Tag Archives: Israel

A Pair of Kosher Wines for Passover

Searching for great tasting wines that are Kosher for Passover?  Look to one of the oldest New World wine producing countries — Israel.

I recently tasted a Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon from Gilgal, a new label from the Golan Heights Winery.

The wine is named after Gilgal Refaim, a site in the Golan Heights region in northern Israel.  It is a ring of more than 42,000 rocks placed in concentric circles by people some 5,000 years ago.  Like England’s Stonehenge, Gilgal Refaim is a site of mystery and wonder.

The 2009 Gilgal Chardonnay is made from grapes sourced near Gilgal Refaim and aged in oak for four months.  Aromas of golden apple, Meyer lemon and pineapple develop on the palate along with flavors of pear, melon and a hint of creamy vanilla and sage.  Good acidity throughout gives the wine a crisp finish.

Easy to drink, this Chardonnay a nice wine to have with hors d’oeuvres or light pasta, salmon or white fish.

The 2007 Gilgal Cabernet Sauvignon is a blend of Cabernet grapes from several vineyards and aged in French oak barrels for one year.  The wine smells like an Old World wine and tastes like a New World one.  Meaty aromas of woodsy earth and spice lead to flavors of plum and bramble fruit preserves along with baked cherry pie filling.  The wine is full bodied with chewy tannins, and better shines when paired with food.  Try serving the Cabernet Sauvignon with lamb, steak or strongly flavored cheeses.

The 2009 Gilgal Chardonnay and the 2007 Gilgal Cabernet Sauvignon cost $16 a bottle.  Both are Kosher for Passover but can be enjoyed by any wine drinker.

Read earlier articles on Kosher wines:
Yarden Syrah 2005
Galil Mountain Viognier 2008
Wines from the Land of Milk and Honey: Yarden, Galil Mountain and Golan

AG Pick: Yarden Syrah 2005

If you were to taste this wine without seeing the label, you might think it was from the northern Rhône region in France.  Elegant with earthy notes and good acidity, it displays characteristics of an Old World wine.  Once the label is revealed, it would certainly be surprising that this red comes from Israel, a country that’s now producing delicious wines.

The 2005 Yarden Syrah comes from the Galilee, Israel’s most northern appellation.  Galilee includes the Golan Heights, a volcanic plateau that is the coldest region in Israel.  This Syrah is made with grapes from one vineyard in the northern Golan and two vineyards in the central Golan.

The cooler weather and the somewhat difficult growing season are evident in the wine.  As described by the winemaking team at Yarden, below average temperatures over the summer led to a “hectic, relatively short harvest.”  The resulting vintage has higher acidity and somewhat restrained flavors — quite different than the big, bold Syrahs of central California.

Purple-red in color, the 2005 Yarden Syrah has aromas of black fruit and smoke.  On the palate, layers of blackberry, plum and boysenberry mingle with tobacco, leather and black pepper.  In the mouth it’s silky without being heavy, with a lingering spicy finish.  A touch of oak from 18 months in small French barrels adds complexity.

Pair the Yarden Syrah with lamb, filet mignon or full-flavored chicken or pasta dishes.

The wine is Kosher, though its appeal extends far beyond those who observe these dietary laws.

A bottle of the 2005 Yarden Syrah costs $25.

14.5% alcohol by volume

AG Pick: Galil Mountain Viognier 2008

Whether you’re celebrating Hanukkah or are looking for a new and exciting wine, look to the oldest New World winemaking country — Israel.

A great introduction is the 2008 Viognier from Galil Mountain Winery.  It is a flavorful dry white wine that will appeal to a variety of tastes, not just to those who keep Kosher.

Though winemaking there dates back to biblical times, Israel is still considered a New World wine country.  It really wasn’t until the 1990s that their wines got recognition around the world.  Today you’ll find Israeli wines at top restaurants and at your local wine shop.

