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Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Watching the sun set over the Hudson River while sipping fine wines and nibbling on delicacies, all kosher, is a remarkable way to spend an evening. Hundreds of appreciative consumers did just that at the 2017 Kosher Food and Wine Experience held February 13 at Chelsea Piers in New York City. Sponsored by the Royal Wine Company, Marketing VP Jay Buchsbaum said over 400 varieties were available, more than any other year. And what better to accompany all those wines than the signature dishes of the tri-state area’s most popular restaurants?

“There is greater interest in kosher wines with food now,” said Buchsbaum in a pre-show phone interview. “People are asking caterers for upscale kosher wines at a good price and value. A diner at a restaurant will say, ‘I see the lamb and the sushi, but what kind of wine do you have?’”

With Purim and Pesach around the corner, the event made it easy for consumers to try new wines and learn about different flavor profiles to spice up their Yom Tov menus.

Several wines made their appearance at the show for the first time. “Each year we try to do something special, different, exciting for consumers. We have some wines that have never been shown in wide range to the customer,” Buchsbaum said.

A special VIP room sponsored by New York City’s Reserve Cut restaurant featured what Buchsbaum called library wines, bottles that can be put away and visited later. But as Buchsbaum noted, “A book can be put away and saved. When a library wine is revisited, you drink and it’s gone!” The whole event was sold out, and the VIP section sold out even quicker—in the first two weeks. “It was a huge success, showcasing exquisite food options from Reserve Cut and over 50 premium wines.”

Asking Buchsbaum to pick out a few wines was a little like asking a parent to select a favorite child. But he offered a few highlights and I sought some out at the show. The Baron Herzog Generation VIII Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa Valley 2014 is back, the first time a Generation VIII wine has been released in several years. Joe Hurliman, the winemaker, said the Herzog family is sometimes “blown away” by a vintage and then they offer it as a tribute to the family legacy. Their ninth generation is now making wine.

The Vitkin Winery is making completely Mediterranean wines using only grapes that grow in Israel. Vitkin has been around for 10 years but just began making kosher wines in 2016. Terra di Seta is making the first kosher Gran Selezione Chianti ever produced in Italy. Planning a trip to Tuscany? Terra di Seta has apartments to rent and gives wine tastings to visitors.

I met with Scott Maybaum, owner of Wine Country in Bergenfield, who wanted to sample wines from different regions of Israel. I accompanied him on the tour.

Matar in the Golan produces five-star wines yet has only been producing kosher wines for a few vintages. Gal Yaniv, the marketing director, said the unique flavor comes from the volcanic soil. Water flows through rock that has holes like a sponge and then pulls complexities through the strata. There are only 8,000 bottles of their special CB Bordeaux blend, an exquisite wine.

The terroir of the Judean Hills gives a unique flavor to wines from Flam. Like the classic European family estate model, Flam is located in the Judean Hills, with vineyards planted in the Judean Hills and Upper Galilee. Flam varieties include the Flam Noble, a very special occasion wine; the Flam Classico, a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot and Syrah; Flam Rose, a fruity, yet not overly sweet wine; and the Flam Blanc, a blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay with a clean, crisp taste. The Flam Essence Chardonnay was one of my favorites. Maybaum continued on to southern Israel’s Yatir Winery and I switched to the food section.

New to the kosher restaurant scene and the Food and Wine Experience is Great Falls Bistro located in a factory complex in Passaic. Shamir Einhorn, the director, described the restaurant as a choice for destination dining, with premium-quality meals. “People come for our food, the ambience and the architecture. It’s an experience.” Einhorn, a resident of Teaneck, manufactures furniture there and recently developed Factory 220, a space for large events, and the restaurant. Einhorn said he has always had an appreciation for food. He began a kosher kitchen at Ithaca College in 1992 and it’s still running for students and visitors to the area. Wine is an important component of the Great Falls Bistro experience. A four-course tasting menu with a choice of wines is always on the menu. Along with Jonathan Shore, assistant manager, Anthony Silvestri, general manager, and Chef Alex Guadalupe, Great Falls Bistro will be making inroads into the hearts of kosher foodies. I sampled scrumptious cold-smoked brisket on a pretzel bun with caramelized onions and coleslaw.

There were many well-known names at the event including The Wandering Que, etc Steakhouse, The Teaneck Doghouse, Abigail’s and Le Marais. Ari White, Wandering Que’s chef, sliced sausages and prepared bite-size taco chips with sausage and salsa. His sausages will soon be available in kosher markets. Silverleaf Caterers of Westchester offered the ultimate deli sandwiches: chopped liver, fried onions, salami, pastrami and mustard on thin pumpernickel; spinach pesto, sundried tomato, and sausage; and a lovely sweet combination of pancakes cut into triangles with layers of peanut butter, chocolate spread, jelly and banana puree topped with confectioners’ sugar and maple syrup. Brooklyn-based upscale kosher emporium Pomegranate was there with a variety of options including their classic potato kugel and cholent.

A room next to the river was filled with mouthwatering dessert options. As the sun set, the colors of the room took on an almost tropical hue, aided by the presence of a sangria bar.

On the recommendation of Buchsbaum, I stopped at Tzafona Cellars. Tzafona is Hebrew for “northward,” a fitting name for this winery on the Niagara Peninsula in Canada. Avi Gislason, co-owner with Toby Berkel, explained how their Vidal ice wine is made. The grapes are left on the vine to freeze and later pressed. With the water out, the true essence of the grape remains. The wine is balanced and sweet without being cloying.

The finale for me was a visit to the Reserve Cut VIP room. Located in another part of the Chelsea Piers complex, there were samples of beef cheek with parsnip puree and crispy risotto with lamb ragu. The risotto was similar to a fried mozzarella stick, with its crispy coating and oozing center. The lamb ragu was a more sophisticated version of the marinara sauce often served with mozzerella sticks.

The sun was down; the lights on the New Jersey side of the river beckoned me home. I left thinking about our Purim wine list and which of the delicious wines I sampled to include.

By Bracha Schwartz