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April 23, 2014

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Now drink this: Israeli wines

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Four cups?! No problem…

Whether you’re celebrating Passover this coming week, Easter next weekend, all of the above or neither, the wines of Israel would certainly make an interesting new addition to your supper table and wine cellar. But anyone who’s ever tasted the über-sweet Kosher wines of yore will probably have some difficulty accepting that times (and wines) are a-changin’ in Israeli grape country.

Pioneered by winemakers, Victor Schoenfeld (Yarden/Golan Heights Winery) and Micha Vaadia (Galil Mountain Winery) in 1984, Yarden Wines have become a table staple for holiday celebrations of all kinds. The Golan Heights’ terroir consists of volcanic soils, which provide excellent drainage. The area enjoys a relatively cool, long growing season, and vineyard sites at varying elevations create distinct microclimates.

Hence the variety: Yarden offers a Chardonnay with hints of quince, ripe pear, citrus blossoms, lemon zest and tropical fruit characters, along with notes of oak and spice; a full-bodied Cabernet Sauvignon* of ripe dark red and black fruit character layered with notes of earth, spice, chocolate, pipe tobacco and a hint of fresh herb; and a lighter blend, the Mount Hermon Red, which displays fruit notes of raspberry and sour cherry, complemented by hints of spice and fresh herbs. And all for $12-$26.

Roast chicken dinner, Bubby's brisket, Easter ha—ok, maybe not ham.

Now, before you start singing “Tradition” at the top of your lungs, know that I hear you and I’m with you! My Charoset is all Manischewitz, my 10 plagues all Manny, too. Like the Prophet Elijah, Manischewitz will always be welcomed at my Seder table but… I’m just saying, maybe this year at least a few of those four cups could contain a nice little cab...?

* A fun fact: The 2004 Yarden Cabernet Sauvignon scored 90 points in Wine Spectator and is listed as No. 91 in the magazine's 100 best wines of 2008.

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