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Kosher Wines and Sweet-and-Sour Brisket for Passover

A butcher shares her Seder recipe, and we share 14 recently rated kosher wines from Israel

Laurie Woolever
Posted: April 6, 2011

To start the weeklong Jewish holiday of Passover, families gather for a special meal, the Seder, at which the food is often as traditional and familiar as the prayers, songs and symbolic elements on the Seder plate that commemorate the ancient Hebrews' exodus from Egypt.

"Beef brisket was the centerpiece of almost every Passover in my family," said Jessica Applestone, co-owner, with her husband, Joshua, of Fleisher's Grass-Fed and Organic Meats in Kingston, N.Y., which supplies meat to some of the top restaurants in New York City and the Hudson Valley. Although the shop is not kosher, Joshua is a third-generation butcher whose great-grandfather, Wolf Fleisher, owned a beloved kosher butcher shop in Brooklyn with his sons Jack and Joseph. This heritage inspired Joshua, a one-time vegan, and Jessica, a former vegetarian, to become purveyors who offer thoughtfully raised, hormone- and antibiotic-free meat. To encourage others to be environmentally conscious in selecting meat, the two have written a book with co-author Alexandra Zissu, The Butcher's Guide to Well-Raised Meat: How to Buy, Cut, and Cook Great Beef, Lamb, Pork, Poultry, and More, which will be published in June 2011.

"Brisket is always either braised or smoked, and once you understand that, you can go in whatever direction you want, depending on the flavor profile you're looking for," said Applestone, who likes to adhere to a ratio of 2 parts acid (tomatoes, vinegar, wine, beer or cider) to 3 parts stock or water when composing a braising liquid for brisket. "A nice Jewish brisket tends to be sweet and sour." To that end, she has shared the following recipe, suitable for a Passover Seder. Serve with matzo, a bitter greens salad, some parve coconut cookies and one or more of the recently rated kosher wines below.

Sweet-and-Sour Brisket with Sweet Potatoes and Plantains

• 2 tablespoons olive oil
• 5-pound beef brisket
• Salt and freshly ground black pepper
• 6 to 8 red onions, peeled and thinly sliced (about 4 to 5 cups)
• 1/2 cup white wine vinegar
• 2 cups red wine
• 4 cups beef broth or chicken or veal stock
• 1 1/2 cups apple cider
• 2 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into quarters
• 5 semi-ripe plantains, peeled and cut into thirds
• 1/3 cup finely chopped parsley (optional)

1. Preheat the oven to 300° F. In a Dutch oven or other large, oven-proof pot, heat the oil over medium-high heat until it shimmers. Season the meat on both sides with salt. Sear the meat on both sides in the hot oil until browned, about 5 minutes per side. Remove the meat to a platter and season on both sides with black pepper.

2. Add the onions to the hot pot and stir well with a wooden spoon to evenly coat the onions with oil and to dislodge any browned bits on the bottom of the pan. Season the onions well with salt and pepper, and continue to cook over medium heat until they are soft, fragrant and lightly browned, about 7 to 10 minutes.

3. Increase the heat to high and stir in the vinegar. Cook over high heat, stirring occasionally, until the liquid has evaporated and the sharp vinegar smell has subsided, about 5 to 7 minutes. When the onions are sizzling hard, stir in the wine and cook until the liquid has reduced by half. Stir in the broth or stock and the cider and bring to a boil. Add the sweet potatoes and plantains and return to a boil.

4. Return the brisket to the pot. Note: If your pot isn't large enough to hold all of the meat, vegetables and liquid, transfer some of the liquid, onions, sweet potatoes and plantains to a separate, heavy-bottomed pot, bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cook on the stovetop for about 90 minutes, until the plantains and potatoes are extremely tender.

5. Cover the pot with an oven-proof lid or aluminum foil and transfer to the oven. Cook until the meat is very tender, about 4 hours. Remove from the oven and let the meat cool to room temperature in the liquid, then separate the liquid from the meat and vegetables and chill the liquid so that the fat rises to the top. Skim the fat, cover the meat and vegetables with the liquid and refrigerate 8 hours or overnight.

