The Long Pour: Easter Wine Pairings

Easter decoration, champagner bootle and champagne glasses on wood
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With Western Easter on the horizon and the state limits on small group gatherings slowly easing, we hope many of you will be able to join with family and friends (safely) this Paschal season. And enjoy some great wine with your meal.

But first, a word about wine and Passover. While Passover is in our rearview mirror, it is important to lob in some advice for your next Kosher celebration. Many readers undoubtedly have a familial, nostalgic relationship with Maniscewitz wine. For some it was your first entrée into wine. For some it is the punchline in a good hearted, annual laugh about sugar levels and headaches. This sweet wine, however, is also a critical part of the Passover culinary table. It is widely used to make the Ashkenazi version of haroset, with nuts and apples. Otherwise-sophisticated wine drinkers feature it on their Seder tables because to them, it’s just not Pesach without it.

Maniscewitz is made from Concord grapes, or vitis lambrusca (other examples include Delaware and Niagara). The wine varietals that we more familiar with are made from vitis vinifera grapes such as Chardonnay, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. There is a growing movement of viticulture in Israel that uses vitis vinifera grapes and the wines are world class. One example is the Golan Heights winery.

The Golan Heights Winery was established in 1983 by four kibbutzim (collective communities) and four moshavim (cooperative communities). In 1984, the Winery released its first wine creating great excitement in Israel and abroad. Golan Heights Winery cultivates over 600 hectares (1,500 acres) of vines across 28 vineyards. Golan Heights Winery is made up of four brands; Mount Hermon, Gilgal, Golan, and most famously, Yarden.

Yarden is the premier label and flagship brand of Golan Heights Winery. Yarden is the Hebrew for Jordan River, which bisects the Golan Heights from the Galilee. The label features a symbol of ancient Israel: an oil lamp decorated with mosaic tile. If your local wine shop does not carry Yarden, it is imported by Skurnik Fine Wine and Spirits. Any quality wine shop would (or should) buy from Skurnik so simply ask if your local store can bring in a case or two for you if they do not carry the wines already.

Back to (Western) Easter. If you are Italian, you likely will celebrate Good Friday with a meal of fish and a regional savory pie such as the Easter Calzone served in Puglia. For a solid white or rose from Long Island at your Good Friday table, we recommend the Festival Unoaked Chardonnay or Bedell Cellars Rose. I love these wines. The Festival Chardonnay is versatile enough to satisfy Chardonnay and non-Chardonnay drinkers alike. While many people see Wolfer as their go to Long Island Rose (and with good reason) I recommend spreading the wealth, so to speak, and checking out Bedel cellars annual vintage of rose. The wine is exceptionally consistent vintage to vintage and stands ups to a variety of dishes.

For Easter Sunday, pork is a staple of many American and Mediterranean tables. Whether as a ham or tenderloin, I would encourage you to step outside the box this Easter and consider finding a dry (and ideally late harvest) Riesling. There wines are incredibly aromatic and flavorful but can stand up to a variety of spices used when preparing pork. Look for names like Hermann Weimer (New York), Joh. Jos. Prum (Germany) or Hugel (France). And don’t reach for the least expensive Riesling. Pound for pound, a $30 or $40 Riesling will deliver far more value than the same money spent on a Sauvignon Blanc or Chardonnay.

Here, I would encourage you to venture outside Provence for your rose selection. Look for roses from the region of Bandol. While Provence has captured the hearts of most wine drinkers, Bandol is the OG appellation for quality rose. These wines are grown in small quantities, usually in limestone soil near the village of Bandol, which is located east of Marseille and west of Toulon in France. For great Bandol wine, look for names such as Pradeux, Domaine Ott or Chateau Simone (which technically is Aix- en-Provence, not Bandol, but it nevertheless occupies a similar place in the hearts of Bandol rose lovers).

I know for many people, Easter is synonymous with lamb. Fortunately, Orthodox Easter is still a few weeks away and looks like it will coincide with the spring bounty of asparagus, ramps and fiddlehead ferns (among other vegetables). So save room and bandwidth for a robust discussion of lamb and red wine in our next column. See you then!

James Mallios and Kylie Monagan are partners at the Calissa Restaurant. Visit Calissa at 1020 Montauk Highway, Water Mill and learn more

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