The spring holidays are almost here bringing the opportunity to reflect, renew, and sit down with family and friends for our first festival meal of the season. Whether you celebrate with a glistening ham, a roasted pork, a beautiful turkey, or a savory brisket, what you serve along side of it is equally as important. Here, a roundup of our top wine picks for Easter and Passover dinners. Enjoy.
Smoked ham is a tradition for many families but it’s usually problematic for wine lovers. The sweet, spicy, and smoked flavors of ham with a fruit glaze might seem like they would lean towards a hearty red wine and that’s fine if there’s snow on the ground and a fire in the fire place. If that's the scene in your neck of woods, our choice is a hearty Zin like St. Francis Old Vines Zinfandel from California.
If the sun is out and you can get your hand on some leafy greens and freshly picked asparagus, you should lean towards a lighter white wine like Robert Oatley Great Southern Riesling from Australia or Willm Pinot Gris from the Alsace region of France.
Is roast pork on the menu? We love full-bodied Spanish reds that match beautifully with most pork dishes, especially those wines made in Rioja. Two of our favorites are made by Remirez de Ganuza, Remeriz de Ganuza Reserva and Remeriz de Ganuza Trasnocho, aptly named because the grapes are pressed overnight. Both wines pair nicely with pernil.
If you're serving up lamb, stewed or grilled our go-to wine is Pinot Noir. The delicate fruit flavors and light tannic structure complement the subtle flavors of most lamb recipes. Pinot Noirs from France are always a sure bet, right now we’re enjoying Louis Jadot and Bouchard Pere et Fils, both from Burgundy. If you want to stay American, California Pinot Noirs usually over deliver for the price. Look for wines from California’s Central Coast made by Au Bon Climat and Halter Ranch. We love them both.
And let’s not forget the Latinos among us who celebrate Passover. Sure, we all know the bread has to be unleavened and all of the food has to be Kosher for Passover, but few people remember that the wine should be Kosher as well. If you’re like most people who grew up drinking Manischewitz or Kedem wines at the holidays, you aren't likely to get excited about Kosher wine, but trust us on this one: There are some excellent quality, well crafted wines that are made under strict Rabbinical supervision.
Two of our favorite brands are Yarden and its sister label Galil Mountain. Both brands are made in the Golan Heights from grapes grown in Israel. Yarden Galilee Odem Vineyard Chardonnay is perfect on its own as an aperitif or paired with egg or seafood dishes. If brisket is on the menu, pick something a bit more full bodied like Yarden Merlot or Galil Mountain Upper Galilee Ela, a blend of Syrah, Barbera, Petit Verdot, and Cabernet Franc. We also like Galil Mountain Meron, a delicious red wine made on the Yiron Kibbutz. It has great flavors of red plums, black raspberries, and blueberry pie.
Whatever your tradition, the important thing is to remember that the holidays are a great time to cook some old family favorites and a perfect time to start some new traditions of your own. Don’t be afraid to shake it up and try out a new recipe or play around with the spices in your tia’s cazuela, your family will be glad that you did. And always, always, always, make sure to have plenty of wine on hand, your family will love you for that as well.