Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Wining through the holidays – Hanukkah…

Hanukkah, oh Hanukkah, come light the menorah.
Let's have a party, we'll all dance the horah.
Gather 'round the table, we'll give you a treat.
Dreidels to play with and latkes to eat.

And while we are playing, the candles are burning low.
One for each night, they shed a sweet light, to remind us of days long ago.
One for each night, they shed a sweet light, to remind us of days long ago.
-      Traditional lyrics

When I was growing up, celebrating Hanukkah, the Festival of the Lights, was fairly traditional. The family gathered for dinner – beef brisket accompanied by white potatoes and carrots, green beans, sesame seed rolls, lukshen (noodle) kugel, and, of course, latkes – potato pancakes – grated, oniony, fried pieces of heavenly goodness with a dollop of sour cream. It was a feast to celebrate the miracle of the oil; the small amount of lamp oil that lasted for eight nights after the Maccabees defeated the Seleucid Greeks. It wasn’t fancy or gourmet; it was comfort food.

Before dinner, the adults would sip cocktails and nosh on chopped chicken or beef liver and crackers. At the dinner table, we mostly drank water or soda, because my folks weren’t big drinkers, and they weren’t wine drinkers. If wine was needed for a barucha (blessing), there was Manischewitz Concord Grape. Insert shudder here.

Nowadays, unless you really like it, there is no reason to limit yourself to the darkly sweet and syrupy Manischewitz. Here are some suggestions to enhance your Hanukkah feast – and go really well with those latkes!

Latkes and sour cream – Try a 2012 BADGE 'Blue Steel' Chardonnay, Santa Barbara County. Tart pippin apples and ripe citrus fruit, lively acidity and balanced minerality, make for a delicious counterpoint to the fried, oniony pancakes and creamy accompaniments.

Beef brisket – How about a 2011 Pomar Junction Merlot? A full-bodied and complex wine, it has lush blackberry flavors, caramel and spice, balanced with good tannin structure and a soft coconut and caramel finish.

Finishing up with lukshen kugel? If your kugel is sweet and filled with raisins, you might want something a bit fruitier or even sweeter. Why not finish with a NV Marco Bonfante Moscato d'Asti DOCG, Piedmont, Italy – A charming dessert wine redolent of Golden Delicious apples. Perfect with a sweetened cheese dessert. And only 5% alcohol!

Oh, wait…you must have kosher wines!! We can help there, too. Try these:

2012 Yarden Sauvignon Blanc, Galilee-Golan Heights – The Goddess of Wine loved this Sauv Blanc with its clear, slightly yellow appearance, its minerality and luscious stone fruits in the nose, and its citrus, pineapple and stoniness on the palate. Perfect pairing with those latkes!

2011 Hagafen Cabernet Franc - Violets, red currants and rose petals on the nose lead to rich earth, deep dark black cherries with a lush, round, velvety mouthfeel. So good with that wine-braised brisket.

2010 Baron Herzog Chenin Blanc Clarksburg – Flowers and apples on the nose, with apple and lemony citrus on the palate, finishing with some stone fruit and nice acidity to balance some of those high cholesterol foods on the menu. Not a dessert wine, per se, but a great match for every course, including the kugel.

So this Hanukkah, celebrate with great wines and great meals. L’Chaim! And don’t forget the Hanukkah gelt for the kids!

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