There’s no time like the High Holidays to reflect on where we’ve been and where we’re going. It’s that time of the year when the less observant of us come out from the woodwork donning the best of our transitional wardrobe, all berry tones and tweed, to attend our local place of worship, or at the very least, a Yom Kippur breakfast (did the gum count…?).
It’s also that time when we’re forced (again) to face the question of how Jewish we actually are. We’ve certainly broken a few rules.
We were Jewish enough to get out of school for services as kids, and maybe we’re Jewish enough to get out of work this year, but over the course of the other 364 days, many of us have dabbled in locally-cured bacon at brunch, $1 oyster specials, and (gasp!) crushes—if not full blown love affairs—with bad boys (read: not doctors, not lawyers, not Jewish). We’ve craved and even enjoyed the opposite of what we’ve been taught to desire. We’ve let down the collective whole of Jewish grandmothers and dallied with devilishly handsome boys with names like Montgomery or Chris. And we liked it.
All our lives we’ve been forced to fraternize with pudgy Allan (he’s going to Princeton), Barry the asthmatic (he’s going to be a doctor), and balding, sweaty-shouldered Paul (he comes from such a good family, and he’s still single!). Sitting in the back row at synagogue tugging on our too-short hems, we glance around longing for that dashing exception to the rule. We know what we’re supposed to want, and yet we definitely don’t.
There’s nothing like kosher wine to remind you how unsavory following the rules can be. Doing the right thing—or in this case drinking the right wine—feels more like punishment than pleasure.
For years we’ve been subjected to syrupy sweet kosher wines, wines so bad that we’d rather not drink at all. We ask ourselves why in 5,773 years they couldn’t figure it out already? Just look at the Europeans! Even the Americans got it together in under a century. And then we glimpse at ourselves in Aunt Silva’s bathroom mirror and ask ourselves the same question. What’s taking so long? Maybe if we’d settled for sweaty Paul we wouldn’t be alone.
The good news is that you don’t have to settle. At least not when it comes to kosher wine.
I scoured New York City, surveyed friends and tasted countless bottles, all because when there is no perfect man, there had better be a perfect wine — something you can feel good about indulging in, and not feel so guilty about the following day.
I started at my favorite local wine shop. They suggested Ramon Cardova Rioja, a deeply satisfying Spanish red, and 100% Tempranillo. As a fan of Old World wine stylings (and swarthy Spaniards) I was more than happy to taste it.
My research yielded an Israeli Bordeaux style white (Sauvignon, Semillon, Chardonnay) by Yarden that was dry and lively with a salty finish that kept me wanting more.
The Italians do it better if you can get your hands on a bottle of Feudi di San Gregorio’s Maryam (100% Fiano d’Avellino), it’s like a romp in a wildflower field and embodies the caress of a sea breeze. Rosh (Aglianico) is like an unbridled adolescent — hot to the touch, but still tender with notes of berries and fresh earth. Bartenura Prosecco is a perfectly fling-worthy bubbly, and then there’s the Ovadia Morellino di Scansano, a red and rugged Sangiovese from Southern Tuscany.
California delivers with a whole range of elegant and interesting wines from Hagafen Cellars in Napa Valley. Herzog’s Chenin Blanc is delicate and crisp. Their late harvest Riesling is rich, ripe, and definitely worth the wait. It’s also lovely with honey cake.
There are plenty more including the best of the French classics and wonderful New World flavors from Chile and Argentina (all completely kosher). The best part is, whatever you pick up and bring with you will bring a smile to mama’s face. As you kick off the New Year, put your heart into it and really love what you’re drinking for a change — chances are, you’ll be drinking plenty.
Nice, Jewish wines are out there and they are something to get excited about in all the right ways.