Good wines are being produced everywhere these days, and in greater quantities than at any time in the long history of fermented grape juice. The trend has even touched a category of wines that not so long ago was little more than an object of ridicule: kosher wines. The quality of kosher wines has improved in part because younger, wine-savvy Jews who keep kosher have demanded better choices than were available to their parents and grandparents. But it is also linked to the enormous strides that Israel’s wine industry has made in recent years. Better site selection, more rigorous farming, and an influx of talented winemakers have dramatically raised the standards of Israeli reds and whites.
Tzora Winery, which is located in the Judean Hills, has been at the vanguard of these changes. It was founded in 1993 by the late Ronnie James, one of Israel’s earliest “terroirists” and a celebrated figure in Israeli wine circles. The current winemaker is Eran Pick, who earned a degree at the University of California, Davis (and who happens to have a very apt surname for a guy who works with grapes). Tzora also recently enlisted the consulting services of Jean-Claude Berrouet, the legendary former winemaker at Bordeaux’s Chateau Petrus – a hugely impressive addition to its team. Not only that: It recently picked up a sensational new U.S. importer: Michael Skurnik Wines, which has long been a source of exceptional wines. The 2010 Tzora Winery Judean Hills ($24), a blend of 70 percent cabernet sauvignon, 23 percent merlot, and seven percent syrah, is a very appealing wine that will go well with a Passover seder, or any kosher dinner or gathering. It shows notes of dark fruit, earth, and toasted oak, is made in a pleasantly supple style, and does a nice job of carrying its 14.5 percent alcohol. It is a wine that speaks to the excellent quality coming out of Israel now, and to the vastly improved selection of kosher wines on the market. Yes, it is time to retire the Manischewitz jokes.