Virginia vineyards are generally not associated with Orthodox Jewish New Yorkers in the diamond industry. But Avi Jacobowitz is changing perceptions of what a vintner can look like, partnering on the state’s first and only kosher winery — Molon Lave Vineyards in Warrenton.
The kosher wine connection began with a business relationship that Jacobowitz, a diamond dealer, formed over the years with a customer, Louizos Papadopoulous, who owns a jewelry store in Oakton.
From Greece, where his family had several acres of vineyards and produced wine, Papadopoulous wanted to continue the family tradition (his father owns Mediterranean Cellars, located about 25 miles from Molon Lave).
Papadopoulous bought 50 acres of farmland and planted the vines in 2003, opening the winery and tasting rooms on Nov. 1, 2009.
The family lives on the property. Jacobowitz is a minority partner.
“At the time we spoke about [starting a winery], I told him that the only way I can get involved is if we made kosher wine and that’s how the kosher wine came about,” said Jacobowitz.
The kosher wine is under rabbinical supervision from the Orthodox Union, according to Jacobowitz.
Between 20 percent and 25 percent of the total wine produced at Molon Lave is OU-certified. The rest is not kosher.
Production of kosher wines started in 2010 with a Riesling and a Noiret followed by Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon in 2011 and 2012. The winery is getting ready to bottle a 2013 Cabernet and Chardonnay. Jacobowitz said business is brisk, with the 2012 stock about to be sold out.
While the kosher wines are sold primarily at the vineyard, Jacobowitz said that they can also be bought online at jwines.com and kosherwine.com and, according to the winery website, Virginia state liquor stores.
Jacobowitz, who lives and works in Manhattan, said he visits the vineyard monthly and gives tours, by appointment only, when he is there that are geared toward Jewish visitors, speaking about how to make kosher wine and explaining why the wine has to be kosher.
“It is the only kosher vineyard around. It’s definitely something very interesting to see,” said Jacobowitz. “We’ve had some Jews come through. Some frum Jews have come through. The word is getting out slowly.”