Memorial Day is a day to reflect upon the sacrifices many heroes have made for our country. Many American Jewish families, including my own, have a legacy of service to the American military and we pause to reflect upon their sacrifices for our fragile freedom. Memorial Day also unofficially marks the start of the summer months.
In my world, hazy Baltimore summer nights are filled with grilled meats, lightning bugs and boisterous family outings. Pairing a pocketbook-friendly juicy red wine with a freshly-grilled half-pound burger (don’t we all oversize them when we make our own?) is a big part of those traditions.
In the past 16 years since Psagot Winery was founded in the hills north of Jerusalem many people have noticed the coin feature adorned on the bottle and wondered about its meaning. When the vineyard was being constructed just after the turn of the 21st century, an ancient cave from the Hasmonean Dynasty period was discovered. Within the cave, a coin from the Great Revolt (73-66 BCE) was unearthed. On one side of the coin were the words, “For Freedom of Zion,” with the image of a vine leaf, while the flip side read “Year Two” (of the Revolt), with the image of an amphora, a container used to store wine. The coin perfectly matched the zeal of the Psagot founders to their history, to their land and to the ancient winemaking process.
Psagot Winery, which opened in 2003, is a short 15-minute drive north from Jerusalem.
The current winemaker, Ya’acov Oryah, is a rising star and American by birth with many Baltimore connections, including a sister who has lived here for several years. Oryah makes his own eponymous label of wines which are brilliant in their own right and have begun to be imported into the United States. (I need these wines, and soon, but that’s a different story. Stay tuned.)
Tasting Notes & Pairings
2017 Psagot Sinai ($17, available locally at most shops carrying kosher wine or online) is a blend of 77 percent Cabernet Sauvignon and 23 percent Shiraz. The one-two punch of Cab-Shiraz melds Cab’s lush red fruit with Shiraz, known for its spice and pepper. Though Israel is about as Old World a wine region as exists, 2017 Psagot Sinai is a good example of Israeli New World style, typical of red wine produced in hot climates: fruit-forward and ripe.
Look for notes of black currant, a medium-to-full body with integrated tannins, and a long, spicy finish. Pair this mevushal wine with steaks, burgers, hot dogs, chops or whatever other fatty, salty flesh you’re throwing on the grill.
Dr. Kenneth Friedman is a Baltimore-born kosher wine aficionado/connoisseur. He is known for his unsolicited wine advice and runs many local kosher wine tastings. You can follow him on Instagram @KennethFriedmanEvents.