Uncork with Israel’s Best on Yom HaAtzmaut

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Coming off two months of great excuses to drink — Purim and Passover — we decided to keep the good times rolling by celebrating Yom HaAtzmaut, Israeli Independence Day, with one of the Holy Land’s lesser known exports — wine.

Once was a time when kosher wine was relegated to the equivalent of fermented pancake syrup. However, the days of viscous, diabetic coma-inducing alcohol has passed.
Today’s Israeli wines compete with the best from the United States, Chili, Australia and France. And, since our understanding of grapes could be a libation liability, we thought it prudent to solicit advice from newly made friend Michael Calvert — the sommelier at swanky Papa Joe’s market in Birmingham.

So let’s toast to Israel’s victory — celebrated this year on May 10.

Domiane du Castel
Petit Castel            $48.99

Calvert told us this pricey bottle is courtesy of a boutique winery with a yearly production of just 8,000 cases. “With a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Petit Verdot, this wine is deep garnet in color, full-bodied, with soft tannins,” he explained. “It has flavors of blackcurrants, blackberries and black cherries.”

Letting us know that Petit Castel has touches of anise and cedar wood on the finish, and is a complex, deep and long wine, should go a long way in the credibility department.

Galil Mountain Winery
Pinot Noir            $21.99

We gave a shout out to Galil Mountain way back in December 2010, when we bestowed the Galilee winery’s Yiron Cabernet with a “best buy” nod. The Pinot Noir it produces, in addition to a similar price point, also scores kudos with Calvert.

“This dark garnet, medium-bodied wine with fine density, balance and structure has flavors of red and black berries, cassis and spices, and is complemented nicely by a gentle hint of sweet-and-spicy wood,” Calvert explained.

He also said it’s a good accompaniment to grilled meats or lamb.

Segal’s “Special Reserve”
Merlot            $19.99

Calvert said this offering, running in the middle of the pack, is another exceptional wine from the Upper Galilee region. The sommelier swooned about the “rich body” and “deep flavor” of this Merlot, which includes notes of “licorice, plum, black cherry and a hint of herbs.”

Suggested pairings include grilled or sauced chicken, or fish dishes.
Ben Ami Chardonnay     $11.99

Ben Ami, old friend, so glad you made the cut. Forgive us for the sappy opine, but we’re big fans of Ben Ami; dare we say it’s the grape equivalent of Knob Creek Kentucky Bourbon — great product at a great price.

Not only is Ben Ami a perfect default selection, but this Chardonnay is also the only white to make the list. Our wine aficionado said this choice is “a balanced wine with crisp, clean flavors of pineapple and guava.” Not surprising, Calvert suggests this bottle goes great with cheeses and lighter fare.

Zmora Cabernet Sauvignon,
Israel             $8.99

Don’t let the inexpensive price fool you — this is a great wine for the price. (To be fair, we were a little skeptical ourselves so we picked up a bottle for Shabbat.) When have you ever seen a kosher wine for less than $10 — and at a high-end grocer to top it off?

Calvert said of Zmora: “A young semisweet wine with fresh berry, cherry and hint of raspberry flavors; soft texture, vibrant color — a great example of youthful Cabernet with all its enchanting nuances.”

That reads like a Red Thread-inspired choice. L’Chaim! RT

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