With Passover approaching, we turn our attention to that much-maligned—though according to Assistant Tasting Director Lauren Buzzeo much-improved—category of wine: Kosher. The reviews listed below represent Buzzeo’s highest-scoring, recently reviewed Kosher wines—note the predominance of Recanati, the producer featured in her blog: It’s Israeli Wine, Not Kosher Wine.
An eight-day affair, Passover commemorates the ancient Hebrews’ exodus from slavery in Egypt. The holiday’s story is typically recounted during the Seder feast, held on the first two nights. To spice things up at this year’s Seder table (and create your own Passover stories to tell), try the below Matzoh Ball Soup recipe, a non-traditional take on a traditional Kosher dish. It’s the creation of Chef Floyd Cardoz of NYC’S Indian temple, Tabla, which will be hosting its own Subcontinent-inspired Seder feast this Tuesday March 30. Other dishes served include Kerala banana leaf wrapped fish patties, goan spiced brisket, fingerling potatoes with sun-dried mango and cumin, and orange clove sorbet.
89 Recanati 2006 Reserve Kosher Cabernet Sauvignon (Galilee); $25. With 16 months in French oak, this is a big wine with big flavors. Fleshy black plum guts, black cherry, crushed African violet petals and a touch of tobacco appear in the bouquet, while cherry pit, pepper and cigar spice fill out the palate. Medium weight and lush in the mouth with solid tannins and acidity, this is a good choice now with strong meat dishes or a candidate to hold onto for a couple more years. Imported by Palm Bay International. —L.B.
88 Recanati 2006 Reserve Kosher Merlot (Ella Valley); $25. Rich, lush and oaky with aromas and flavors of ripe red plum, red berries and vanilla cream. Round and full in the mouth with solid but soft tannins and moderate acidity. The finish is long and lingering, with suggestions of vanilla ice cream topped with mixed berry compote. Drink now. Imported by Palm Bay International. —L.B.
87 Psagot 2007 Kosher Cabernet Franc (Judean Hills); $24. A well-made Cab Franc with typical characteristics of the varietal—green pepper, tobacco and ash, along with solid red fruit aromas and flavors of plum and strawberry. Lean but satisfying in the mouth with soft, dusty tannins and a medium-length finish; drinkable now but would also be fine with a little more time in the cellar. Imported by Royal Wine Corporation. —L.B.
87 Psagot 2007 Single Vineyard Kosher Cabernet Sauvignon (Judean Hills); $35. Dark garnet in color with an intense nose loaded with blackberries, cassis and sweet tobacco. The palate offers more black fruit skin notes along with coffee granules and cocoa powder, with mocha dominating the lingering finish. Imported by Royal Wine Corporation. —L.B.
87 Tishbi Estate 2006 Limited Edition Cabernet Sauvignon (Israel); $29. Blackberry, cassis and a touch of herbal green pepper on the nose are followed by sweeter notes of spice and dark fruit guts on the medium weight palate. Moderate tannins and balanced acidity flesh out the rich mouthfeel, leading through the long, lush finish. Approachable and decadent; a good wine sure to please most. Imported by Admiral Imports. —L.B.
86 Psagot 2007 Edom Kosher Red (Judean Hills); $28. A concentrated Bordeaux-style blend comprised of 59% Cab Sauv, 19% Merlot, 12% Cab Franc and 10% Petit Verdot. Black currant and plum dominate the nose while flavors of herbal spice, cigar box and licorice flesh out the medium-weight mouth. The tannins are strong but refined, lingering well through the finish. Imported by Royal Wine Corporation. —L.B.
86 Recanati 2008 Kosher Merlot (Galilee); $15. Jammy preserve notes of blueberry and ripe strawberry on the nose, with more plum and deep cherry notes fleshing out the medium-weight mouth. Delicate finegrain tannins provide good structure, and linger throughout the milk chocolate-infused finish. Imported by Palm Bay International. —L.B.
86 Recanati 2006 Kosher Syrah (Galilee); $15. Concentrated, ripe and full with aromas and flavors of raspberry, kirsch, mocha and soft pepper. Round in the mouth with a solid, lingering finish loaded with spice. Drink now. Imported by Palm Bay International. —L.B.
86 Recanati 2008 Yasmin Kosher Red (Galilee); $11. A blend of 60% Merlot and 40% Cab Sauv, this is a lightweight, easy-todrink Bordeaux-style blend that’s perfect for company. Soft tannins and a ripe palate loaded with flavors of black juicy plum and berries along with a kiss of mocha are sure to satisfy even the more discerning palates. Imported by Palm Bay International. Best Buy. —L.B.
85 Recanati 2008 Kosher Cabernet Sauvignon (Galilee); $15. Straightforward and very drinkable with notes of blackberry and plum with cassis and soft spice accents. Hints of green pepper appear on the palate, along with flavors of black cherry skins. Lightweight with gentle tannins and a short, clean finish. Imported by Palm Bay International. —L.B.
85 Recanati 2006 Reserve Kosher Petite Sirah-Zinfandel (Galilee); $25. With 80% Petite Sirah and 20% Zinfandel, this is a juicy, lush red with a solid structure, moderate gripping tannins and a long finish. Red plum, cherry and milk chocolate fill the bouquet while sweet spice and vibrant red fruit dominate the palate. Drink now. Imported by Palm Bay International. —L.B.
