John Brown has been a wine and food columnist in West Virginia since the 1980’s. His regular columns appear in the Charleston (WV) Gazette-Mail under the title Vines & Vittles and in The State Journal - a statewide business weekly
Wines for Passover and Easter
It’s beginning to look a lot like ….Easter. That’s right friends, it’s officially springtime and we’re about to ring in this season of rebirth by observing two of our most cherished holidays. Over the next few weeks, Passover and Easter will share the calendar and both holidays will feature special foods. I’ll tell you about those edibles and suggest a bevy of compatible wines to pair with them.
Passover and Easter, of course, are religious holidays and, in addition to their spiritual significance, they remind us that wine has always played an important role in our Judeo-Christian traditions and culture. And today, I’ll provide you with some vinous choices to pair with these important celebrations.
The Seder meal, which occurs on the first day of Passover, can consist of everything from brisket to chicken as well as gefilte fish, potato- type casseroles and other specific Jewish foods. And, if you’re like me, you’ll especially love the Seder tradition requiring each adult to sip four cups of wine with the meal. The problem is finding a diverse selection of Kosher wines in our state.
If you wish to sip only Kosher wines for Seder, you might be able to find a few at your local wine shop, but make sure they indicate they’re “Kosher for Passover.” However, you’ll probably have better luck by ordering from online retailers like kosherwine.com. If you are able to choose from non-Kosher wines, I recommend either – or both – of these two wines:
2018 Willamette Valley Vineyards ($26)– This Oregon pinot noir is a very versatile wine with earthy, black cherry flavors and excellent balance. Should pair well with a variety of Seder foods, especially brisket.
2018 Trimbach Reserve Pinot Gris ($24)– From the region of Alsace in eastern France, this crisp white has aromas of freshly cut ripe apple and tastes of nuts, citrus and honey. It would marry particularly well with Seder chicken, matzo ball soup and gefilte fish.
Many other American households will feature baked ham or roasted lamb as the centerpieces of their Easter meal. If that’s your choice, I have a couple of wine suggestions to share with you.
Most hams you’ll find at the local supermarket are pre-cooked and only require you to bake them at a low temperature (usually ten minutes per pound at 325 degrees) before serving them. You’ll probably want to brush on a brown sugar -or some other type of sweet glaze -before baking the ham. I really love to pair these pre-cooked hams with rose’.
Here’s one for you to try: 2019 Vin de Prairie Rose’ ($17) -From Provence in southern France, this pale, salmon-colored wine has flavors of ripe strawberries with just a touch of citrus. This rose’ is also refreshing and thirst-quenching which makes it an especially good match with the (sometimes salty) baked ham.
A boned and butterflied leg of lamb will be the featured entrée at my home on Easter Sunday. Some of you may prefer a rack of lamb or even lamb chops. These are exceptional cuts of meat.
And yet, I know many people who won’t even give lamb a try – they think it has a baaad taste (sorry, I couldn’t resist). But I think just about every carnivore would enjoy the leg of lamb I’ll be preparing. I’ll rub the leg with coarsely ground black pepper, minced garlic and Kosher salt, and then marinate it overnight in a bath of olive oil, red wine, the juice and rind of three lemons along with more garlic and rosemary. Then I’ll roast that sucker to perfection on my trusty old charcoal grill.
Here are two recommendations for Easter lamb:
2016 Allegrini Palazzo Della Torre ($23) – This wine, from the Veneto region of northern Italy, features notes of dried cranberries with hints of dark chocolate and cola. It’s a medium-bodied red that has nice balancing acidity and will make a delicious accompaniment to the lamb.
2017 Provenance Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon ($38) -Dark cherry and berry flavors are rounded out by a kiss of oak in this rich and full-bodied Napa cabernet that will marry seamlessly with the spicy, grilled leg of lamb.
Happy Passover and Easter!
John Brown is also a novelist. His latest book is “Augie’s World” which is a sequel to his debut novel, Augie’s War. You can find out more about his novels at wordsbyjohnbrown.com