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 land right on top of each other

The first night of Passover begins Friday, March 30, Saturday marks the second night, and Easter Sunday follows the next day. Both of these Judeo-Christian holidays have significant meaning in their respective religious histories, but they share one thing in common: plenty 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. So 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.

Passover Wines

For proper observance, the four cups of wine that are served during a traditional meal — known as the Seder — 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 with fruit-oriented desserts. $24

If roast chicken likes chardonnay, then your chicken will love the 2014 Covenant Chardonnay from the Russian River Valley of Sonoma, California. The warm days and cool nights in the Russian River Valley produces fruit with abundant acidity that supports the tangy flavors of pears, citrus and nectarine on the front of the palate. Notes of steely minerality and vanilla slide in on the medium-bodied finish. Also great with grilled fish or grilled vegetables. $36

If brisket is the star of the Seder table, reach for a bottle of 2014 Alexander Sandro, from the Hefer Valley in Israel. A unique blend of cabernet sauvignon, merlot, and sauvignon blanc — yes, sauvignon blanc — the wine was co-fermented and then aged in oak barrels for 14 months. It sports a bouquet that is full of dark strawberry and red beery fruit. The well-balanced structure supports rich flavors of blackberry fruit and earthy notes all the way through the soft, pretty finish. $30

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.

Fortunately, sparkling wines are nondenominational and should be opened for any festive occasion. The Nonvintage Stella Prosecco from Italy is a light sparkling wine made in the Veneto region from 100-percent Glera grapes. This easy drinking wine features scents of green apples and fresh baked bread on the nose. In the mouth, it delivers flavors of crisp apples, nectarines and tangy citrus. The zesty bubbles keep the finish bright, clean and refreshing. $15

A touch of sweetness can go a long way when trying to please a variety a palates gathered around the Easter dinner table. The 2016 Seifried Riesling from Nelson, New Zealand, has delightful tropical floral characters on the nose and a palate that is bursting with guava, passion fruit, green melon and a touch of lemon zest to give it lift on the tongue. The zesty acidity is offset perfectly by just a touch of natural residual sweetness. This refreshing wine is perfect with ham as well as turkey. $20

Pinot noir is also a wonderfully versatile wine, capable of keeping up with salmon, duck or pork chops. One of the most versatile of the proverbial grape bunch is the 2015 Left Coast Cellars Latitude 45° Pinot Noir from the Willamette Valley of Oregon. It’s located on Latitude 45°, which is directly intersected by the 45th parallel, like many of the great vineyard properties of France. 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. $38


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