6. To serve, heat the meat, vegetables and liquid together in a 350° F oven until the liquid is bubbling. Serve the meat in thin slices with the vegetables alongside, braising liquid drizzled over and chopped parsley on top as a garnish. Serves 8 to 10.


The following are highlights from new-release kosher wines that we have reviewed this year, chosen for their quality and/or price. WineSpectator.com members can view additional kosher wines in our Wine Ratings Search.

ALEXANDER Cabernet Sauvignon Galilee Reserve 2007 Score: 89 | $25
A ripe, extracted style, with aromas and flavors of dark plum, spiced cherry, blackberry and pepper. Anise and dark chocolate fill the finish, which features plenty of grip. Kosher. Drink now through 2016. 50 cases imported. —K.M.

DALTÔN Viognier Israel Wild Yeast Reserve 2009 Score: 88 | $19
A rich white, exhibiting ripe peach flavors that are accented by smoky notes. The finish features ripe melon notes, with a firm minerality. Kosher. Drink now through 2015. 900 cases made. —K.M.

SHILOH Petite Syrah Judean Hills Secret Reserve 2007 Score: 88 | $40
Thick, dense blackberry and dark plum flavors fill this full-bodied red. Well-focused spice and brick notes feature touches of richness on the ripe finish. Kosher. Drink now through 2014. 150 cases imported. —K.M.

CARMEL Carignan Shomron 2007 Score: 87 | $29
A medium-bodied red, with good structure to the plum, dark cherry and mincemeat flavors. The suave, spicy finish features minerally notes. Kosher. Drink now. 400 cases imported. —K.M.

GOLAN HEIGHTS WINERY Cabernet Sauvignon Galilee Yarden 2007 Score: 87 | $30
Dark plum, cherry and kirsch flavors are ripe and brooding, with herb and spice midpalate and an espresso-filled finish. Kosher. Drink now. 4,000 cases imported. —K.M.

DOMAINE NETOFA Latour Galilee 2009 Score: 87 | $43
Dark plum and red currant make this a lively quaff. Tannic and spicy on the finish, with notes of cedar and black olive. Syrah and Mourvèdre. Kosher. Drink now through 2014. 100 cases imported. —K.M.

SHILOH Cabernet-Merlot Judean Hills Shor Mevushal 2007 Score: 87 | $30
This has zesty red currant and plum pudding flavors, with plenty of pepper and spice. Creamy finish. Kosher. Drink now. 150 cases imported. —K.M.

TZUBA Cabernet Sauvignon Judean Hills Tel Tzuba 2007 Score: 87 | $30
Red plum and pepper flavors fill this well-spiced red, with black olive and sage lingering on the snappy finish. Kosher. Drink now. 150 cases imported. —K.M.

BARKAN Pinot Noir Negev Classic Mevushal 2009 Score: 86 | $12
Firm, focused and minerally, this red shows flavors of red currant and plum. Not typical for the variety, but tasty, with a cedary finish. Kosher. Drink now. 1,000 cases imported. —K.M.

SEGAL'S Cabernet Sauvignon Galil Dishon Single Vineyard 2007 Score: 86 | $35
Medium-bodied, with silky overtones to the dried cherry and berry flavors. The supple finish features notes of allspice. Kosher. Drink now. 400 cases imported. —K.M.

TZUBA Metsuda Reserve Judean Hills 2006 Score: 86 | $35
A supple red, offering a spicy allure to its cherry and raspberry tart flavors, with hints of paprika on the finish. Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. Kosher. Drink now. 100 cases imported. —K.M.

BARKAN Merlot-Argaman Dan Classic Mevushal 2009 Score: 85 | $12
This firm red shows plenty of dried berry flavors that feature notes of savory herb and hints of smoke, with a plum pudding finish. Kosher. Drink now. 1,000 cases imported. —K.M.

DOMAINE NETOFA Galilee Red 2009 Score: 85 | $25
Medium-bodied, with red berry and plum flavors that are accented by mineral and spice. Crisp finish. Syrah and Mourvèdre. Kosher. Drink now. 500 cases imported. —K.M.

RECANATI Sauvignon Blanc Shomron 2009 Score: 85 | $13
Ripe apple, citrus and tropical fruit flavors feature notes of beeswax, with a spicy finish. Kosher. Drink now. 750 cases imported. —K.M.

