Ernie Weir was six-years old when he first tasted his grandfather’s special Passover blend – one half seltzer water, one half Manischewitz.
Did he like the concoction?
“It was a little odd,” Weir laughed.
The owner/winemaker of Napa Valley’s Hagafen Cellars said, “It was my grandfather’s way of introducing wine to the kids. It was actually very European … Of course Manischewitz has always been a little odd to me, having wine that was not enjoyable when we were celebrating our freedom.”
Passover, which begins March 30th, celebrates the emancipation of the Israelites from slavery in ancient Egypt. The highlight of the holiday is the “Seder,” a service and feast wrapped into one, with drinking four cups of wine as a key ritual.
“I later realized I could create wine, with which we could celebrate our freedom and enjoy the wine.”
Weir, who grew up in Los Angeles, decided to make a unique brand of kosher wine, an “enjoyable” kind, and his first vintage was in 1979. To be labeled kosher, a wine has to be handled by Jews who observe the Sabbath and who abide by the kosher dietary laws.
Today Weir produces about 8,000 cases a year and 10 grape varieties. Asked his favorite Passover picks, Weir said “Oy, Oy, Oy, before settling on three he plans to have on his table:
Hagafen, 2007 Napa Valley Estate Syrah, $32.
Prix Reserve, 2007 Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc, $27.
Hagafen, 2008 Sonoma Coast Late Harvest Sauvignon Blanc, $30.
What follows are some additional Passover picks that have had great reviews:
Carmel 2006 Old Vines Carignan “Appellation Series”, Upper Galilee, Israel $28.
Covenant 2008 Chardonnay “Lavan” Russian River, Sonoma, $37
Domaine du Castel 2007 Blanc du Castel, $41
Baron Herzog, 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon California, $13.