Growing up in a tee-totaling household in Jerusalem — “my father maybe drank a shot of amaretto per year,” he recalls — Yossie Horwitz didn’t have much early exposure to wine. That all changed one night when, as a teenager, Horwitz’s palate was astonished by a kosher Bordeaux that some family friends brought to a seder dinner. A lifelong passion was stoked: Horwitz began attending wine tastings and winery tours around Israel, educating himself on what he liked.
By the time he was 30 and had moved to New York City, Horwitz was penning a weekly email blast to family and friends in which he shared his favorite bottles. Today, “Yossie’s Corkboard” goes out to about 3,000 subscribers, keeping this attorney-by-day quite busy. This is Horwitz’s fifth year tasting wines for The Jewish Week. @yossieuncorked/ yossiescorkboard.com
Of all of our wine judges, Gamliel Kronemer, a university archivist in Washington, D.C., is the most familiar with The Jewish Week: he has written a regular wine column (Fruit of the Vine) for the paper since 2005. Back then, Kronemer recalls, such a column was extremely rare, with kosher wines garnering press just before Passover but hardly ever throughout the rest of the year, he said. As to how he developed his expertise, Kronemer remembers that he first became interested in kosher wine when he was in his 20s, after he bought a couple of bottles of kosher Beaujolais. “That really started me off,” he said. As more and more varieties of kosher wine became available throughout the mid-’90s, Kronemer tried to taste them all. Though he is excited about all of the great wine coming out of Israel these days, Kronemer fondly recalls a time before prohibitive exchange rates cut down on the number of excellent kosher imports from France and Italy. “My tastes definitely run towards the old world,” he said.
Alison Nathan knows from kosher food: working alongside her husband, Jeff Nathan, at Abigael’s on Broadway, the nation’s largest kosher restaurant, she directs both guest services as well as promotions. Nathan’s interest in food blossomed at an early age: as a teenager, she made a habit of cooking dinner for her family, and eventually chose a professional track, graduating from the Johnson & Wales culinary school in Rhode Island. She then found work as a line cook at Soho’s New Deal Restaurant, where she met her husband and future business partner Jeff. After becoming a mother, Nathan transitioned to the front of the house at New Deal, and in her duties as the restaurant’s manager she expanded on the wine knowledge she had obtained in culinary school. Today, Nathan keeps busy, not only helping to run Abigael’s but also associate-producing Jeff’s cooking show “New Jewish Cuisine.” Nathan is also a food writer and recipe developer. Even among all these achievements, “one of my career highlights is to be a part of The Jewish Week wine judging panel,” she said. @chefjeffabg/ abigaels.com
Miriam Morgenstern — today the vice president and associate publisher of the oenophile’s bible, Wine Spectator — says her “fortuitous” education in wine turned out to be “a perfect match” for her personality. Morgenstern landed in publishing at an early age, starting an advertising stint with the short-lived magazine Museums New York when she was just out of college. There, she worked closely with the publication’s wine and spirits account representative, and by the time the magazine folded, Morgenstern had accrued enough know-how to qualify for an entry-level job at Wine Spectator, the world’s authority on wine and wine lifestyle. The rest is history. Today, Morgenstern shares her expertise at a variety of charitable events, where she hosts Wine 101 classes. She holds an advanced certificate in wine and spirits from the Wine & Spirits Education Trust.
When Aron Ritter founded the Kosher Wine Society in 2005, he was responding to a hole he saw in the wine marketplace: tasting events for kosher wines. An amateur wine drinker whose passion for the fruit of the vine was steadily increasing, Ritter had looked for tasting events to attend, with no luck. “There was nothing for kosher wine,” he recalls. The first KWS tasting was attended by only about 20 or so friends, but by the time of the group’s second event, a collaboration with Israeli winery Recanati, membership had swelled to about 70, and has only grown from there. Today, Ritter devotes his little free time — he currently works at Citibank — to KWS, hosting several events a year, including the society’s well-loved “New Wines for the New Year,” timed to provide recommendations for Rosh HaShanah wines. @koshwinesociety/ kosherwinesociety.com
Like many of our other judges, Raphael Sutton’s education in wine was, by necessity, self-conducted. Growing up in Jerusalem and later living in Tel Aviv, Sutton recalls that during his youth there was a “limited amount of information on wine in Israel, and only a few courses to take here and there.” Following his palate, Sutton worked as a waiter and a cook, which led him to a job in a wine shop, and he went on to review wine and restaurants for Globes, an Israeli business magazine, and later became the editor in chief of The Israeli Wine Magazine. Sutton continued to develop his knowledge of wines even after he moved to New York to work in banking, and for the past year he has authored a blog called “Wine Goat,” where he recommends bottles about once a week. A recent career-changer, Sutton today is the executive director of American Friends of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra. @thewinegoat/ winegoat.tumblr.com