By Bill St. John, Chicago Tribune (TNS)
For a St. John, I love Passover each year. I go back to my hometown of Denver and attend a couple of Seder meals at homes of Jewish friends.
But the kicker is that they ask me to conduct a tasting of kosher wines during the Haggada, the hours-long text that sets forth the order of the Seder — and during which each participant is obliged to sip from at least four cups of wine. We just use the good stuff, not Manischewitz.
So, I went on the lookout for some well-made kosher wines again this year and ran across some surprisingly delicious bottlings from the Spanish producer Terrenal, available at Trader Joe’s for a scant $5 a bottle. Come now, you’re saying to yourself, $5 for a decent bottle? Much less, of kosher wine?
Well, Terrenal’s cabernet sauvignon and its tempranillo, both of which I bought, were terrific wines for the money, kosher or not.
Which leads me to note some other well-priced wines that I’ve come across recently and wish to recommend.
They’re ordered by price. All are available nationally for $15 or less a bottle. You may find a couple above that price in certain markets, but the national average is $15 or below.
2013 Cousino-Macul Sauvignon Gris Isidora, Maipo, Chile: The grape is a cousin to sauvignon blanc and very much resembles it with its grapefruit-y cast; dry, slightly spritzy, and extremely refreshing. $13
2012 Dr. Loosen Dry Riesling Red Slate, Mosel, Germany: Dry riesling can be a bit hard, austere, and in need of food, but this has a lot of fruit to it (apple, pear, lemon) and a full, rich texture. $14
2013 Inama Soave Classico, Veneto, Italy: Creamy, peachy, very soft on the tongue (almost as if it had been polished), but with just enough acidity to spark-plug the next sip. $15
2011 Koenig Vineyards Viognier, Williamson Vineyard, Snake River Valley, Idaho: Yep, Idaho, and from one of the state’s better producers; full-on viognier, with all the peach and apricot you’d expect, and that chamois-like texture that makes the grape so seductive. $15
2013 Mt. Beautiful Sauvignon Blanc, Canterbury, New Zealand: In a sea of recipe-driven Kiwi sauvignon, this stands out for its subtleness, richer-than-usual body, and very long finish. $15
2013 Weingut Fred Loimer Gruner Veltliner Lois, Kamptal, Austria: Great gruner, with all the citrus, white pepper, lentil, celery, and herbal notes you could ask for, as well as a more generous texture than in previous years. $15
2012 Cellaro Nero d’Avola Luma, Terre Siciliane, Sicily, Italy: Simple, straightforward, deeply-pigmented red, all dark cherries and earth and herbal accents. $10
2013 Mark West Pinot Noir, California: I served this blind, in opaque glassware, next to a $90 Russian River pinot from a famous producer and half the group preferred it; nothing spectacular, but you don’t find spot-on pinot at this price every day. $10
2012 Bogle Merlot, California: How these Bogle folk turn out their terrific $10-$12 bottles of white and red, I do not know, but this is all-merlot: dark red fruit, plush texture, soft tannins, delicious. $10-$12
2012 Elena Walch Schiava, Trentino-Alto Adige, Italy: The most popular wine variety in its home region because it is so adaptable for the range of foods of the area; light-bodied, highly perfumed, great acidity, low tannin. $13
2012 Tormaresca Primitivo, Puglia, Italy: Earthy, even tarry, with nice spice notes; a true Italian zinfandel (no surprise, same grape, different name); pizza wine par excellence. $15
2012 Chateau Ste Michelle Syrah, Columbia Valley, Washington: Beautiful scents of red cherry and spice in a plush, richly rendered version; equal to Rhone syrah costing nearly twice as much. $15
2012 Seven Falls Merlot, Wahluke Slope, Washington: Proof again that Washington State is the anti-“Sideways,” the rescuer of America’s merlot; dark fruits, plump feel, long finish; pin-point merlot. $15
2008 Bodegas Franco-Espanolas Rioja Bordon, Rioja, Spain: A favorite Rioja for the price; nothing fancy or deeply layered, just juicy cherrylike fruit, accents of wood and time, and nice cleansing acidity to make dinnertime tastier. $15
2011 Kaiken Terroir Series Red Blend, Corte Mendoza, Argentina: This is a midnight-black blend of malbec, bonarda, and petit verdot from primo vineyards near Mendoza; fat with flavor, texture, perfume of dark fruits and earth; your go-to for beef. $15
2013 Tinto Negro Malbec, Uco Valley, Argentina: This stands out in a crowd of so-so chocolate-and-cherry malbec for its crisper-than-usual acidity and slight tannic grip, making it better at table than alone by the glass. $15
2013 Mas Carlot Costieres de Nimes Cuvee Tradition Rouge, Rhone, France: Everything about this is dark, brooding and, hence, very seductive: the black fruit aromas and flavors; the accents of licorice nib, espresso and baker’s chocolate; the scents of dried wild herbs; an extraordinary value in complexity, depth and flavor richness for the money. $15
If your wine store does not carry these wines, ask for one similar in style and price.
Photo: Robert Neff via Flickr