Grateful for Great Wine
Less than one month ago, hundreds of millions of American citizens celebrated the national holiday of Thanksgiving. On that very day, those who celebrate it express their gratitude for all the good they have in life. The believers thank G-d, while others thank their family or their friends.
Personally, as a Swiss-born and frum Jew, I do not celebrate Thanksgiving. I consider every day Thanksgiving, as we thank Hashem many times a day for all the good in our lives, in which every single detail matters. We bless G-d multiple times a day in each of the daily tefilos as well as for our food and drink. The Torah offers us a way of life that is not routine; on the contrary, it is a constant renewal of our commitment to G-d through mitzvos and brachos, which are the concrete expression of our gratefulness for G-d’s goodness towards us. That culminates every week in the holy day of Shabbos and in particular the Kiddush, which reflects our gratitude to G-d for all his blessings.
The Kiddush is made on wine, and while I do enjoy a glass of good wine almost every night with my dinner, the wines that I choose for Shabbos are usually extra special. As well, I often think about the fact that until only a few years ago the selection of quality kosher wines was rather restricted, and that is an understatement. When I pour myself a glass of wine, I try to remember how blessed our generation is for being able to enjoy such a wonderful and diverse collection of wines!
There is a wine that I was truly thrilled to drink recently, the Carmel Kayoumi Riesling from Israel. I am a huge fan of white wines in general, and of the Riesling variety in particular. The Kayoumi vineyard is situated in the upper Galilee, and it has produced the grapes for some of the country’s best wines for over a decade, including some of the most refined Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz out there. This Riesling is such a treat, as it is dry yet full of fruit flavors such as green apple, grapefruit and peaches, and its refreshing acidity makes it the perfect companion to a hearty fall dish of smoked turkey, mushrooms and quinoa.
Netofa is a winery that is located at the foot of Mt. Tabor in the lower Galilee. The wines made by Pierre Miodownick are unusual for Israel in that if you taste them without looking at the label, you might well believe that they’re French, and not Israeli! It is not so much of a surprise once you learn that for many years, Miodownick made most of the kosher runs of the finest French wines such as Châteaux Giscours, Montviel and Malartic-Lagravière. The Latour Netofa, however, calls to mind the wines of the southern Rhône valley rather than those of Bordeaux. It is a blend of Syrah and Mourvèdre that features aromas of roasted meat, leather and ripe raspberries. Full-bodied and velvety, it is even better when sipped while enjoying a plate of lamb shoulder roast or a beef bourguignon.
Netofa happens to neighbor another boutique winery, the Or Haganuz winery. Or Haganuz grows its vines on the slopes of the mountains surrounding Mt. Meron. The grapes yielded by those vines are very much concentrated in their juices, and the wines are big and bold, very ripe with lots of oaky flavors. The Marom Cabernet Franc from the Evyatar vineyard is no exception, and it is an interesting wine that I recommend to try as Cabernet Franc is a grape variety that shows fascinating characteristics in Israel.
Italy is an old-world country that makes me dreamy. The beautiful vineyards of Tuscany are home to Terra di Seta, the first fully kosher winery in the country. I am truly grateful for having now the possibility of enjoying a very special wine, the new Terra di Seta Gran Selezione Assai Chianti Classico. I am well aware of the fact that many wineries often use words such as “Reserve” or “Superieur” mainly for marketing purposes. Having said this, the “Gran Selezione” moniker is one that cannot be used without being truly deserved. The “Gran Selezione” denomination designates the wines that have been recognized of the highest quality in the Chianti Classico appellation by an official committee of wine experts. These wines must be aged for a minimum of 30 months, including at least three months of bottle aging prior to release. Only the very best Sangiovese grapes of the region can be used to produce a wine that will be a candidate for the prized and coveted “Gran Selezione.” This wine truly is a pleasure to drink now when properly aerated beforehand, but will likely improve and develop further complexity and flavors for years to come.
Celler de Capçanes in Spain has released this year La Flor del Flor Samso. Samso is Catalan for Carignan. This is a wine that has the potential to reward those who are patient with an extraordinary wine once it will have reached its peak, and I am looking forward to enjoying and watching its evolution over many years to come. Made from old vines (some of which are over 100 years old), this powerhouse of a wine explodes with aromas of blackberries, olives, earth and espresso. Once again, I am thankful for having the possibility to enjoy such a unique and amazing wine.
The brachos that I say before and after drinking wines make them even more special, even though I say them practically every day. My wish to you all is that you are able say Kiddush on great wines at least every Shabbos and to be thankful to Hashem for all the good he grants us every instant of our lives. L’chaim!
Photography by Tzvi Cohen.