Spirits — Don’t pass over these wines

By Fred Tasker

McClatchy Newspapers

Over Passover (its first night was Saturday), Jewish Americans turn their attention to kosher products. The Nielsen polling people say this season will see purchases of:

  • $3.5 million worth of matzoh.
  • $1.7 million worth of horseradish.
  • $6.5 million worth of kosher wine.

Decades ago, kosher meant sweet, viscous wine made of the concord grape in upstate New York. To many traditionalists, it still does.
More recently, a younger generation has demanded fine-quality, dry kosher wines — and started producing in first-rate wine regions, including California’s Napa Valley and the slopes of Israel’s Mount Hermon.

The range is stunning, from albarino to zinfandel to sparkling wine.


To be kosher, a wine must be made according to Jewish dietary laws.

Often, the word kosher does not appear on the bottle. Instead, it may be identified by the symbol of a U in a circle, meaning it has been approved by the Orthodox Union.

The letter P following the circled U means the wine is made to even stricter standards and is kosher to Passover.

The word "mevushel" on the label means the wine has been "flash pasteurized" and may be poured for observant Jews by non-Jewish servers, as at a Seder held in a hotel.

Highly recommended

  • 2003 Barons Edmond & Benjamin de Rothschild Haut Medoc Bordeaux Blend: cassis and black coffee aromas and flavors, lean, firm tannin, intense fruit; $31
  • 2006 Goose Bay Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, New Zealand: intense white grapefruit flavors, crisp and lively; $19.
  • 2007 Hagafen Lake County White Riesling: juicy and crisp, almost spritzy, with flavors of apricots and honey, slightly off-dry; $18.


  • 2005 Herzog Cabernet Sauvignon Special Reserve, Alexander Valley: black cherry and dark chocolate aromas and flavors, firm tannins, long finish; $35.
  • 2006 Goose Bay Chardonnay, New Zealand: crisp and rich, with golden delicious apple aromas and flavors; $27.
  • 2007 Hagafen Sauvignon Blanc, Napa Valley: lively and crisp, with zingy citrus flavors, tart finish; $18.
  • 2003 Yarden Cabernet Sauvignon, Galilee, Israel: black cherry and black coffee flavors; rich, full-bodied; $30.
  • 2005 Fortant Merlot, Vin de Pays d’Oc, France: soft and smooth, red plum and cinnamon flavors; $13.
  • 2006 Baron Herzog White Zinfandel, California: strawberry aromas and flavors; soft; slightly sweet; $7.
  • 2006 Bartenura Pinot Grigio, Provincia di Pavia, IGT, Italy: light and tart, with grapefruit and mineral flavors; $13.
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