Wine of the Week: Passover and Easter wines

WASHINGTON — The Jewish tradition of Passover and the Christian celebration of Easter usually fall within proximity of each other, but this year, they are almost on top of one another.

The first night of Passover begins Monday, April 10, and Easter Sunday follows the very next Sunday. While both of these Judeo-Christian holidays have significant meaning in their respective religious histories, it has not gone without noticed that each celebration has one thing in common: lots and lots of food.

Like any important gathering that involves family, friends and food, wine usually plays an important role, providing a grace note to both the meal and the festive nature of the evening. Therefore, the wine you pour for your particular celebration — regardless of your religious affiliation — should be as joyous as the occasion itself. Here are a few recommendations to help get your evening off to a great start.

Easter Wines

Every family has its own main course tradition, including ham, turkey, rib roast and spring lamb. In addition, a plethora of diverse side dishes can end up competing for space on the plate and the palate. Picking a versatile wine that pairs well with the main attraction is the key to success for any Easter dinner.

I think sparkling wines, like the Nonvintage Gruet Brut Rose ($15) from New Mexico is a fun choice. Made from chardonnay and pinot noir, the floral bouquet is filled with scents of strawberry and raspberry fruit. On the palate, medium-sized bubbles carry flavors of ripe cherry, plum and strawberry. Hints of apple and vanilla climb in on the crisp, sprightly finish.

The 2013 Truth Cuvee de Fume from Napa Valley in California is a vibrant white wine made from a blend of sauvignon blanc, chenin blanc and Semillon. This delightful wine possesses aromas of citrus peel, honeydew melon, lychee and savory herbs along with a whisper of raw almond. The palate is racy with an integrated mix of lemon-lime, apricot, honeycomb and fig. There is a beautiful balance between acidity and fruit, a hint of lemon grass and a lingering, lively and crisply refreshing finish. This is an excellent choice if seafood is your center piece. $15

Pinot noir is a wonderfully versatile wine, capable of swinging from salmon to duck without breaking a skin. One of the most versatile of the proverbial grape bunch is the 2013 Toluca Lane Pinot Noir from the Willamette Valley of Oregon. The dark color of this pinot belies its delicate nature. The perfumy nose is full of strawberry, raspberry and red plum scents. The wine has a bigger feel in the mouth thanks to fruit driven flavors of red cherry, plum and strawberry. Gentle notes of vanilla glide in on the back end and contribute to a lovely, silky finish. This wine is perfect with either ham or turkey. $25

Passover Wines

For proper observance, the four cups of wine that are served during a traditional Seder meal should be kosher. The wines have to be harvested, vinified and bottled according to very specific rules and carry a mark (heckscher) that certifies that a rabbi has supervised the preparation of the wine. Heckschers include either the letter U or the letter K inside a circle on the wine label.

Whether it’s Easter or Passover, I like beginning any festive affair with sparkling wine. The Nov-vintage Bartenura Asti from Italy is a crowd pleaser. The fruit-driven bouquet of pear, peach and white floral notes are enticing. The slightly-sweet notes of pear, apple and peach have just enough natural ripeness to make the flavors stand out without being cloying. The finish is crisp and clean, thanks to the abundant acidity. A good match for matzo and charoset or fruit-oriented desserts. $24

Following fermentation, the 2014 Herzog Special Reserve Russian River Chardonnay from California is then aged for 12 months in French and American oak barrels. Russian River Valley’s warm days and cool nights produces fruit that provides a backbone of acidity that supports the tangy flavors of lime, guava, kiwi, and nectarine on the front of the palate. Notes of vanilla and toasty oak glide in on the medium-bodied finish. Serve as a wonderful companion to grilled fish or grilled vegetables. $33

From the Tuscany region of Italy comes the 2015 Gabriele Chianti. This wine is made exclusively from Sangiovese grapes and sports a fruity nose of dark strawberry and black cherry. The well-balanced structure supports ripe flavors of red berry fruit and earthy notes all the way through the soft, pretty finish. Pair it with roasted veal. $17

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