Flowing Cups Freshly Remember’d


In the eight years that I’ve written The Jewish Week’s Fruit of the Vine column, I have, as a rule, not brought my personal life into the column; not because I am against that style of writing, but because I don’t think that my rather dull, mid-management life would be of much interest to Jewish Week readers. However, for this column I have decided to make an exception.

Earlier this year I got married, and from the moment my engagement was announced, the question I most often heard was not “Who’s the lucky girl,” but “What wines will you be serving at the wedding?” It’s an occupational hazard. Frankly, choosing “the right wines” to serve at a catered event can be difficult. So I’ve decided to share the wines I served at my wedding, and the process I went through in selecting them.

The first wine to be selected was the one to be served under the chupah, and I insisted that it had to be a good dessert wine, as I wanted the first taste of our married life together to be sweet. While the rest of the wines were selected by my by bride, Jessica, and me together, I already knew what wine I wanted for this.

That wine is Prix Vineyards’ Late Harvest Chardonnay, Napa Valley, 2006. Made by Ernie Weir of Hagafen Cellars, this dark-gold, full-bodied, intensely sweet Chardonnay has a bouquet of apples, caramel, citrus, and quince and flavors of apples, heather, caramel and crème brûlée, with a lovely botrytis element on the finish. Well crafted, with a nice level of acidity to balance the wine’s 18 percent residual sugar, this is the best mevushal dessert wine I’ve ever tasted. Drink until 2015, or perhaps longer.

Score: A. ($48 for a 375 ml bottle. Available directly from the winery, www.hagafen.com, [888] 424-2336.)

Our search for wines to serve our guests began as soon as we had finalized the food menu. Jessica and I had decided that we wanted to source the wine ourselves, even if that forced us to pay a per-bottle corkage fee, rather than limit our choices to the caterer’s small list of house-stocked wines.

Since it was to be a springtime luncheon affair, we wanted to start out with lighter bodied wines to be served at the pre-ceremonial reception and during the first course, and then move to fuller bodied wines that would pair well with the braise short ribs we were serving as our main course.

In order to make our selections we gathered together about 20 mevushal wines (our caterer, like most American kosher caterers, required us to serve mevushal wine) all priced under $20, and had a blind tasting. We invited a friend over to stand in my kitchen and pour each of us glasses of each of the wines and present them to us in a random order. Both Jessica and I took tasting notes, although hers were a bit terser than mine (e.g., “looks like apple juice”). It took us a bit of time to come to a consensus, but ultimately we chose the following four wines:

Herzog, Special Reserve, Zin Gris, Lodi, 2007: I love dry rosés and very much wanted to serve one with our first course, even though dry kosher rosés are becoming harder and harder to find. We tasted three, and to my great surprise this 6-year-old Californian rosé proved to be the best of them. (When I first tasted it in 2008, however, I thought it would have been long past its prime after only three or four years.) Dark peach to rose in color, this crisp, dry, light-bodied rosé has flavors and aromas of strawberries, white cherries and apples. Drink within the next few months.

Score: B+ (Supplies of this wine are pretty sparse, but it can still be found in limited quantities online. $12.95. Available at The Kosher Wine Company, 2052 Lakeville Road [New Hyde Park, L.I.], [516] 352-1100.)

Barkan, Classic, Petite Syrah, Dan, 2011: This medium-bodied Israeli red was our other first-course wine. Dark garnet in color, it has flavors and aromas of cassis, cranberries, and boysenberries, with a hint of star anise. Drink within the next year.

Score: B ($8.75. Available at Skyview Wine & Spirits, 5681 Riverdale Ave. [Riverdale] [718] 548-3230.)

We were surprised to find that both of the wines we selected to accompany the main course came from the Weinstock Cellar Select series.

Weinstock, Cellar Select, Chardonnay, Sonoma County, 2010: This straw-colored, medium-to-full-bodied chardonnay has flavors and aromas of apples, pears, quince and toasty oak, with notes of vanilla and cream. Well-crafted, with a smooth mouth-feel, this chardonnay is ready to drink now and for the next two years.

Score: B/B+. ($18.29. Available at Elephant Wine, 315 Kearny Ave. [Kearny, N.J.], [877] 946-3818.)

Weinstock, Cellar Select, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa County, 2010. Full-bodied and dark garnet in color, this somewhat-rustic Cabernet has a chewy mouth-feel with a goodly amount of chunky tannins. Look for flavors and aromas of cherries, cassis, blackberries, and oak with notes of cedar and pipe tobacco. Drinking well for at least the next three years.

Score: B/B+ ($22.99. Available at Beacon Wine & Spirits 2120 Broadway [Manhattan] [212] 877-0028.)

In addition to wine, we also served a wine-based cocktail with the hors d’oeuvres. Few culinary treats are more visually appealing, or more difficult to resist, than a nicely garnished cocktail glass or bowl of punch; and serving wine-based cocktails or punches is often as little as half the cost of serving wine by the glass.

The wine cocktail we served is known as a Pineapple Julep, and I based the recipe closely on one from the world’s first cocktail guide, Jerry Thomas’s 1862 book, “How to Mix Drinks, or the Bon Vivant’s Companion.” While Thomas’s recipe resulted in a bowl of punch for a party of five, I reworked the recipe so that it could easily be served in pre-filled glasses:

• ½ cup of Luxardo Maraschino Liqueur

• ½ cup oTo each bottle of dry (brut) sparkling wine (Prosecco or Cava would be good choices) add the following:

f Bols Genever or other Dutch style gin

• ½ cup of fresh orange juice

• 4 tbsp. of raspberry syrup (Kedem brand is a good choice)

• 4 tbsp. of fresh pineapple juice

Mix all of the still ingredients in a pitcher, then add the sparkling wine and stir gently. Serve in wine goblets half filled with shaved ice, and garnish with a slice of fresh pineapple.

Thankfully the wedding wines and wine-based drinks went off without a hitch, and the imbibers among our guests left the wedding well satisfied and (moderately) lubricated. About 100 people consumed 40 bottles of wine, including four bottles OF sparkling wine that were used to make the Pineapple Juleps.

Eight months have passed, and I am sure that for most of our guests the wedding has become a vague but pleasant memory. But for Jessica and me, our wedding shall always be — to borrow a bit of Shakespeare — “in our flowing cups freshly remember’d.”

Please note: Wines are scored on an ‘A’-‘F’ scale where ‘A’ is excellent, ‘B’ is good, ‘C’ is flawed, ‘D’ is very flawed, and ‘F’ is undrinkable. Prices listed reflect the price at the retailer mentioned.