The LCBO keeps Kosher

Kosher Wines

Kosher Wine Boutique, 675 Wilson Ave. (near Dufferin), North York

The LCBO has begun to keep Kosher, that is they have just celebrated the grand opening of three kosher boutique stores as part of the relatively new initiative “Products of the World” program. In addition to the boutique stores, more seasonal kosher products have been release than ever before, ahead of Passover, including Canada’s first kosher Icewine.

Each of the three destination stores offer more than 100 different kosher wines and spirits. While more than 500 LCBO stores across Ontario carry kosher offerings, the three destination boutiques are stocked with an expanded selection pulled from exclusive wines and spirits out of the Consignment Program. The selection will be regularly refreshed and will include many products previously only available to licensees. The LCBO kosher boutique locations are:

·      675 Wilson Ave. (near Dufferin), North York

·      180 Promenade Circle, Promenade Mall, Thornhill

·      502 Lawrence Ave. W. (near Bathurst), Toronto

Related – Is Kosher wine being passed over?

The LCBO boutique program is a renaissance of sorts for the Kosher category, one that only last year seemed to be entering the category of “passed over.” I had relayed the concern to more than one higher level VINTAGES representative and while I am quite confident my message had nothing to do with the elevated attention, perhaps I was not the only voice of dissidence. Good on the LCBO for stepping up their Kosher game.

Related – New wave under $20 wines go kosher for Passover

Last minute Passover shopping is upon the Jewish community of Ontario. I reviewed the five VINTAGES products from the March 19th, 2016 release. While these five are just a drop in the available bucket, they are the only wines that were presented to the media for assessment.

Kosher Boutique, Wilson and Dufferin LCBO

Kosher wine section, Wilson and Dufferin LCBO

Tzafona Cellars Cold Climate Riesling Kp 2014, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (445569, $19.95, WineAlign)

Light, middle of the road, innocuous, easy-going Riesling. Slightly dilute and yet certainly, obviously and respectably Riesling. You could commit worse acts of hostess gifting by bringing this to auntie Mimi’s Seder. Drink 2016.  Tasted March 2016

Teperberg Vision Cabernet Sauvignon/Petite Sirah Kpm 2014, Samson, Israel (325746, $19.95, WineAlign)

Interesting Samson blend, both in bedfellows and locale. The Petite Sirah inclusion is more than obvious. This one is decidedly cooked. Drink 2016-2017.  Tasted March 2016

Segal’s Merlot/Cabernet Franc/Cabernet Sauvignon Kp M 2013, Galilee Heights, Israel (157206, $24.95, WineAlign)

High-toned aromatics, plums and cherries, very modern and not so Bordeaux. Not so shaken and splintered, which is nice but it is a bit carbonic and lactic. Simple and drinkable with a spice accent on the back end. Drink 2016-2018.  Tasted March 2016

Related – KP Duty – Kosher For Passover Wines

Gilgal Pinot Noir Kp 2013, Galilee, Israel (440651, $29.95, WineAlign)

From Yarden, Golan Heights Winery. This smells just like a cup of tea. Fruit tea, orange zinger, rooibos or something fruity. Simple, easy Pinot with negative tannins and just a hint of staying alive acidity. Certainly Pinot though and with no baking activity whatsoever. Drink 2016-2017.  Tasted March 2016

Tulip Winery Just Cabernet Sauvignon 2014, Upper Galilee, Israel (440420, $29.95, WineAlign)

Have always appreciated the natural and honest feel of the Tulip Cabernet Sauvignon, with pure and ripe red fruit. It’s just and right, picked and developed with simple, sweet, spicy and leathery flavours. Cassis gets in there. It’s well made. Hanging round for days. “Teach you how to be a holy cow.” Drink 2016-2018.  Tasted March 2016

Psâgot Winery M Series Chardonnay Kp 2014, Jerusalem Mountain Vineyards, Israel (441675, $33.95, WineAlign)

A new and improved Chardonnay listing for the LCBO from limestone at altitude (900m) in the Jerusalem (Mountains) Hills. Not exactly “Great Revolt” or “Amphora” antiquity but this has some old school Chardonnay character while making spicy use of the modern barrel. Apples and mango or somewhere in between define the fruit while cool, upper altitude climate reminds of Sonoma. Wish it carried terrific acidity. If it had it would have been the best KFP Chardonnay to grace this market in a stone age. Still decent work for Mevushal. Drink 2016-2017.  Tasted March 2016

