With a lot of help from my discerning and talented wine-tasting team, we sought wines that are light enough to drink a glass or two, but meaningful enough to enjoy and sustain us through the marathon Seder repast, arguably the meal of the year where wine shares the starring role alongside matzah. In addition to seeking fruity, quaffable wines that wouldn’t fatigue our taste buds before the Seder’s second cup, we looked for Seder wines in two ways: for those that are extremely impressive and worth spending a little more, perhaps for those bringing wine as host gifts; and second, for wines that are as enjoyable as they are affordable. We sampled wines from near and far and included two wonderful bottles from California in our recommendations, with the rest being Israeli—so we can show our support for our brothers and sisters in Israel who have preceded us in living the dream that concludes our Seder: this year in Jerusalem.
The Herzog Lineage Pinot Noir 2016 ($15.74 at Wine Country) is a great wine for the first cup. “It’s light, not too heavy, but it’s not your typical pinot; it’s smooth, with no sour notes,” said Yeruchum. “Hints of black cherry, fruity on the front, and dry The Cheese Guy, atc with some clove and chocolate notes on the back,” said Chana. “It’s oakey and light, so it’s a great Seder wine,” said Ari. “Very drinkable and smooth; I could definitely drink this at the Seder,” said Michal. A soft wine with even a hint of cinnamon, this will appeal to many palates and is a good choice for both newcomers to wine and for those who drink a glass every week. “I like the whole line of Herzog Lineage,” said Randi, referring to Herzog’s new line of higher-end select wines at more entry-level prices.
The Twin Suns Special Edition Mourvèdre 2015 ($34.00, available at FillerUp) comes from California’s central coast. The joint project by Shirah’s Shimon and Gabriel Weiss and The River’s Ami and Larissa Nahari shines beautifully with this delicious, plummy wine. The mourvèdre grape is not often presented as its own varietal in kosher wines, though it is gaining in popularity, but is most often tasted as a component varietal in GSM blends (grenache, syrah, mourvèdre), which is a lovely, historic blend made by many French-trained winemakers in Israel. This wine has heavy fruity notes of blueberry, spice, particularly vanilla, as well as smoke and black pepper. “This is smooth, and perfect for the fourth kos,” said Ari. “This I love,” said Brooke.
For those looking for a rosé for the Seder, one needn’t look further than Israel’s Shiloh Rosé 2017 ($17.99 at Wine Country). This beautiful light-raspberry-colored wine has grapefruit notes with little to no acidity. Served cold, it’s extremely refreshing and perfect for those looking for a lighter start to their Seder, or to pair with fish. “This is also a good choice for a fourth cup when you’re too full for a heavier wine,” said Chana. This is also a great idea to serve at or bring to a Pesach lunch meal.
The Gilgal Cabernet Sauvignon 2014 ($11.24) might be the nicest, most affordable cabernet we’ve had in a long time. “This is a fantastic Israeli wine made by a quality winemaker,” said Yeruchum, noting that Gilgal is the budget-friendly label of the Golan Heights Winery. The low cost, however, should not put anyone off, as it has the highest quality-to-price ratio than any of us have seen in a long time. “It has good depth typical of a cabernet, a deep ruby color, and its aging in small French oak barrels for 12 months gave it a wonderful, thicker viscosity, which is rare for a bottle of its cost. A nose of ripe raspberry, cherry and plum, it has a sustaining finish and lovely tannins. This is a great wine for the Seder, and the low price means you can buy more of it.
The Yarden 2T 2014 ($23.99), which is a blend of two Portuguese varietals grown in the Golan Heights: 69 percent touriga nacional and 31 percent tinta cao. The wines was barrel-aged for 18 months, proving beautiful fruity notes of wild berry, blueberry, tobacco leaves, buttery toasted oak, cassis, plum and violet. There were little to no tannins. “This is a drinkable Seder wine, plummy and oakey,” said Brooke. “I never tasted tobacco leaves before; it’s nice,” said Randi. “This is one of the more interesting varietals that are being brought into Israel,” said Yeruchum.
The Beit El Magestique Reserve 2014 ($37.99 at Wine Country) is made of 100 percent cabernet sauvignon, culled from vineyards around the mineral-rich terroir of Beit El, where Jacob Avinu dreamed of the ladder of melachim. This wine is the first of all of Beit El’s reserve wines, made by world-famous kosher wine consultant Lewis Pasco along with owner Hillel Manne. It is an incredibly warm, special wine with a beautiful, elegant structure and nose of dark, tart berries, chocolate and cherries. It has lovely bracing tannins. This earthy wine is so well-made that it really should be saved for special occasions, but since it’s on sale I might just invest in a case. “This is an impressive wine for a meal,” said Brooke.
The Galil Mountain Winery Yiron 2014 ($23.24) is considered a rare red blend, comprised of 56 percent cabernet sauvignon, 32 percent merlot, 7 percent syrah and 5 percent petit verdot. Fruit-forward, with strong notes of cherries and berries along with dried herbs, the wine would be perfect to go along with a meal of roasted beef or pepper-crusted steak. This is the type of wine that can stand up to steak, and the round notes of merlot soften the cabernet to provide a hint of sweetness.
By Elizabeth Kratz