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Published: Tuesday, 3/30/2004

Choosing special holiday wines

Fall and winter are winemaking times; spring is wine-selling time.

Winemakers are releasing new vintages of old, respected labels, along with new labels and wines from previously unknown winemaking regions.

In addition, Passover and Easter are celebrated with special dinners in which wine is a traditional, or at least a familiar, complement to special foods.

●Passover. The first Seder takes place Monday evening and, more than ever before, the traditional four cups of wine can be several cuts above Mogen David or Manischewitz.

For someone still wedded to the familiar sweet syrup, try a bottle of Moscato di Carmel (about $8). It may bridge the gap between past and present.

A broad spectrum of distinguished bordeaux is offered in kosher or - a rabbi of my acquaintance assures me it's OK - mevushal, either proper for the Seder. Winemakers say these ritually correct wines taste the same as their standard bottling, none the worse for flash pasteurization.

Label names to look for include Chateau Leoville-Poyferre and Giscours Margaux from France; Herzog, Baron Herzog, and Weinstock from California; Teal Lake from Australia; and Alfasi from Chile. There are others from Italy and from Israel - Carmel, Golan Heights, and Yarden - that I haven't seen on local shelves.

Seder diners may rest assured that their kosher or mevushal bordeaux will be as good as the standard bottlings, and their Gentile friends may find the wines every bit as good.

●Easter. I wish that my Catholic tradition specified some kind of wine of distinguished quality, so that what's used to celebrate the Lord's Supper at the church I attend would be uplifting of spirit, as it ought to be. The requirement for the Communion service is unadulterated grape wine, whatever the variety and style.

Our Easter dinner, unlike the Seder, is not part of the religious observance save in a broad way. This means that it's up to you and me to match entree with complementary wines.

Lamb is a traditional Easter dinner, and there are wonderful, big reds equal to what a rack or leg of lamb demands. Some zinfandels are mild, but there are big, assertive ones, too, just as there are big Barolos from the northwest of Italy and that relatively inexpensive Tempranillo we're just now getting into. Naturally, a midgrade cabernet from California or Bordeaux fits comfortably into the role, as does a healthy syrah/shiraz from Australia or our West Coast.

Easter dinner may also be centered on a ham or a standing rib of beef, and there are fowl recipes that are the very breath of spring. So, too, a goose or duck invites thoughtful wine choices.

Next week, this column will offer more specific suggestions and what you can expect to pay for them.


If the idea of a Sicilian dinner complete with Feudo Arancio wines captures your attention and stimulates your appetite, mark April 26 for a 6:30 p.m. Sicilian dinner at Ciao!, 6064 Monroe St., Sylvania. Information and required reservations: 888-456-3463.

Contact Robert Kirtland at:


or 419-724-6100.

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