Related – Passover that big glass of red

Recanati David Vineyard Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon Kp 2012, Upper Galilee, Israel (356683, $42.95, WineAlign)

Shaken, presently volatile, rich and reductive Cabernet with plenty of new, rich and swaddling oak. With this David Vineyard release the house is clearly going for a rich west coast style though the acidity, acetic venting and tart fruit puts it more in line with the Galilee. And that’s a good thing, a biblical foil to what it doesn’t get right. There is a hint of cooked fruit on the hot finish and loads of tannin. The pentateuch of fruit, mineral, oak, acidity and tannin may at times seem overbearing but there is a sensitivity that greatly refreshes if sometimes estranges. I can promise however, it will not be familiar to those who have been drinking Mevushal wines for many years. Drink 2016-20219.  Tasted March 2016

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Passover that big glass of red

Barque Smokehouse Miami Ribs PHOTO: Kevin Hewitt and Jill Chen (http://www.freestylefarm.ca/)

Barque Smokehouse Miami Ribs
PHOTO: Kevin Hewitt and Jill Chen (http://www.freestylefarm.ca/)

The Torah says, “Guard the month of the spring, and make [then] the Passover offering.” Meaning, Jews need to ensure that Passover is celebrated in the spring. In Canada that proclamation was in danger. Had Passover fallen in March, 2014 may just have seen the coming of the apocalypse.

An understanding of the rules and laws that govern wine on Passover is on a need to know basis. There are really just three key variants of information essential to purchasing and consuming on Pesach. This applies to Jews and non-Jews alike.

Number one. Passover wine is specific to a Jew’s level of Kosher. From Reform, to Conservative, to Orthodox, all Jews have different variances of belief. A Reform Jew will likely drink any wine on Passover and then again, may not. But, he or she will almost certainly not require the bottle to be Mevushal. A Conservative may only drink Mevushal but in more cases than not, Kosher is good enough. An Orthodox Jew goes it only one way, or the highway. Strictly Mevushal KFP, do not pass go, do not collect Afikoman (the broken Matzah) money.

I covered the gory and bitter (herb) details in last year’s Passover wine column. “All wines labelled “Kosher for Passover” are kosher, but not all kosher wines are kosher for Passover.”

Related – New wave under $20 wines go kosher for Passover

In 2012 I spent some time on the limiting, frustrating and constipating food component of the ancient Jewish holiday. “Try cooking with and having to eat nothing but Matzo, eggs and oil for eight days.”

Related – KP Duty – Kosher For Passover Wines

Kosher wines migrate bigger and bigger with each passing Lunisolar calendar year and their not so arbitrary inclusion or not of an intercalary month (shanah meuberet – Adar I) added in the 3rd, 6th, 8th, 11th, 14th, 17th and 19th years of the 19 year lunar cycle. Israel continues to race towards big, lush, often high alcohol reds. This trend could be seen as a masking or a compensating/mitigating strategy to oppose the rigors and past failings of making Kosher wine. It can also be viewed as a stylistic choice, to mirror what has taken place in Bordeaux, in California and in Australia for the past 20 years.

In Canada, Kosher wine selections are extremely limited. There are smaller, garagiste producers in Israel, especially in the hills surrounding Jerusalem, that are making fresher, less oaked reds, but good luck seeing them on shelves on this side of the ponds. It was refreshing, however, to find the Kosher contingent on the VINTAGES March 1st release to be Israel-focused. In past years the group was dominated by Australia, Italy, France and California. Israel is making the best Kosher wines on the planet. Go figure.

Barque Events offers a full Passover catering menu. View the selections. Here are six big reds and a token white tasted and recommended for the Passover table.

