As Americans, we tend to think of the holiday “season” as that period between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve when the general population goes a little hog-wild buying things, drinking things, eating things, and just generally doing things. September, we’re also happy to report, also offers up its own version of seasonal goodness, beginning with the holiday we’re smack dab in the middle of right now, Rosh Hashanah.
In its most general sense, Rosh Hashanah is the Jewish New Year. The year 5779 to be exact. (From a country that’s just north of two hundred years old, that’s an amazing number!) The reality of Rosh Hashanah is a bit more complicated. Rosh Hashanah does not celebrate a complete circuit around the sun as most New Year celebrations do but rather the creation of humanity. According to Orthodox tradition, this is the moment when the future Adam and Eve were given the breath of life. Et voila! Two lumps of clay become the very first human beings.
The shofar, or ram’s horn, will ring out during this time. In fact, for the period between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, the traditional instrument will sound 100 times. This ten-day period, known as the days of awe, is when God opens the Book of Life to write down what will happen to each person during the upcoming year. This grace period allows believers to pray for forgiveness and make atonement for any wrongs committed during the previous year. On the tenth day, the book is closed, sealing the fate of one and all. For many Jews, Yom Kippur is a day of fasting as well to be followed by a celebration with family and friends.
In honor of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur (and the gatherings that follow), we thought we’ d take note of our favorite kosher wines. As you might have guessed, this generally means wines from Israel. Israel has typical Mediterranean weather, with dry, hot spring and summer months followed by rainy, cool fall and winter months. For centuries, most of the wine produced in the area was made solely for sacramental purposes – cheap plonk that you wouldn’t want to actually buy. This began to change in the 1980’s, as winemakers from California, France and Australia introduced not only modern wine-making techniques but serious thought as to the real value of the terroir of the region. By the 1990’s, Israeli wines were winning competitions and a new respect for this very ancient area.
So, our favorites:
- Bat Shlomo Sauvignon Blanc – sweeter than traditional Sauvignon Blanc, it still carries a wonderfully lemon tartness and a splash of grapefruit. Think more fruit than mineral with this one.
- Abarbanel Lemminade Gwurtztraminer – okay, not an Israeli wine but an Alsace beauty. This lovely kosher delight is a blend of wildflower and juicy peach with a lovely taste of spicy ginger at the end. It’s a Gwurtz through and through.
- Psagot Peak – if you want a little mystery in your life, try a bottle of this dark beauty. The winery won’t reveal the grapes that go into making it, but there’s definitely some Shiraz kick there. There’s some dark fruits here as well, cassis and blackberry, but it’s the tannins that are the most forward flavor. This is for slow drinking for sure.
- Black Tulip – this red follows the traditional Bordeaux-style, so plenty of cherry and cassis on the tongue, offset by vanilla and tannins. Less expected, the hint of Mediterranean spice that gives it a distinct flavor. Be prepared to let this one breathe first – young bottles tend to be big and powerful and can quickly overwhelm anything else unless aerated first.