Founded in 2000, Galil Mountain Winery is located in the Upper Galilee in northern Israel.  At over 3,280 feet above sea level, the vineyards are situated on one of Israel’s highest mountain ranges.

The 2008 Galil Mountain Viognier is a rich, medium-bodied white wine with added complexity from time in oak.  Forty percent of the wine was fermented in new French oak barrels and aged on yeast lees for six months.  The remaining 60% that underwent cold fermentation in stainless steel preserves the wine’s bright fruit characteristics.

Pale gold in color, the Viognier is very aromatic with notes of tart citrus and tropical fruit.  On the palate are flavors of pineapple, lemon, apricot and white peach, with a touch of vanilla from the oak.  The wine is silky in the mouth with a lingering finish that has a hint of lemon peel.  It is high in alcohol for a white wine; you may notice some warmth at the end of your first few sips.

The Galil Mountain Viognier pairs well with flavorful chicken and seafood dishes or spicy Asian cuisine.  And just in time for Hanukkah, it’s a great match for potato latkes!

A bottle of the Galil Mountain Winery Viognier 2008 costs $15.

15% alcohol by volume

Kosher Wines for Passover

If you plan to drink Manischewitz for Passover you must be meshugana! There is a wide variety of great tasting Kosher wines that are made from Vitis vinifera grapes (think winemaking grapes like Cabernet or Chardonnay, not Vitis labrusca grapes like Concord that are used to make grape juice and Manischewitz).

Though Israel is the leading producer of Kosher wines in the world, many other countries are now producing Kosher and Mevushal* wines. Best of all, these wines are becoming easier to find. You’ll be able to buy most of them in many wine shops, as well as grocery stores like Whole Foods and Publix. If your local shop has a Kosher or Israel section you’re likely to find these wines there.

Here are some of the wineries that produce Kosher wines:


Yarden Cabernet SauvignonYarden is one of the labels produced by Golan Heights Winery in Israel. This winery was founded in 1983 and is located high up on the Golan Heights in the northeastern part of the country. Yarden is Hebrew for the Jordan River, which bisects the Golan Heights. These wines can be easily spotted by their label which features an oil lamp decorated with mosaic tile, a symbol of ancient Israel.

Yarden has a wide variety of reds, whites, sparkling and sweet wines that range from $12 to $30. I like the Mount Hermon Red ($12), a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc that is fermented in stainless steel and has notes of raspberries, cherries and a hint of herbs, as well as the Cabernet Sauvignon ($27) which is aged for 18 months in French oak barrels and has flavors of blackberries, cassis and spicy vanilla.


Gamla is another label produced by Golan Heights Winery. The name comes from an ancient Israeli town in the Golan Heights that withstood the conquering Romans for a number of years.

Gamla offers a selection of single varietal whites and reds including Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Riesling, Pinot Noir, Merlot, Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon and a sparkling white wine. These wines range from $12 to $30.


Golan MoscatoGolan is a budget-friendly label produced by Golan Heights Winery. There are single varietal wines (Chardonnay, Gamay, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon), as well as blends. Most of the wines cost between $10 and $12.

The Golan Moscato ($12) makes a great aperitif or dessert wine. This sparkling wine is made in the style of Moscato d’Asti and has floral and honeysuckle notes.

Galil Mountain Winery

This winery is located in the Upper Galilee in northern Israel and is a joint venture between Kibbutz Yiron and the Golan Heights Winery. Galil has a diverse assortment of whites and reds made from Bordeaux, Rhône and Italian varietals. The wines range from $12 to $30, with most between $15 and $20. I am a fan of their Cabernet Sauvignon ($14) which has juicy flavors of ripe plum and blackberry with a hint of pepper and spice.

Recanati Winery

This winery is the sixth largest in Israel, established in 2000 and located in the Hefer Valley in the Upper Galilee. The winery sources its grapes from high-altitude vineyards which have a climate similar to the Napa Valley.

