Despite the cold, icy weather outside, we found our thoughts wandering and our hearts pining for sunnier and warmer climes. One of us is from northern California originally, and as it happens we both love northern California wines. We always have a tendency of saying this, but one of our favorite winemakers is Ernie Weir, the owner of Napa Valley, California’s Hagafen Cellars.
At a certain level this is unfair of us to say because we do in fact love the handful of other kosher CA winemakers too. Sorry to gush, but we do love (in no particular order) Joe Hurliman of Herzog Cellars, Benyamin Cantz of Four Gates, Jeff Morgan of Covenant Wines, Jonathan Hajdu of Covenant and of Hajdu Wines, Shimon and Gabriel Weiss of the Shirah Wine Company, and last but certainly not least Craig Winchell of Agua Dulce Winery—even though he’s now only making non-kosher wines, his kosher wines are thankfully still available. Not only would we have less kosher wine to drink without them, we would actually have less joy in life as so many happy memories have been accompanied, facilitated and, well lubricated, by their many wonderful wines.
Yet Weir holds a special place for us because he was a real pioneer, the first in the United States to set-up shop producing quality kosher table wine. Founded in 1979, by Weir and his wife Irit, Hagafen Cellars has a reputation for high-quality Napa wines that are mostly sold to and consumed by non-Jews. Weir chooses to keep his vineyards organic and sustainable, and his wines kosher.
As Weir puts it, “I am making Napa Valley wine, and the wine happens to be kosher.” Located on Napa’s Silverado Trail, the winery boasts a popular tasting room.
Hagafen wines have been served at numerous diplomatic events including White House state dinners. Another noteworthy distinction, all Hagafen wines are certified kosher and mevushal under the supervision of the Orthodox Union (OU) – yet the wines never seem to suffer any noticeable adverse effects from the mevushal process (a thermal processing akin to flash pasteurization).Weir produces three different wine labels: “Hagafen” (primary label), “Prix” (high-end line) and “Don Ernesto” (value priced, quaffable line). Hagafen currently produces only around 8,000 cases, or about 100,000 bottles, of some 20 different award-winning wines.
So despite the lousy cold weather, we’ve been enjoying one of his awesome summer sippers, the Hagafen Sauvignon Blanc 2014 ($24): Delicious, fresh and refreshing, with soft yet crisp acidity balanced perfectly against fruit notes—especially white peach, green apple, mango and kiwi, with mineral rich citrus and citrus peel characteristics on both the nose and sumptuous palate. Really yummy. This food-friendly glass of sunshine is perfect to pair with crudites, salads, mild fish and chicken dishes as well as simply grilled fish…or even just on its own to brighten your mood.
Spirits-wise, with the cold weather, we thought we’d turn again to the Hot Toddy.
The Hot Toddy is most directly associated with Scotland, and refers to a mixed alcoholic drink that is served hot. While there are many great variations; the essential elements of the Hot Toddy are as follows: (1) a spirit base such as Scotch or other whisky, brandy, or dark rum; (2) hot water or some other hot liquid such as tea, coffee, or milk; and (3) some kind of sweetening agent like honey, sugar or syrup.
Here is our preferred recipe:
2 ounces single malt Scotch whisky (we recommend the Dalmore 12-year-old)
3 ounces boiling water
1/2 ounce lemon juice
1 teaspoon honey (or brown sugar)
3 drops Angostura bitters
1 slice lemon, studded with cloves
A sprinkle of ground nutmeg
Into a heatproof glass or large coffee mugput the sugar, bitters, lemon juice, and clove-studded lemon slice. Add the whisky, pour in the boiling water, and stir gently until the honey or sugar dissolves. Dust lightly with nutmeg, and sip lovingly. L’Chaim!