Golan Cabernet Sauvignon 2007, Galilee

From left to right: Recanati Chardonnay 2012, Kosher For Passover, Non Mevushal, Upper Galilee, Golan Cabernet Sauvignon 2011, Galilee, Galil Mountain Alon 2010, Kosher For Passover, Upper Galilee, Teperberg Family Estate Meritage 2011, Kosher For Passover, Elah Valley, Tabor Earth Series Shiraz 2011, Kosher For Passover, Upper Galilee, Saslove Aviv Marriage 2011, Kosher For Passover, Upper Galilee, Galil Mountain Yiron Kp 2009, Upper Galilee

Recanati Chardonnay 2012, Kosher For Passover, Non Mevushal, Upper Galilee, Israel (128322, $19.95, WineAlign)

Rich, unctuous and viscous. Soft and discreet, more like a modern, New World sketch of a Grenache Rhône-blend than a warm climate Chardonnay. There is little or no affront to this clement and polite Israeli of scant tension or acidity.   Tasted February 2014

Golan Cabernet Sauvignon 2011, Kosher For Passover, Galilee, Israel (Vintage Wines – 611152, $26.95, WineAlign)

From winemaker Victor Schoenfeld, the stylish “G” will answer the pecuniary call for just about any Passover feast. Well-rounded, worldly, soft-spoken and generous of fruit. A 100 per cent Cabernet that knows its way around a blackberry, a ripe plum, a bouquet of violets and a chamber of faint tobacco smoke. Lush but not heavy, the only detractor is a slight caramel, oxidative note that indicates near-term consumption, which is basically a given anyway. The finish hints at a lava flow in the direction of the fourth cup, but because this G is so easy to drink, it should be enjoyed while still at the table.  Tasted April 2014

Galil Mountain Alon 2010, Kosher For Passover, Upper Galilee, Israel (354522, $20.95, WineAlign)

Alon makes use of Syrah to create its party mix, to work with 41 per cent Cabernet Sauvignon, 6 Petit Verdot and 6 Cabernet Franc. Another monster red blend, coming in hot and huge at 15.5 per cent alcohol. For the price, what more can you ask for? Passover may be a four glass exercise but two through four are top ups so it’s really a two glass night. This wine will not ruin your 2nd Seder morning wake-up after consuming a maximum two glasses at the 1st Seder. Rich, mocha berry driven shake, spicy and with non-invasive meaty aromas. Hot, sweet and bothered.  Tasted February 2014  @azureau 

Teperberg Family Estate Meritage 2011, Kosher For Passover, Elah Valley, Israel (157016, $23.95, WineAlign)

Proper Bordeaux aromatics, of tobacco, tea, black currant and grilled meat. Nothing gritty going on here, all four varieties playing a role and hanging together. With good tannins, sweet sinuous and slinky, this is a very versatile Passover red that will also benefit from a year or two in bottle. Better than average value.  Tasted February 2014

Tabor Earth Series Shiraz 2011, Kosher For Passover, Upper Galilee, Israel (356709, $23.95, WineAlign)

In an unusual turn of the earth, this smells like someone dropped a piece of Emmental to melt in the heat upon the must of this Shiraz. It does swirl away and a solid core of red berry remains, though for just a spell. Simple, semi-structured and proper, without hard edges or tannins, but falls quickly. Will work well with many Passover flavours but drink it up in 2014.  Tasted February 2014

Saslove Aviv Marriage 2011, Kosher For Passover, Upper Galilee, Israel (354514, $29.95, WineAlign)

This Aviv consolidates Bordeaux, Piedmont and the Rhône into one complex and perplexing blend within the confines of a single bottle. The Northern Rhône meatiness of the Shiraz stands out firm and at attention, essentially suppressing the Meritage marriage intent and thus renders the wine monochromatic. Still its lively and spicy, ready for the bigger and more pungent foods on the Passover table. The Shiraz might say, “this is a crisis I knew had to come, destroying the balance I’d kept.” The other varieties, meaning Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot, Cabernet Franc and Nebbiolo are the silent partners in this polygamy of a wine marriage. They play their parts despite the joy division.  Tasted February 2014

Galil Mountain Yiron Kp 2009, Upper Galilee, Israel (95075, $34.95, WineAlign)

The Yiron is a beast but because I am so pleased to see the Kosher feature composed of all Israeli wines (as opposed to Australia, France, Italy, Argentina and Chile) I am focused and ready to work with anything on this table. Despite the 15.5 per cent alcohol and plethora of oak treatment, this blend shines in rich, meaty and anise-spiked flavours. The mix of Cabernet Sauvignon (60 per cent), Merlot (35) and Petit Verdot (5) may seem monstrous but it is not stupidly expensive now and in relation to what it cost in previous vintages ($50). Though certainly not a wine of elegance, grace and restraint, the Yiron pulls no punches and remains true to its warm climate conditions. It is what it is.  Tasted February 2014

Good to go!

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