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Tali Dalbaha, the Israeli-born wine director at City Winery in Manhattan, shares her eight favorite kosher wines—one bottle for each night of the holiday.
It’s only in the United States that people think of sweet, syrupy Manischewitz when contemplating kosher wines. The rest of the world knows that there are great kosher reds, whites, rosés and sparklers produced all over the place—most notably in Israel, France, Spain, Italy, Australia, Chile, New Zealand, South Africa and, of course, the U.S. Technically, a wine must be served by an observant Jew to retain its kosher status, but there’s an authentication variation known as “meshuval” that allows non-Jewish waiters and the general public to handle the bottle. To earn this distinction, wines are heated by flash pasteurization, a process that people used to equate with “boiled” and bad. But today’s meshuval wines can be just as good as any kosher ones.
As we head into Hanukkah season (starting at sundown on Sunday, December 6 and ending at nightfall on Monday, December 14), we asked Tali Dalbaha, the Israeli-born wine director at City Winery in Manhattan, to share her eight favorite kosher wines—one bottle for each night of the holiday.
2014 Hagafen Dry White Riesling, $24
The Napa Valley–based winery has three brands—Hagafen Cellars, Prix Vineyards, Don Ernesto—all of which are kosher and meshuval. The Riesling balances spice and fruit (lemon and peach) with a long, soft finish.
2013 Covenant Chardonnay Lavan Sonoma Mountain, $38
These grapes come from the renowned Bacigalupi vineyard in California’s Russian River Valley (part of the blend that won the 1976 Paris Tasting), and they are aged in French oak barrels for 12 to 14 months, but neither filtered nor fined. The result: a top-notch white with notes of pear, fig, citrus, toast and minerality.
2013 Domaine Du Castel Petit Castel, $60
According to City Winery’s Dalbaha, this is the drink of choice for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The Zaken family, who also make a pricier “Grand Vin” bordeaux blend, age the grapes for 16 months in French oak barrels. It pours a deep purple with hints of rich black fruit, plum and cherry.
2013 Flam Blanc, $35
For fans of unoaked white wine, this blend (57 percent Sauvignon Blanc, 43 percent Chardonnay) is aged in stainless steel vats, which helps it retain its crisp, natural acidity and balances the green apple and lime flavors. The family’s been in the Israeli wine business for half a century, and the grapes come from the Judean Hills close to Jerusalem.
2004 Chateau Malarctic LaGraviere (Red), $77
A Grand Cru kosher wine? Yes, and this one is certified sustainable as well. Combining Cabernet Sauvignon (50 percent), Merlot (45 percent) and Cabernet Franc (5 percent), this wine registers as silky on the palate with hints of berry, blackcurrants, leather, spices, and tobacco.
2014 Cotes De Galilee Village Cuvée Eva, $20
After closing Tribeca-based French restaurant Capsouto Frères in 2013, restaurateur Jacques Capsouto set out to make his own wine—in the Western Galilee of Israel. In 2015, he finally had bottles to bring home, including this white made from Rhone varietals (60 percent Grenache Blanc). Available at 67 Wine, Gotham and Skyview.
2011 Yatir Forest, $95
Location, location, location: Launched in 2000, this winery sits on truly historical land—specifically, the Tel Arad archeological site containing the ruins of a 3,000-year old Canaanite city in the northeastern Negev desert. Expect deep tannins working with notes of cherry, currant, earth and minerals.
2010 Clos Mesorah, $80
This blend of Spanish varietals—40 percent Carignan, 30 percent Grenache, 30 percent Syrah—comes from a single-vineyard estate in the Catalonia region of Spain near Priorat. It’s deep, concentrated and showcases red and black fruit flavors with touches of earthiness in the long finish.
Bonus bottle: 2011 City Winery Sparkling Three Hands Cuvée Blanc de Blanc 2011, $48
When guests at City Winery ask for a bottle of bubbly to celebrate an event, Dalbaha brings out the house favorite—an affordable splurge made from Chardonnay grapes on the North Fork of Long Island with hints of apples, lemons and nuts.