Kosher wine – an eclectic road trip
Wine lovers worldwide wouldn’t miss a chance to take in the sights and tastes of latest vintages as they roam Tuscany or Bordeaux or Ribera del Duero. But what about the Galilee, the Golan or New York State’s Finger Lakes region? Join me on an eclectic tour of kosher wineries that are waiting to welcome you.
Israel boasts about 280 wineries, many of which offer tours and tastings. Although some of the labels find their way to this side of the Atlantic, most are unknown here. And that’s where the Grape-Man comes in. This excellent website lists virtually every winery in Israel, including info about tasting centres and links to wineries themselves. Once you’ve done a bit of browsing, you can build a first-class tasting tour all by yourself. This site is in Hebrew only, but don’t let that deter you. Open it up in the Chrome browser and have it automatically translate the page into a very credible English. (You can download the Chrome browser for free.)
As you are drive around the Galilee (or push your cart down the wine store aisle), you may surprised to learn that not all Israeli wines produced today are kosher. As wine crirtic Daniel Rogov pointed out, “While every large Israeli winery (including Carmel, Barkan, Golan Heights Winery, Efrat and Binyamina) and the majority of medium-sized wineries (such as Tishbi, Segal, Dalton and Tabor) produce only kosher wines, the smaller wineries often produce non-kosher offerings.” Many of Israel’s boutique wineries (including Margalit, Flam, Bravdo, Saslove, Sea Horse, Clos de Gat and Amphorae) have chosen to manufacture upper-end non-kosher wines for “discerning and not necessarily kashrut-observant wine consumers both in Israel and abroad.”
If you’d rather drink – and NOT drive at all – Esther Cohen’s MyIsraelWineTours.com will be happy to take care of you. Esther offers guided tours around the country as well as a handful of videos where you can meet some of the country’s winemakers. And if you’d like to travel as guilt-free as possible, consider a Judean Hills Bike and Wine tour through vineyards, olive groves, burial caves and, of course, a winery.
There are great kosher wine tours available around the world from Spain to Italy to California’s Napa Valley. But if your taste buds say “yes,” but your wallet says “no,” and you find yourself in New York City, here’s a more moderately priced solution to taste the world. Consider a drive to the Hudson Valley, where you will find the Kedem Winery, which offers free wine tastings of kosher fare from New York State, California, Australia, France, Italy, Israel, Chile, Spain, Portugal, New Zealand and Hungary.
And several hours northwest, tucked into the Finger Lakes region of New York, you can sample and relive your vintage Passover wine moments at the home of Manischewitz Wines.
And what about kosher wine from Canada? Well, sort of. But you won’t find it in Ontario’s Niagara Peninsula or British Columbia’s Okanagan Valley. You’ll have to travel about hour west of St. John’s until you reach Rodrigues Winery of Markland, Nfld. There, you’ll find its certified kosher blueberry, plum, cranberry and other fruit wines, liqueurs and brandies. Since there are no grapes or grape wines at Rodrigues, the kashrut certification process has far fewer requirements. And they’ll be happy to give you a tour.
One of the most historic names in the world of kosher wines belongs to Abarbanel Wines. Based in the visitor-friendly Languedoc-Roussillon region of southwest France, the family traces its name back over 500 years to Don Isaac Abarbanel, famed religious leader and royal advisor to Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand.
When you land at that venerable winery’s website, you are welcomed with what you’d expect. A selection of wine bottles and the sombre visage of Don Isaac. Classy? I suppose. But I preferred things a few years ago when the wine marketed itself slightly differently. Back then, you were greeted with a delightful version of the Beach Boys’ hit Barbara Ann. Luckily, I was able to track down an archival copy hidden on a back corner of the web.
Abarbanel - it’s really swell
Abarbanel - really swell
The fine kosher wine
Great at holiday time