David Weisfeld
Kihei, Hawaii, USA —  April 13, 2011 6:56pm ET
It would be nice if you had a search classification for kosher wines and if you tasted more kosher wines.
Dana Nigro
New York, NY —  April 13, 2011 7:09pm ET

There's a link in the sidebar to 78 kosher wines rated last year. This story highlights some of the best we've received and reviewed so far this year.

You can do a search for kosher wines by going to our Wine Ratings Search page: http://www.winespectator.com/wine/search

Choose to search by "Wines, wineries, regions and tasting notes" and enter the word kosher.

In the future, perhaps we can have a more convenient shortcut for such a search.

Dana Nigro, managing editor, WineSpectator.com

Stanley Fuishbein
West Greenwich, RI —  April 14, 2011 4:51pm ET
Perhaps, some day we will see wines that are Kosher, listed with all other wines and rated as such. I have tried for 40 years to offer good to great wines that just happen to be Kosher. ie Coca-Cola, Campbell Soup, and thousands of other products that are staples of world wide consumption, that just happen to be Kosher.
Dana Nigro
New York, NY —  April 14, 2011 5:01pm ET

We do treat kosher wines as wines that just happen to be kosher. We review kosher wines in blind tastings with their non-kosher peers from the same region. We don't know which are which when we are scoring them. And in our Buying Guide and online Wine Ratings Search, we don't make a point of calling them out separately; they're listed in their regional and varietal categories, but we note in the tasting note that they are kosher, for those who want that information.

However, for Passover and other holidays, when people are looking specifically for kosher wines, we make a point of highlighting some of the top new reviews, in response to customer requests. As you can see by David's comment, some customers would like us to be more obvious in listing these wines.

Dana Nigro, managing editor, WineSpectator.com
Robert Johnston
Washington DC —  April 19, 2011 11:04am ET
I'm disappointed that you didn't include the Capcanes Montsant Peraj Ha'Abib. Since you gave the 2008 vintage 88 points, I think it deserves a listing over some of the ones you did list. Ever since I tasted the 2003 vintage it has been my go to wine for Passover.
Dana Nigro
New York, NY —  April 19, 2011 11:28am ET

This list is selected from our most recent set of Kosher wine reviews done this year, mostly just in the past month, so that we could highlight notes that would be new for our readers.

The Capcanes Montsant Peraj Ha'Abib 2008, which is worth highlighting, was reviewed last year, and we have yet to review the new vintage.

Dana Nigro, managing editor, WineSpectator.com
Robert Johnston
Washington DC —  April 19, 2011 3:15pm ET
I guess that is fair, but I would certainly think about making a point of reviewing Kosher wines, especially those that you have a history with, sometime in the cycle so you can include them in a story about Kosher for Passover wines. Of course, I'm going to buy it anyway, and if it later gets 93 points like the 2003 vintage did, I won't have as much difficulty finding a shop with some left.
Dana Nigro
New York, NY —  April 19, 2011 3:30pm ET
Hi Robert,

We definitely made a point of reviewing wines so we would have them in time for Passover. But we can only schedule our reviews based on when the wineries release the wines, they arrive in the U.S., and their importer sends them to us for review. Plus we need to taste them with a set of their peers from the region. So not every kosher wine is going to make it into a Passover piece, but we also do a fall review of Kosher wines.

Dana Nigro, managing editor, WineSpectator.com
Douglas R Peachy
toronto ontario canada —  April 20, 2011 12:55pm ET
Thank you for your frank replies and comments regarding issues noted by your readers,it is nice to read something other than a defense.This comment is not regarding Kosher selections but does play the same theme regarding coverage.
I wanted to ask as to why your coverage of Canadian wines is relatively spotty in nature.From time to time, most notably in the annual review, you will mention a few wineries, but not in a manner that demonstrates that we have more than ice wine to enjoy.
The Okanangan valley has many excellent choices and in growing numbers they are producing qtys that should elevate their market presence.The same growth in selection is also being seen in the Niagra region.As WS is considered the reference here, it would be great if you could at least get us to the New York region in similar coverage.Thanks and looking forward to your view.

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