If you love wine, Purim seudot aren’t complete without a few fun bottles to try. Now, the weeks before Purim and Pesach, is prime season for kosher wine. Given the copious amounts purchased and enjoyed over these holidays, many producers choose this time of year to release their new vintages, so it’s a great time to try and stock up. Many tasting events allow consumers to try the new wines and choose their favorites for sharing with family and friends. Your Purim seudah will certainly be livened up by a few of the wines newly available from Twin Suns and Shirah Wines.
Kosher wine distributor The River Wine, headed by Ami and Larissa Nahari, is back with some exciting new releases. Four that are worthy of special mention are the new Twin Suns Reserve wines and the just-released 2014 Shirah Bro-Deux. Shirah Wines is a small, upscale producer that gets much love among wine aficionados. Proprietors Gabriel and Shimon Weiss, or “The Weiss Brothers” as they are affectionately known, work with brand-name vineyards and (often) lesser known grapes to craft wines that are truly unique. These wines delight all the senses, from bold labels and tactile packaging designed by their sister, the very talented Yael Miller, to the tantalizing aromas and palate of the juice it contains. Their work is rewarded by the rave reviews the wines typically receive.
The River helps us enjoy the Weiss Brothers’ labors in two ways. Not only do they distribute Shirah wines, they have also retained them to produce Twin Suns. Named for Ami and Larissa’s twin boys who were born right around the creation of The River Wine, Twin Suns allows us to enjoy the Weiss’s work when a Shirah might not fit the budget. Coming in at a lower price point, and with many of the wines mevushal, Twin Suns is anchored by a core lineup of familiar varietals, like Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay. Stepping up to the reserve level brings more unique varietals like the much-lauded Malbec and Pinot Noir that were released in previous years. Continuing the tradition, this year’s Reserve line includes a rosé and a Zinfandel.
Twin Suns Reserve Rosé 2016 is simply delightful. The first thing I liked about it was the vintage. Rosé wines typically don’t age and are best consumed as young as possible. To have this one available already means we get to enjoy it at its peak. Produced via the saignée method (a byproduct of red-wine making, where some juice is drained from the fermenting red wine to increase its concentration), this wine is, as expected, on the darker and fuller side of the spectrum. With a brilliant, soft pink hue, aromas of watermelon and flowers leap out of the glass and are joined by strawberry, white peach, lime and refreshing minerality on the tongue. Exceptionally well balanced, with barrel fermentation contributing a plush, round feel, the crisp acidity keeps it lively. This wine isn’t just for sipping outdoors on a summer day, but for accompanying a range of lighter foods, from salads to fish, and even poultry.
Twin Suns Reserve Zinfandel 2015 is a star. While it may be more well known in its rosé “white” variant, Zinfandel as a red wine couldn’t be more different. “Big,” “spicy,” “full,” and “rich” are adjectives that come to mind, and the Twin Suns Reserve Zin doesn’t disappoint. From the moment you smell the wine with its spice and rich fruitiness, you know this isn’t your ordinary wine. In your mouth the big bold flavors of smoke and butterscotch, full body and rich extraction reinforce that you’re drinking something different. There are just a handful of kosher Zinfandels on the market; this one is not only a welcome addition, but very possibly the best. Zin is almost the quintessential wine to drink with a burger and would go equally well with other full-flavored, rich foods, like smoked brisket or beef stew. Further, with its characteristically high alcohol content (15.5 percent!) perhaps this is the perfect choice for your Purim meal?
Moving on to a more common varietal, the Twin Suns Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2015 still manages to maintain a unique personality. With its rich floral aroma, this bottling is reminiscent of the Twin Suns that started it all, the 2013 Cab. However, befitting its Reserve status, this wine is fuller, more well-rounded, and more complex. On the palate, look for notes of dark berries and plums, vanilla, a savory meatiness, and plush, mouth-coating tannins. This wine can be enjoyed now, and will be even better in 6-12 months. This is a wine to not just buy with an eye toward the future, but given its mevushal status, one to look for at your favorite restaurants as well.
Lastly, I really enjoyed tasting the Shirah Bro-Deux 2014. Playfully named, it’s the Weiss brothers’ take on a Bordeaux blend. One of their most popular wines, it’s also the most conventional, utilizing familiar grapes. But, since it’s a Shirah wine, one can assume that Gabriel and Shimon work to keep it interesting. Bordeaux, the region famed for its wines of the same name, allows for five different grape varietals—Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot and Malbec. (A sixth, Carmenere, is allowed, but that is seldom found anymore.) This is the Weiss Brothers’ first time utilizing them all in the Bro-Deux. The blend is dominated by Cabernet Sauvignon (50 percent), but fleshed out with generous amounts of Petit Verdot and Malbec (14 percent each, far more than is typical in Bordeaux) and only a small amount (8 percent) of Merlot. Those grapes, along with California’s warm climate, help to make the wine richer and fruitier than its French inspiration. Medium bodied, with flavors of cherry, tobacco, herbs and dark fruit, this wine is long and powerful, a perfect companion at your seder meal. It would pair nicely with roasted or stewed meats, rack of lamb or fuller flavored chicken dishes like Coq au Vin. Delicious now—ideally opened in advance and decanted for a few hours—this vintage will be even better in a year or two, and will continue to improve over the next five years. Look for its distinctive label rendered in purple for 2014, and if you spot any older bottles (with the blue label) be sure to snatch those up as well!
While not too hard to find, these wines are all rather limited. Ask for them at your favorite retailer before they’re gone.
Kosher wine lovers owe a debt of gratitude to the Naharis and Weisses for pushing the boundaries and working tirelessly to bring us wines that are not only delicious, but exciting, allowing the kosher-keeping consumer to experience wines that they otherwise would not be able to enjoy.
An architect by trade, Aaron Hollander is a wine lover and kosher-wine aficionado.
By Aaron Hollander