Pre Passover Food & Wine

As Passover looms in our future, all those who have to do with wine are hard at work to bring their bottle to your holiday table. Yonatan Sternberg describes some of this year's specialties and a restaurant to sample delicious pairings in Jerusalem.

It is no secret that during the weeks leading up to the Passover holiday, winery personnel, PR firms, beverage store managers and agents are hard at work trying to make sure that their bottle is among those you decide to take home with you for the holiday meal. Winemakers go from one event to another offering interesting commentary and conducting wine tasting sessions and wine writers can become a bit overwhelmed in an attempt to taste and review some of the new wines on the market (not that I am complaining or anything).

The Dalton winery, headed by winemaker Naama Mualem, recently released a varietal Petite Sirah and Zinfandel as part of the winery's mid-range 'D' label. Produced from grapes grown in vineyards near the town of Gadera, the Dalton Petite Sirah 'D' 2009 is dark and concentrated in color, medium–leaning towards full bodied, showing generous aromas of dark berry fruits, black cherries, licorice followed by light notes of vanilla and leather. The winery recommends serving the wine alongside grilled kebabs or grilled lamb chops. ~ NIS 65

Situated on Kfar Tikva (The Village of Hope) in the Jezriel Valley, the Tulip Winery recently released a couple of varietal red wines as well, one based exclusively (hence the name 'Just') on Merlot and the other a Cabernet Sauvignon based wine. Tulip, Just, Merlot, 2009 – 100% Merlot grapes from vineyards situated in Karmei Yosef, aged for 8 months in barriques, dark ruby with purple reflections, medium to full bodied, the wine suggests aromas of ripe plums, black berry fruits, cloves and toasted oak while on the long finish slight alcoholic heat. ~ NIS 67. By the way, the Tulip Winery is becoming kosher and wines from future vintages will all bare kosher certification.

If you get tired of cleaning for Passover and feel like you deserve an indulgent night of food & wine pairing, stop by Jerusalem's Lara restaurant. Headed by talented Chef Lior Cheftzadi, Lara offers special tasting menus (NIS 220-330) allowing diners to sample a variety of dishes, some you might see on the menu while Cheftzadi also improvises and prepares others on the spot. If you would like to pair wines with the dishes, ask for Noa, who serves as both the manager and resident sommelier. Examples of food and wine pairings can include: Golan Heights, Blanc du Blanc, Champagne style wine with sea bream ceviche seasoned with passion fruit and coriander. Heavier meat dishes might be paired with Psagot's Merlot or the Wadi Katlav produced by the Katlav winery.

Last, but definitely not least, at a recent wine tasting held in Tel Aviv, I had the opportunity to taste some excellent wines produced by Chapoutier (imported by the Scottish Company), a French wine producer with several vineyards and wineries both in France and, as of recent years, in other countries as well. Export Director Mr. Stephane Barlerin introduced the wines and provided interesting commentary on the different appellations of the Rhone Valley, from Chateuneuf du Pape in the south to Cote Rotie in the north. Starting with the white wines, Chateauneuf-du-Pape Blanc “La Bernardine” 2008 and the Ermitage de l'Orée 2005 produced from old vines of the Marsanne grape variety. From there we continued to the red wines, my personnel favorites were the Côte Rôtie “La Mordorée” 2006 and the Ermitage La Pavillon 2007. The latter is a single vineyard wine made from Syrah grapes, simultaneously complex and elegant, well balanced, good acidity and a lingering finish. As one of the people sitting at my table remarked, when tasting these wines, it may take a bit of time to appreciate or understand them, but once you do, they are a real treat.