wines starting with the 2017 vintage, and then another 200 cases with the current 2018 vintage.
The kosher editions are, mercifully, priced in line with the non-kosher editions. At present the wines are only distributed in New York and New Jersey, but most of the New York stores are licensed to ship to Washington.
Lockspieser told me that there are at least two other AY Wines projects that will be hitting the U.S. market soon: a kosher cabernet sauvignon from the highly regarded Walla Walla, Wash.-based Bergevin Lane Vineyards, and — for their first import — a 2018 verdejo from the esteemed Pío Del Ramo Vineyards in Jumilla, Spain.
As best I can tell from my conversation with Lockspieser, AY Wines is, so far, pursuing an intelligent, deliberative plan and is hopefully here for the long-haul. For now, however, the only AY Wines available are the delicious kosher wines from the Paumanok Vineyards.
Paumanok Vineyards, Kosher Festival Chardonnay, 2018 (around $26): This thoroughly delicious if somewhat steely unoaked Chard is poised, taut, invigorating and immensely appealing with fresh aromas of citrus, peach and white blossom, and crisp citrus and stone-fruit flavors. Will make for great summer drinking, too.
Paumanok Vineyards, Dry Riesling, kosher edition, 2018 (around $26): The bouquet presented at first with an oddly muted core of fruit — nectarine, apricot, honey crisp apple, and Anjou pear — enveloped in a somewhat buoyant frame of jasmine, lilies, lime-peel and
Within 20 minutes or so it all harmonized very nicely, leading to somewhat bracing but refreshing and tasty flavors of lime, green apple, white apricot and subtle minerality. The fruit is a touch austere, rather than indulgently fruity, but the fine balance with the vibrant acidity keeps it all hugely enjoyable and appetite inducing.
Paumanok Vineyards, Chenin Blanc, kosher edition, 2018 (around $28): Fresh, crisp and sippy with grapefruit, lemon, Granny Smith apples, guava, melon and perhaps a little pineapple, and with a driving minerality that helps ground the slight sweetness and balances the zesty almost electric acidity. Lovely, refreshing and summery. L’chaim!
Send your wine and spirits questions to Joshua E. London at [email protected].