Sukkot, the time of our rejoicing, is my favorite holiday. It’s always wonderful to gather with family and friends and enjoy an al fresco dinner in the sukkah. We hope the weather will comply this year and leave us neither sweltering nor frozen solid. Hope springs eternal.
Here, we offer the best and most delicious wines we’ve tried this year. We hope some of them will grace your Sukkot tables and that you enjoy them responsibly, with the compliments of a wonderful shana tova season. We’re purposely leaving out the prices on this list, hoping that our readers’ appetite for trying great kosher wines has increased over the past year, and that the budget can increase just a bit in this case. Purchasing wine based on a clear budget is great for the rest of the year (and we stick to that generally), but we also value the Yom Tov opportunity to recommend based on taste only.
10. Tabor Adama Sauvignon Blanc 2018
This New Zealand-style, almost-translucent wine continues to be a delightfully crisp and fun white, ideal to cut through humidity. It’s so refreshing. The nose is full of tropical fruit and citrus and finishes with more subtle notes of grapefruit, stone fruit and green melon. Tabor should make a fragrance out of this wine’s aroma. I might wear it!
9. Five Stones Vineyard DvsG Red Blend 2016
The 2016 red DvsG (David vs. Goliath) wine is a beautiful blend of Mediterranean varieties: 40% shiraz, 24% marselan, 24% carignan and 12% petite syrah, matured in French oak barrels, 30% of them new, for about 10 months. The wine has a red-purple color, black plum aromas, violets and spices that blend well with the fruit flavors, round tannins and the scent of oak. The wine is complex and elegant, with a rich, immensely enjoyable finish.
8. Gvaot Merlot 2017
The merlot had the most floral, lovely aroma of all the Gvaot wines we tried, all of which were excellent. The “merlot” comprises 85% merlot, 10% cabernet and 5% petit verdot. This wine has a nice body, with welcome warmth and intensity. Hard not to love, and perfect to enjoy with beef if the evening outside has a bit of a chill in the air. Or if you just love great merlots.
7. Netofa LaTour White 2017
My new fave, this wine is worthy of obsession. Made with 100% chenin blanc, a variety originating from France’s Loire Valley, and aged in French oak barrels, it’s sophisticated yet very easy to enjoy. This easy-drinking yet immensely structured wine is bright straw in color with aromas of fresh spring flowers, tart strawberry and green apple. It is medium-bodied, with minerality; it has medium acidity, with hints of sweet melon and green apple on a long, lustrous, bracing finish.
6. Psagot Single Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon (Mevushal And Non-Mevushal)
A special flagship Israeli red worthy of its much higher price point. It’s drinking beautifully now and is a true crowd pleaser. If you love Israeli red wine, there’s no way you won’t love this. The deep red hue is the result of being harvested from a unique plot planted at 900+ meters above sea level, where the grapes are given the chance to reach full ripeness without becoming heavy. The wine features concentrated aromas, many red fruits and a dash of black fruits. Pomegranate, sour cherries, black berries, accompanied by bittersweet chocolate, espresso and vanilla, come from the barrel aging of 14 months. This wine has a medium-to-full body, dense structure, tight tannins and supporting acidity, all coming together to a long and exceedingly pleasant finish.
5. Elvi Wines Cava Brut
The Cava Brut by Elvi is a highly drinkable sparkling wine made from grapes grown in Spain’s fertile wine regions. Great for celebrations and for those looking to graduate from the “blue bottle” for something less cloying, who might miss the moscato’s bubbles in other white wines. The coloring is very light, nearly translucent with a straw coloring and some greenness. The bubbles are nice and prominent, both pleasurable to the eye and mouth. The aroma is complex, with many different notes. A touch of fruit, a touch of yeast and a touch of almond swirl around in the nose. The texture has lighter acids that fall away at the end and a shorter aftertaste. Very enjoyable and easy to drink.
4. Jezreel Valley Alfa 2017
The Jezreel Alfa is a fun red blend of 60% syrah, 20% argaman, 20% cabernet sauvignon. The wine is a complex and balanced rich, red blend, combining pleasant aromas and wonderful flavors with a long and delightful finish, displaying Jezreel’s signature Mediterranean character. This wine is well rounded with aromas of herbs, spices and red fruit, medium acid and tannins and a long finish that keeps you heading back for another sip.
3. Ella Valley Vineyards Ever Red Rosé 2016
This is a dry, very light salmon-colored wine from the Judean Hills that is particularly full-bodied for a rosé. Comprising 87% merlot grapes and 13% pinot noir, the wine scored particularly high for aroma and taste, as it has a very light body and a short finish. “As a red wine drinker, I found this to be a rosé that I liked,” said Miriam, noting that she found it to be as easily drinkable as one of her standard red favorites. This wine is a great accompaniment for salads, fish or any food served in warm weather, or something to enjoy as an aperitif on its own.
2. Capsouto Grand Blanc 2016
Born in Egypt, Jacques Capsouto lived in France for many years and was a successful restaurateur in Manhattan. He now makes only Rhone-style wines in Israel. His Grand Vin Blanc is made primarily from roussanne and marsanne. The roussanne is oak-aged and fermented in three- to four-year-old, 500-liter French oak barrels. The wine is the color of straw, medium-bodied and with complexity, minerality, and with an aroma of fresh flowers, lemon and apricot. It has a long broad finish. The wine is named for Albert, Jacques Capsouto’s younger brother; all of the Capsouto wines are named for family members.
1. Teal Lake Australia Chardonnay 2018
This was one of our bargain finds of this past summer. At $10, this is a wine that is accessible and affordable. It has green melon and stone fruit on the nose and a very thin viscosity. While it has a slightly more bitter aftertaste than many of the other wines in our tastings, we attributed this as somewhat typical of Australian chardonnays and at this QPR (quality price ratio), we felt it was irrelevant. “If you haven’t tasted Teal Lake in a few years, I’d give this another look,” said Shari. It’s an uncomplicated wine, and sometimes that fits the bill perfectly.
By Elizabeth Kratz