It started out as an idea (an audacious one, at that) from Jewish Week board member and City Winery owner Michael Dorf: What if The Jewish Week hosted a kosher wine competition and Grand Kosher Wine Tasting, with wines from all over the world? It was a long shot, but back in the fall of 2009 the quality of kosher wines was improving markedly and so we thought we’d ride the wave.
Jewish Week staffers immediately began assembling a database of all wineries worldwide. Letters, emails and phone calls followed, asking wineries and distributors for bottles of all their kosher wines. They were to be used for what we believed was a one-of-a-kind experiment — a Grand Kosher Wine Tasting, to be judged by a panel of wine authorities, which would result in a ranking of kosher wines by type (red, white or Israeli, budget and pricey).
The Jewish Week’s inaugural Kosher Wine Guide appeared in March 2010, a few weeks before the start of Passover, the largest kosher wine-buying period of the year. The 28-page section included stories on a Judean Hills vintner Yaakov Berg and a New Jersey-based Israeli Wine Lovers Club, and the first installment of the Top 18 Kosher Wine Lists. That year, the judges sampled 170 bottles of wine.
This year we mark the fifth edition of our Kosher Wine Guide; this one clocks in at 36 pages. Over three days last month in The Jewish Week offices, the six judges in the 2014 competition (their bios begin on page 29) swirled and swished their way through nearly 325 bottles looking for the properties that make good wine. As the Guide has grown in popularity, so has the Grand Wine Tasting held at City Winery; last year, more than 500 people attended. And the paper was just approached by the folks at Gourmand International to enter our Kosher Wine Guide in its Gourmand Awards competition for writing about food and wine.
As we look ahead to the sixth installment of the Guide, we take pride both in the reputation kosher wine is garnering in wine circles, and the small part we’ve played in spreading the word about its quality.
And so with a glass of kosher wine in hand, we say L’Chaim.