Which wines you’d like to serve at the seder sometimes succumbs to the dilemma of: “OMG, I don’t have enough wine for 25 people and your Uncle Herb who you know will drink a bottle or three on his own,” along with the need to keep the cost of your seder under the price of a new car.
That’s when you buy the case of whatever is on sale and hope it doesn’t taste like mouthwash made of grapes. However, if you’re having a smaller seder and want to spend a little more to have some exceptional wines, I’m going to suggest that you try several of Hagafen Winery’s award-winning selections.
The reason I’m focusing on Hagafen this year is that several weeks ago I was in San Francisco and was able to actually visit Ernie Weirs Napa Valley winery, Hagafen. Hagafen wines are exceptional and on numerous occasions have been served at the White House.
There are three different Hagafen distinct labels. They are Hagafen, Prix and Don Ernesto. Every wine I tasted was terrific (trust me, there was lots of tasting that went into this article).
In the end, my favorites came down to four wines, two red, two white. And believe me, the wines I’m going to serve at seder are going to be served after Pesach as well.
The wines I’m recommending have a price range from $21 to $32 a bottle and are available online at a variety of websites.
For the best selection and immediate shipping, I suggest you order directly from Hagafen at Hagafen.com. Their website is easy to navigate and in the event you have questions or need further information you can call 707-252-0781 and an knowledgeable staff will spend as much time as necessary to get just the right wine for your seder, Shabbat, special event or drinking pleasure.
My four wine choices for this year’s seder are as follows (along with food pairing suggestions for after Pesach):
2009 Hagafen Cabernet Franc (Red) — I tasted cherries in this smooth and mellow red with a hint of a currant at the end. This wine is terrific now and I’m convinced that it will be even better in a year or so. Serving this wine with a grilled steak (with a salad and baked potato) or ribs would make a good meal great.
2009 Hagafen Estate Bottled Napa Valley Syrah (Red) — This rich and deep flavored wine has a cherry overtone with a subtle chocolate layer that makes this complex flavored wine excellent for just about any part of the meal. Great with appetizers as well as a hearty vegetable soup, chicken, beef and lamb.
2011 Hagafen Napa Valley White Riesling (White) — Peaches and apricots with a hint of a clementine’s sweetness are what impressed me most about this dry-ish wine. A good choice for those who struggle about what type of wine they want to serve with heavier chicken or vegetarian dish. Wonderful with cream or red sauce pasta.
2012 Hagafen Dry White Riesling Napa Valley (White) — A brightness with grapefruit and Meyer lemon notes float through this dry (but not too dry) and very drinkable Riesling. An excellent wine to serve with soup, salad of fish or cheese. Also a wonderful wine to pair with hearty salads, Oriental and Mexican dishes.
The bonus pick and my absolute favorite is:
2006 Prix Reserve Napa Valley Merlot (Vichy Vineyard) — This was the most incredibly delicious (though not inexpensive at $55 a bottle) wine I’ve tasted in years. It has a deep, smooth, chocolaty taste with a hint of cherry. It’s smooth finish will complement any rich beef or lamb meal — or it’s a great stand alone celebratory glass of wine.
Since you don’t want to waste even one drop of these delicious wines (and there is typically a little bit left over in most bottles after the seder), I suggest you take any leftovers and pour them into ice cube trays (one cube is about 1 tablespoon) or into plastic cups in 1⁄4 cup amounts and freeze them for when you want to add a big dollop of taste to your recipes.
These Pesach-friendly recipes all use a little bit of wine in them and can be modified and used any time of the year.
White Wine and Mushroom Sauce
8 oz. sliced mushroom
1⁄4 cup minced onions
1 Tbsp. butter
2 Tbsps. potato starch
1 cup whipping cream
3⁄4 cup white wine
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. dried parsley
In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, saute the mushrooms and onions in the butter just until they start to soften. Add the potato starch, mix to combine and cook for 1 minute.
Add the cream, wine, salt and parsley. Stir all together; bring to a boil then reduce heat to low and simmer until thickened.
Makes 1 and 1⁄2 cups sauce.
2 cups fresh strawberries, hulled and quartered
1 cup raspberries
1 cup blueberries
3⁄4 cup sugar or honey to taste
1 and 1⁄2 cups white wine
zest of 1 orange
Place the berries into a glass bowl. Sprinkle the top with sugar, and then pour the wine over the top. Mix to coat. Cover and refrigerate for 2 hours.
Let the berries come to room temperature — about 30 minutes — before serving.
Divide between 8 dessert cups and spoon the remaining sauce over the berries. Sprinkle the zest over the top of the berries and serve.
Cranberry Wine Sauce
2 cups red wine
1 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 bag (12 oz.) fresh or frozen cranberries
zest of 2 oranges
2 Tbsps. pomegranate juice
pinch of salt
Place wine, sugars and cinnamon in a medium pot and stir to combine. Bring to boil then reduce to a simmer. Cook for 5 minutes.
Add the cranberries, orange zest, pomegranate juice and salt. Stir occasionally and cook over low heat for about 30 minutes until all cranberries have popped and the sauce thickens. Remove from the heat and cool. Great warm or cold.
Sweet and Sour Peppers
1 Tbsp. olive oil
2 Tbsps. minced garlic
3 stalks of celery, sliced
1 and 1⁄2 lbs. yellow bell peppers, seeded and thinly sliced
1 and 1⁄2 lbs. red bell peppers, seeded and thinly sliced
1⁄2 cup mixed chopped green and/or black olives (whatever mix you prefer)
1 Tbsp. red wine
1 Tbsp. honey or sugar
pepper to taste
Heat the oil in a large skillet. Saute the garlic and celery and heat together until they begin to soften. Add the peppers and cook, stirring occasionally until they are still crunchy soft, about 20 minutes.
Add the olives and cook another 10 minutes. Add the red wine, honey and pepper. Mix to coat and then cook for 1 to 2 minutes.
Remove the peppers from the heat and cool to room temperature.
Serves 6 to 8.