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by Fred McMillin
How Sweet It ISN'T!
With the beginning of Passover today, we quote the late Tom Stockley, whose words of wine wisdom have been extinguished by the recent Alaska Airlines crash...
"I've been looking into the kosher wines available today. Compared to the days when about all one could find were sweet, syrupy wines with a screw cap, we've come a long way."
British expert Stephen Brook agrees in the Wines of California... "Kosher wines used to be ultra-sweet treacly blends that were scarcely drinkable. Since the early 1980s excellent kosher table wines have been available from a handful of specialist wineries in California. The pioneer was Ernie Weir of Hagafen (hu-GAF-en) Cellars, which he established in Napa in l979."
The Rest of the Story
However, Ernie was not the first to make California kosher. Prof. Thomas Pinney tells us that honor apparently goes to a Bavarian Jew named Benjamin Dreyfus. In the wake of the Gold Rush, he came north to San Francisco to promote his Los Angeles wines, managed a cellar there, and in 1864 made Kosher wine.
Another pioneer was Louis M. Martini. During Prohibition in the 1920s home winemaking was legal. So he made and sold to the public a grape concentrate aptly named "Forbidden Fruit." Also, he made the legal medicinal and sacramental wines. with a rabbi living on the grounds, they "even made kosher wine."
There was a trickle of dry kosher wine produced after Prohibition but it died out and for decades the only available koshers were those sweet, screw-cap specials.
The Impossible Dream
Then, 30 years ago, a young student with big ideas and a small wallett had an impossible dream. Here's how he decribed it to me on March 24, 1988.
That was many wines and many medals ago. Success has been so great that in a few months the handsome new Hagafen ("vine" in Hebrew) winery will open, ready to process the year 2000 crush.
One of the newest triumphs is Ernie's first Merlot, our...
Wine of the Day
1997 Hagafen Merlot, Napa Valley
Food Affinities - Lamb stew with mushrooms and tiny pearl onions; quail; robust pasta dishes
Contact—Office of Nancy Levenberg, (707) 252-0781, FAX (707) 252-4562
We've covered kosher wine criteria in past
WineDays, including these dates and titles.
04/18/00—Shake and Bake
04/17/00—Well Done, Byron!
04/14/00—It's the Price, Stupid
04/13/00—The President's Pick
04/12/00—Tamas for the Boss
04/11/00—Clear Lake Takes the Cake
04/10/00—Out Damn Bubble
04/07/00—Sure Thing Sterling
04/06/00—Sing a Song of Syrah
04/03/00—Noah to Napa
This page created April 2000