86 Recanati 2008 Yasmin Kosher White (Shomron); $11. A deliciously fresh and lively Kosher white blend of 70% Sauvignon Blanc, 20% Riesling and 10% Colombard, offering vibrant aromas and flavors of ripe tropical fruit, key lime and a touch of fresh cut grass. Well balanced with subtle sweetness and crisp acidity. Imported by Palm Bay International. Best Buy. —L.B.
85 Recanati 2008 Kosher Sauvignon Blanc (Shomron); $14. Clean and straightforward with notes of fresh red apple slices, ripe pear and soft tropical fruit on the nose and palate. The mouth is round and mildly intense, with bracing acidity leading through the short, crisp finish. Imported by Palm Bay International. —L.B.
To see all our reviews of high-scoring Kosher wines, visit our Online Buying Guide.
Matzoh Ball Soup with Spring Vegetables
Recipe courtesy of Chef Floyd Cardoz, from NYC’s Tabla restaurant
Yields 8 to 12 portions
For the soup:
1/2 tablespoon fenugreek seeds
2 tablespoons coriander seeds
1/2 tablespoon black peppercorns
1 gallon Chicken Stock or canned lower-sodium chicken broth
1 chicken (3½-pound)
2 cups chopped white onion
1 1/2 cups chopped carrot
1 1/2cups chopped leek (white and light green parts only)
2 cups chopped celery
5 large garlic cloves, peeled
1/4 cup rounds sliced peeled fresh ginger
2 bay leaves
8-10 cilantro stems and roots (each about 3 inches of stems and roots) or 25 to 30
cilantro stems only
1 teaspoon kosher salt
For the matzoh balls:
1/4 teaspoon ajwain seeds
1 1/2 tablespoons dried fenugreek leaves
1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill fronds
1 packed teaspoon chopped peeled fresh ginger
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup matzoh meal plus additional for forming balls if necessary
2 tablespoons chicken fat, spooned from the soup
4 large egg yolk
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
4 large egg whites
1/3 cup seltzer or club soda
For the spring vegetables:
4 baby or young carrots (about 4 inches long), trimmed
6 baby turnips (about 1½ inches in diameter), trimmed (leaving about ¼ inch of green),
6 small spring onions (not scallions)
Canola oil for oiling hands and forming matzoh balls
Freshly ground pepper
For the garnishes:
1/2 cup sliced greens from spring onions (above)
2 tablespoons finely shredded cilantro
2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill fronds
Start the soup:
Toast the fenugreek seeds in a dry small skillet over moderately low heat, shaking the skillet, until fragrant and a couple of shades darker, about 3 minutes. Transfer the seeds to a small tray or plate to cool.
Toast the coriander seeds the same way and turn them out to cool. Toast the peppercorns as well, and add them to the other toasted spices.
Grind the toasted spices together in an electric coffee/spice grinder until ground coarse and set aside.
Put the chicken stock in an 8-quart pot. Add the chicken, ground spices, onion, carrot, leek, celery, garlic, bay leaves, cloves, cilantro stems and roots, and salt.
Bring the soup to a boil and reduce heat to a simmer and cook 2 hours.
While the soup is simmering, make the matzoh balls:
Lightly toast the ajwain seeds in the dry small skillet over moderately low heat about 2 minutes. Transfer the seeds to the small tray or plate and let cool.
Grind the ajwain using a mortar and pestle or an electric spice/coffee grinder. (You’ll need to pulse the grinder while gently shaking it to grind such a small amount of seeds.) Transfer the ground seeds to a large bowl.
Lightly toast the fenugreek leaves about 2 minutes and transfer to the small tray or plate to cool.
Crumble the leaves into the bowl holding ajwain.
Add the dill, ginger, and salt to the spice mixture.
Add the matzoh meal and stir together. (Your freshly washed hands are the best tool for the job.)
Add the chicken fat and mix together with your hands. Mix in the egg yolks and pepper, working the mixture until it forms pea-size crumbles.
Put the egg whites in another large bowl and whisk vigorously until they form soft peaks.
Fold the seltzer into the matzoh mixture with a rubber spatula, then fold in about one-third of the whites.
Fold in the remaining whites in two more batches. Refrigerate the mixture, covered, 30 minutes.
While the matzoh balls are chilling, prepare the vegetables:
Cut the carrots on a bias into 1-inch long pieces
Scrape the “shoulders” of the turnips with the back of a paring knife to get rid the tough skin there. Cut into eighths.
Cut the bulbs of the spring onions lengthwise into quarters or sixths- whatever is bite size. Thinly slice the onion greens and reserve for garnish.
Put the carrots and turnips in a small bowl of cold water and refrigerate until use.
Wrap the onions and greens in a damp paper towel and refrigerate as well.
Finish the soup:
Remove the chicken from the soup and let cool on a tray or large plate. Remove the meat from the bones and cut into ½- inch pieces.
Strain the soup through a sieve into a large bowl, pressing hard on the solids. Discard the solids and rinse out the soup pot.
Return the strained soup to the pot and bring to a slow simmer.
Oil your hands with the canola oil. Gently form about 24 (1-inch) balls. (The mixture should be loose but still hold shape when formed. If it’s too loose, gently fold in a little additional matzoh meal.) As you form the balls, slip them into the simmering soup.
Simmer the matzoh balls 15 minutes. Drain the carrots and turnips, and add them to the soup, along with the onion bulbs.
Simmer the soup 20 minutes longer. Add the chicken and salt and pepper to taste and simmer until the meat is heated through.
Serve the soup in bowls, garnish with the onion greens, cilantro, and dill.
Note to Cook: If you happen to have duck fat in the fridge, by all means use it here.