The Royal Wine Co., a major U.S. producer of kosher wines, has broken ground on a new 77,000-square-foot winery in Southern California. It will be the largest facility for producing dry, varietal kosher wines in North America.
For the past five years, Royal Wine's Herzog Special Reserve, Baron Herzog and Weinstock brands have been made at a rented facility in Santa Maria, Calif. Production has risen to 120,000 cases, and company officials felt it was time for the brand to have a home of its own.
According to Royal spokesman Eitan Segal, construction of the new winery signifies tremendous growth in the popularity of dry varietal kosher wines. Many of the Herzog Special Reserve and Special Edition wines have earned very good or outstanding ratings from Wine Spectator. "We plan to market our wines as good wines that just happen to be kosher," Segal said, "rather than capitalizing on their kosher aspect."
Traditionally, in the United States, kosher wines have been produced from native American grape varieties, such as Concord, and have been intensely sweet. This association between kosher and Concord came about because those grapes were the most readily available to early Jewish immigrants. Royal Wine still makes the Kedem brand on the East Coast in the sweet style.
Joe Hurliman, Royal's winemaker in California, said the company's decision to locate its plant in Oxnard, just north of Los Angeles, stems from the fact that a large community of observant Jews lives in the area. Talmudic tradition dictates that only Jews who observe the Sabbath, doing no work from sundown on Friday to sundown on Saturday, can be directly involved in the production of kosher wine.
All production, from crush to bottling, must be done under the supervision of a rabbi, said Segal. In addition, no gelatin or milk-based fining products can be used to clarify kosher wines, and all added ingredients, such as yeast, must be kosher.
Once the new winery opens, which is scheduled for late this fall, it will have a tasting room open to the public, along with a kosher deli and catering service. The winery will also offer a kosher wine club and host special consumer and trade tasting events.