Picking out wines to pair with holiday feasts can be tricky — especially when there are so many dishes on the table. We asked five wine and food experts what wines they serve for Rosh Hashanah and which classic dishes to pair them with. The bottles they highlighted are diverse by various measures, but there is unanimity on one key point: We are living in a post-Manischewitz world.
In nearly every major grape-growing region, as well as some up-and-coming producer nations like Israel, kosher wines are being crafted with the same care that the highest-quality nonkosher wines enjoy. “I’m just amazed at what is out there now,” said Joan Nathan, the famed Jewish cookbook author. Her family’s connection to the burgeoning Israeli wine industry dates back to when her father was the director of the Palestine Economic Corporation in the 1950s. He was responsible for promoting Israeli wines, and upon seeing the much-to-be-desired state of the industry there, he brought experts from the 107-year-old Christian Brothers winery in California to Israel to help improve yield and quality.
For the Rosh Hashanah table, Nathan suggests two bottles from Napa’s Covenant Wines: the 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon, which she says pairs beautifully with a braised lamb shank, and the 2009 Chardonnay Lavan, which she serves with her ring mold gefilte fish.
Below, five other experts offer their kosher wine recommendations:
Gili Koren Lockwood, Sommelier, New York City
A sommelier at Manhattan’s noted Le Bernardin, Lockwood is well on her way to becoming the first Israeli master sommelier and one of fewer than 20 in the United States who are women. From her perch on one of the most esteemed restaurant wine teams, she has personally helped raise the profile of Israeli wines in New York. “What I find very exciting is that our guests have a genuine interest in Israeli wines, even if they do not keep kosher,” she said. “Israel is certainly on par with other great, lesser-known wine countries, like Greece, Slovenia and Lebanon.” For Rosh Hashanah she recommends:
Covenant Cabernet Sauvignon 2010 (Napa Valley, Calif.): “This fleshy cabernet is bold and rich, so it pairs well with the traditional Rosh Hashanah brisket.”
Vitkin Riesling 2012 (Judean Hills, Israel) “This wine has lovely citrus fruit and blossom flavors and wonderful acidity. It pairs fantastically with lighter, savory/sweet dishes that include seasonal fruit.”
Brian Zipin, Partner/Beverage Director, DGS Delicatessen, Washington, D.C.
In 2013, Zipin and his partners opened their highly acclaimed delicatessen with a promise to focus not only on lunch classics like pastrami, but also on elevated Jewish fare at dinner. Zipin has a strong wine pedigree. He was formerly sommelier at Michel Richard’s restaurant Citronelle and went on to be general manager and wine director at Central Michel Richard, which won a James Beard Foundation Award for best new restaurant in America in 2008.
Teperberg “Collage” 2011 (Samson, Israel): “This is a great, medium-bodied wine for a large family dinner gathering, and it doesn’t even need time to breathe, so it can be served immediately.”
Clear Creek Distillery Slivovitz (Oregon): “Instead of a white wine, I love this plum brandy, which is wonderfully dry, like a fine cognac.”
Dan Rabinowitz, Kosher Wine Collector, Silver Spring, Maryland
Rabinowitz is a prolific kosher wine collector whose library includes more than 2,000 kosher bottles from wineries around the world. He has curated and managed large auctions of high-end kosher wine for Kestenbaum & Company, a New York auction house that specializes in fine Judaica.
Domaine Pinnacle Apple Ice Wine (Quebec City): “This lush, rich wine is made entirely from apples fermented with wine yeast, and it’s great for Rosh Hashanah, in part because of its symbolic connection.”
Carmel Kayoumi Vineyard Riesling 2010 (Galilee, Israel): “This mildly dry wine is a less common kosher varietal and it’s perfect for a September evening. It can be drunk on its own or with food.”
Amir Katz, Guide, My Israel Wine Tours
Katz, a wine writer, and Esther Cohen, MIWT’s founder, are among the most knowledgeable experts on Israel’s burgeoning wine industry. Their company includes a website with voluminous, first-rate information on Israeli wines and their touring operation, which organizes trips to the wineries, breweries and dairies of the Golan Heights, Upper Galilee, Carmel, Sharon and Jerusalem Hills regions of Israel. “The harvest is a time of joy and hard work in Israel,” says Katz. “The grapes have defied the heat and penetrated the rough soil so that they may fill our glasses and nourish our souls in the coming year. We must ask ourselves whether we have done the same.” Katz’s wine recommendations include:
Tzuba Metzuda Syrah 2010 (Judean Hills, Israel): “This dynamic, full-flavored wine has hints of cedar and mint and pairs nicely with lighter entrees like chicken and salmon.”
Arza Winery Charisma Label Sauvignon Blanc 2011 (Jerusalem Hills, Israel): “This wine brings a bouquet of flavors with a mineral, acidic bite that makes it a good pairing for vegetable dishes or even dessert.”
Ellen Kassoff Gray, Author and Restaurateur, Washington, D.C.
Kassoff Gray and her husband, chef Todd Gray, own the well-regarded Equinox restaurant in Washington. Last spring, the Grays released their cookbook “The New Jewish Table.” Kassoff Gray recommends:
Ramot Naftaly “Duet” 2011 (Kedesh Valley, Israel) “This is a big, bold wine that is great with the modern-day brisket from our cookbook, which I’ll be serving this Rosh Hashanah.”
Bat Shlomo Sauvignon Blanc 2012 (Carmel Mountain, Israel): “It’s bright and crisp, and I love serving it with butternut squash soup with shiitake mushrooms, which is also included in the book.”
Sam Hiersteiner’s food and drink writing has appeared in Art of Eating, Huffington Post, Washington City Paper, DC Modern Luxury, Capitol File and edibleDC.