For kosher wineries in the Northern Hemisphere, mid-August through mid-October is the busiest and most stressful time of the year. The vineyards must be harvested, the grapes crushed, pressed and fermented, and this year all of this must be done on a rather tight schedule working around a month of three-day holidays. But while the winemakers may be groaning, the wine consumers should be smiling, since the run-up to Rosh HaShanah is when many kosher producers release their new wines.
For this month’s Fruit of the Vine we tasted nearly 20 newly released kosher wines to come up with a list of good wines, in every price range, that would make nice additions to your holiday table.
Yarden, Rom, Golan Heights and Upper-Galilee, 2006: This inky dark garnet-colored, full-bodied blend of Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot is remarkably good. Made in a joint project between American winemaker Zelma Long and Israeli winemaker Victor Schoenfeld, and aged in French oak barrels for 21 months, this supple and smooth fruit-forward wine has a captivating bouquet of cassis, red currants, cherries, cedar and wild herbs. Look for flavors of cherries, red currants, crème de cassis, blueberries, cedar and oak, with hints of mocha, pencil shavings and eucalyptus. Although drinking very well now, the wine still needs two or three years for its structure to fully develop, and should then age well until at least the end of the decade. This is perhaps the best wine the Golan Heights Winery has ever produced. Score A. ($135. Available at Skyview Wine and Spirits, 5681 Riverdale Ave., Riverdale,  548-2320)
Hagafen, Merlot, Napa Valley, 2007: Made from Merlot grapes grown in the eastern foothills of the Napa Valley, this full-bodied, dark garnet-colored wine has a bouquet of cherries, cassis, cedar and oak. Look for flavors of cherries, cassis, and cedar, with hints of raspberry, fennel and toasty oak, and an abundance of silky-smooth tannins. Ready to drink now, this wine should be able to cellar until at least 2016. Score A/A-. ($32. Available directly from the winery, www.hagafen.com  424-2336)
Carmel, Mediterranean, 2007: This unique blend of 37 percent Carignan, 26 percent Shiraz, 20 percent Petit Verdot, 15 percent Petite Sirah and 2 percent Viogner results in a delightfully smooth and approachable wine. Look for flavors and aromas of cassis, raspberries, cherries, and lavender, with notes of toasty oak, herbs and black pepper. Ready to drink now, this delightful wine should be able to cellar until at least 2013. Score A/A- ($51.95. Available at Skyview Wine and Spirits, 5681 Riverdale Ave.,  548-2320)
Segal’s, Cabernet Sauvignon, Dishon Single Vineyard, 2007: This garnet-colored, medium-to-full-bodied wine was made from Cabernet Sauvignon grapes grown in the Dishon vineyard of the northern Galilee. Look for flavors and aromas of cherries, cassis, cranberries and cedar, with hints of anise and spice. Drink now to 2012. Score A-. ($31.99. Available at Chateau de Vin, 544 Central Ave., Cedarhurst, L.I.,  374-9463)
Hagafen, Brut Cuvée, Napa Valley 2007: Made of a blend of 78 percent Pinot Noir, and 22 percent Chardonnay, using the traditional Champagne method, this dry, crisp, peach-colored sparkler has flavors and aromas of apples and lemons, with a hints of toasted challah, bitter orange, raspberries and honeydew. Drink now until 2015. Score A-/B+ ($25.99. Available at Goldpath Wine & Spirits, 45 Route 59, Monsey, N.Y.,  356-0222)
Baron Herzog, Chardonnay, Central Coast, 2008: This bright straw-colored, medium-bodied wine has a nose redolent of apples and quince with whiffs of citrus and wild flowers. Look for flavors of apples, quince and lemons with hints of nutmeg and fruitwood. This is a particularly good vintage of an always-reliable budget wine. Drink now through 2012. Score B+ ($12.95. Available at Sherry-Lehmann. 505 Park Ave. [Manhattan],  838-7500)
Bartenura, Ovidia Estate, Chianti, 2009: Youthful and fun, this medium-bodied, garnet-colored Chianti has flavors and aromas of cherries, blackberries, and raspberries, with a hint of eucalyptus, and a modicum of powdery tannins. Drink now to 2012. Score B ($11.95, Available at Skyview Wine and Spirits, 5681 Riverdale Ave., Riverdale,  548-2320)
Balma Venitia, Muscat de Beaumes de Venise, 2006: Dark straw in color, this rather pleasant, medium-bodied dessert wine has flavors and aromas of heather and lychee, with notes of violets and citrus. The wine’s only real flaw is that it lacks enough acidity to balance its abundant sweetness. Drink now until 2013. Score B ($17.99. Available at Liquors Galore, 1212 Avenue J, Brooklyn,  338-4996)
Bartenura, Ovadia Estate, Morellino di Scansano, 2009: This rustic, medium-bodied, bright garnet-colored wine was made from Sangiovese grapes grown in the south of Tuscany. It has a nose of cherries and plums with a nice, earthy undertone. Look for flavors of cherries, plums and cranberries, with notes of fennel and rosemary. Drink now through 2011. Score B. ($22.99. Available at Liquors Galore, 1212 Avenue J, Brooklyn,  338-4996)
Please note: Wines are scored on an ‘A’-‘F’ scale where ‘A’ is excellent, ‘B’ is good, ‘C’ is flawed, ‘D’ is very flawed, and ‘F’ is undrinkable. Prices listed reflect the price at the retailer mentioned.
Fruit of the Vine appears monthly.