The run-up to Passover is when wine merchants make the majority of their kosher wine sales, and when most kosher wine producers and importers bring their new vintages to market. So every year, in this space, I review some of the best of these new wines.
But this year, with sequestration and other budgetary woes effecting consumer spending, I’m limiting myself to wines under $25. While this price cap has eliminated the very best of the new kosher wines from consideration, 25 bucks can still purchase some remarkably good wines. And indeed I tasted nearly 20 of them, most of which were good or very good. The eight wines below were selected not only because of their quality, but also because of their diversity in styles, and any of these wines should make a delightful addition to your Passover celebrations:
Gilgal, Brut, Golan Heights, Non-Vintage: This bright straw-colored, medium- to full-bodied, méthode-champenoise sparkling wine was made from a blend of equal parts of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir that was aged for at least one year. Look for a rich mousse of tiny bubbles and flavors and aromas of apples, cantaloupe and toasted challah, with notes of lemon and bergamot, and a nice level of minerals. The current release of this wine should be drunk within the next three years.
Score B+ ($17.84. Available at Zachys Wine and Liquor, 16 East Parkway, Scarsdale,  922-4971)
Binyamina, Reserve, Gewürztraminer, Late Harvest, Galilee, 2010: With 15.1 percent residual sugar, this super-sweet, golden-colored dessert wine has a rich full body as well as luscious flavors and aromas of pineapples, oranges, kumquats, lychee, honey and candied citrus peel. Also look for a nice bit of black pepper in the finish. Ready to drink now and for the next four years.
Score B+ ($21.95. Available at Skyview Wine & Spirits, 5681 Riverdale Ave., Riverdale,  601-8222)
Yarden, Viognier, Golan Heights, 2009: Dark and tawny straw in color, this rich, full-bodied wine has a wonderfully fruity bouquet of apricots, lychee, heather, oak and spice. Look for flavors of peaches, apricots, honey and oak, with a note of citrus and a nice bit of earthiness on the finish. Drink within the next two to three years.
Score B/B+ ($18.99 Available at Grapevine Fine Wine and Spirits, 455 Route 306, Wesley Hills, N.Y.,  364-9463)
Don Ernesto, Vin Gris, Napa Valley, 2012: This crisp, dry, dark- peach-to-rose-colored wine was made by Ernie “Don Ernesto” Weir of Hagafen Cellars. Look for flavors and aromas of cherries, strawberries, watermelon and peaches. Simple, but very well crafted, this food-friendly rosé would be a wonderful choice for a picnic. Drink within the next 18 months.
Score B+ ($15. Available direct from the winery: www.donernesto.com,  424-2336)
Chateau de Parsac, Montagne Saint-Emilion, 2011: Made in the heart of Bordeaux’s Right Bank, this medium-bodied, garnet-colored blend of 80 percent Merlot and 20 percent Cabernet Franc is a truly delightful wine. Look for flavors and aromas of cherries, currants — both red and black — blackberries, toasty oak, pipe tobacco and a hint of smoked meat. With a goodly amount of powdery tannins, this wine is everything a budget Bordeaux should be: approachable, well balanced and lively.
Drink now until 2016. Score B+ ($21.95. Available at Sherry-Lehmann, 505 Park Ave., Manhattan,  838-7500)
Capcanes, Peraj Petita, Montsant, 2011: This blend of 50 percent Grenache, 30 percent Carignan and 20 percent Tempranillo, is the second wine to Capcanes’s Peraj Ha’abib, and is exactly what a second wine should be — a less expensive, early-drinking version of the first wine. With a bright garnet color, and medium body, this lively Spanish red has flavor and aromas of cherries, cranberries, plums, cedar, oak and spice. With a nice level of tannin, this wine is drinking well now, but is still just a bit tight and will only be at its best is about six months, and should then drink well until 2016.
Score B+ ($19.99. Available at Millesima USA, 1355 Second Ave., Manhattan,  639-9463)
Galil Mountain, Ela, Upper Galilee, 2010: Made from a blend of 45 percent Syrah, 45 percent Barbera, 7 percent Petit Verdot, and 3 percent Cabernet Franc, this medium-bodied garnet-colored wine has a dense nose of cherries, blackberries, espresso, and smoke. Look for flavors of cherries, red currants and raspberries, with hints of mocha and toasted oak, and a nice bit of smoke on the finish. Drink within the next two years.
Score B/B+ ($15.95. Available at Skyview Wine & Spirits, 5681 Riverdale Ave., Riverdale,  601-8222)
Weinstock, Cellar Select, Alicante Bousche, 2011: Alicante Bousche is today a rather obscure grape, but that was not always the case. Created in the 19th century through crossbreeding, this grape was widely planted in California before Prohibition; yet today there are only a few thousand acres in cultivation. Weinstock’s second vintage of Alicante Bousche is a medium-bodied, garnet-colored wine with a big nose of cranberries, plums, and blackberries with a floral note, and a whiff of oak. Look for flavors of, blackberries, plums, and boysenberries, with a green element and a note of oak. Drink within the next eighteen months.
Score B/B+ ($18.59. Available at Wine Chateau, 85 Central Ave., Metuchen, N.J.,  946-3190).
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.