Jewish Week Kosher Wine Competition judges, from left, Joshua London, Aron Ritter, Yossi Horwitz, Allison Nathan, Gamliel Kronemer, Raphael Sutton and Miriam Morgenstern. Adam Teeter is at top right. The judges spent four days last month at The Jewish Week offices tasting 416 wines. PHOTOS BY MICHAEL DATIKASH / JW
Growing up in a tee-totaling household in Jerusalem — “my father drank a shot of amaretto per year,” he recalls — Yossie Horwitz didn’t have much early exposure to wine. That all changed one Passover night, when at the tender age of 16, Yossi tasted his first quality dry red wine in the form of a kosher Bordeaux that a family friend brought to the seder. A lifelong passion was stoked: Yossi began attending wine tastings and winery tours around Israel, educating himself on what he liked. By the time he was 30 and moved to New York City, Yossi was penning a weekly email blast to family and friends in which he shared his favorite bottles. Today, “Yossie’s Corkboard” goes out to more than 4,000 subscribers and covers the ever-exploding world of kosher wine, and finding time to taste nearly 2,000 kosher wines each year keeps this corporate attorney-by-day quite busy. This is Yossie’s seventh 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.
Joshua London has been drinking, writing, consulting and speaking professionally about kosher wines and spirits for more than 15 years. Originally from northern California, London’s love affair with wine began in the late-1980s with a relatively short-lived kosher wine venture in Davis, Calif. Besides being a frequent contributor to The Jewish Week, London writes a weekly kosher wine and spirits column for the Washington Jewish Week (which is frequently reprinted in more than a dozen other Jewish publications), and his writing has appeared in a wide variety of both Jewish and non-Jewish print and online media. A highly sought after public speaker, London has also become popular on the Passover circuit with his tutored tastings and spirits education and appreciation programs. A D.C. lobbyist by day and a kosher wine and spirits aficionado by night, London is also the author of an unrelated slice of American history: “Victory in Tripoli: How America’s War with the Barbary Pirates Established the U.S. Navy and Shaped a Nation” (John Wiley & Sons, 2005).
Miriam Morgenstern is associate publisher of Wine Spectator magazine and vice president of M. Shanken Communications Media. Wine Spectator reaches close to 3 million influential readers with each issue, while its website, WineSpectator.com, garners 3.5 million page views per month. In her role as Shanken’s vice president, Morgenstern, based in New York, oversees and directs Global Integrated Marketing Programs. She holds an advanced wine degree from WSET (Wine & Spirit Education Trust) and has been a part of the M. Shanken Media team for over 20 years.
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. 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
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; from there, 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 he authored a blog called “Wild Goat,” where he recommended bottles about once a week. Sutton recently became CEO of YRF Darca, a fund to educate children of underserved youth in Israel.
Adam Teeter is one of the founding partners of VinePair, the country’s leading wine, beer and spirits lifestyle publication. The online-only publication seeks to make wine, beer and spirits accessible to everyone, removing the elitism and pretentiousness from the world’s oldest beverages. Prior to founding VinePair, Teeter led Tablet Magazine through an aggressive growth strategy that quadrupled the readership of the site. In the realm of wine, beer and spirits, Teeter co-founded Vivo in Vino, a music series that paired cutting-edge bands, such as The Antlers and Freelance Whales, with accessible wine makers, such as Mouton Noir and Brooklyn Oenology. The result of this was the creation of Juiced, a television show about wine, beer and spirits and their cultural influence that was optioned by Herzog TV. Since 2015, Teeter has also been an adjunct professor at Columbia’s Graduate School of Journalism, lecturing on digital media and the media business.