Recanati has three series of wines: the Diamond Series ($10 – $14), Reserve Wine Series ($20 – $25) and the Yasmin Series ($10) which are Mevushal. White wines include Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc. Red wines include Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Zinfandel and Syrah.

Hagafen Cellars

Hagafen Prix RieslingTaking its name from the blessing of the wine, Hagafen Cellars produces whites and reds in California’s Napa Valley. The winery was founded in 1979 and their first commercially released vintage was harvested in 1980.

Hagafen’s whites start around $18 and go up to $25. They include Chardonnay, Riesling and Sauvignon Blanc. The reds start around $30 and go up to $45. These include Pinot Noir, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Syrah and Zinfandel.

Click here for a review of the Hagafen Cellars “Prix” Riesling.

Herzog Wine Cellars

This California winery has been producing Kosher wines since the mid 1980s, though the family traces its winemaking roots back to Philip Herzog who made wine in Slovakia for the Austro-Hungarian court more than a century ago. The winery itself is located in Oxnard, on the Central Coast, but Herzog makes wine with grapes from all over California.

Herzog’s variety of whites, reds, rosés and dessert wines generally range from $13 to $40. White wines include Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc, Chardonnay and Riesling. Reds include Pinot Noir, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Zinfandel.


If you’re a fan of Italian wines you can drink one from Bartenura on Passover. Bartenura sources its grapes from several regions in Italy including Piedmont, Veneto and Tuscany. Some but not all are Mevushal.

Bartenura produces such Italian staples as Pinot Grigio, Prosecco, Malvasia, Chianti and Barbera D’Asti. They also make a Kosher Amaretto and Lemon Liqueur. Bartenura’s wines range from $10 to $16.


Tekiah Mevushal wines are produced by Bodegas Barberis in Argentina’s Mendoza region. Each year the Barberis family turns over about 20% of its vineyards and winery to a team of Hasidic Jews from Buenos Aires who supervise every aspect of wine production to make the Tekiah wines. There are a handful of whites and reds available including Chardonnay, Tempranillo, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah which range from $12 to $20.


A great online store for Kosher wines is www.kosherwine.com.  You’ll find all of the above wines, plus a huge selection of other Kosher and Mevushal wines from around the world.

As with any wine, you should drink what tastes good to you.  So if you’re a fan of Manischewitz then keep drinking it!

Have a Kosher wine to recommend that wasn’t mentioned?  Be sure to share it in the comments section.

Click here for more articles on Kosher wine

*Mevushal wines differ from Kosher wines in that they are Kosher wines that have been flash-pasteurized so that they remain Kosher regardless of who serves them.

Great Tasting Kosher Wines for the High Holy Days

Celebrate the Jewish New Year with great tasting Kosher wines!

In February I reviewed a selection of Kosher wines, all made in Israel and widely available at wine stores throughout the United States.

Kosher wines don’t have to be overly sweet and syrupy.  Today Israel’s wines are winning medals and finding their way onto wine lists at top restaurants.

Here are some of my favorites:

2004 Yarden Cabernet Sauvignon ($24)
This wine is aged for 18 months in French oak barrels.  It has big flavors of blackberries, cherries and cassis with a hint of vanilla and spice that lingers in the finish.  This wine pairs nicely with steak and lamb dishes.

2005 Yarden Mount Hermon Red ($12)
This wine is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc and fermented in steel.  Wild berry and cherry flavors are complemented with a hint of herbs.  Serve this with grilled meats, duck or pizza.

2005 Galil Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon ($14)
This wine is 100% Cabernet Sauvignon and fermented in steel.  This big, juicy red has flavors of ripe plum and blackberry with a hint of bell pepper and spice.  This wine goes well with beef, lamb and hearty chicken and pasta dishes.

Golan Moscato ($12)
This Kosher bubbly makes a great aperitif or dessert wine.  It’s 100% Muscat Canelli and made in the style of Moscato d’Asti.  Mouthwatering floral and honeysuckle notes and a crisp finish make this wine light and refreshing.

Click here to see the original article