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Faith Kaplan


by Faith Kaplan, April 13, 2011

Pesach is just around the corner, and the question on everyone’s mind is “what will we drink at the Seder?” Long gone are the days of Manischewitz concord grape wine and Kedem concord grape juice as the two options available.  With Israeli wines winning international competitions from Rome to France, and an exploding kosher wine industry in all the major wine regions around the world, there is a one word answer to the question: whatever.  As in “whatever you like that’s Kosher for Pesach”.

Every private wine store and all of the MLCC stores carry a selection of kosher wine, often the Israeli Galil Mountain brands.  Widely available and at a reasonable price point, these entry level wines are kosher for Pesach. Produced at Kibbutz Yiron in the upper Galilee, the dry red Cabernet Sauvignon is a lovely deep purple colour. (It’s a good idea to lay in extra stock of liquid Tide for post-Seder laundering.) Meant to be served at room temperature, which by the way is 18c degrees, it doesn’t have a strong bouquet but is a medium bodied wine with hints of blueberry and raspberry, and is pleasant though not terribly complex. I prefer it with food to plain  as the tannins are less delicate than I prefer.  The finish is long and reasonably firm, the mark of a good quality wine.  I like to give this wine a chance to breathe for a bit, and recommend pouring the first cup before the Seder starts so that it has a chance to open up.

It’s been a while since I’ve sampled the dry white Chardonnay from Galil Mountain since I’m not a Chardonnay lover. This particular wine is not overly oaky or buttery.  Meant to be served cool at 54-57F degrees, you should pour it soon after removing it from the fridge. It has good legs, a nice body and a smooth texture. The aroma suggests pears, and the colour is a clear medium straw. I am more partial to more acidic whites with a crisp finish such a Riesling or Pinot Gris, but this was a nice surprise. It’s light and easy to drink.

Note that these wines are meant to be drunk within 3-4 years of bottling, so don’t buy either of these from a vintage prior to 2007!

The Linder-Kaplans discovered a fun Italian Moscato from Bartenura years ago and it’s become a Shabbat and Holiday staple. It’s in a blue bottle, and is known by my children and nieces and nephews as “the blue wine”. At 5% alcohol (vs the standard 12.5 % - 14.5%) and sparkling, it’s like drinking pop, and we polish off a dozen bottles every Seder. I can only imagine what the garbage man thinks. Think Asti Spumante but sweeter, and Kosher for Pesach.

I love Italian Pinot Grigios and French Bordeaux, and Kenaston Wine Market carries some very fine kosher wines from those countries. The Israeli Dalton Canaan red wine is also very good.

For those of you wondering what distinguishes kosher wine from non kosher, here’s the primer:
• Jews handle the grapes from harvest throughout the wine making process.
• The wine is flash heated (cooked or mevushal) to enable non Jews to handle and pour it.
• In Israel, vineyards are managed according to the laws of shmita, or fallow years. Every 7th year the land is left dormant and not planted. The laws of shmita don’t apply outside Israel.

From a technical perspective, vineyards are managed in the same way,  and grapes are tended/ harvested/ crushed/laid down in the same way as non kosher wines.  Given technological advances in flash heating, the taste is not impaired as it was once upon a time, and you would be hard-pressed to distinguish between mevushal and non mevushal.

Since you’re obliged to drink 4 cups of wine, you should enjoy them. Sample a number of different wines based on whether you like a particular region or grape varietal to find wines that appeal to you. And if you’re like my mother-in-law and prefer Manischewitz, that’s just fine. Chag Pesach Kasher v’Sameach!



By Rhonda Spivak, April  1, 2011.

One of the under-reported aspects of the  recent  Limmud Conference in Winnipeg (a terrific program put on here for the first time by  the Jewish Federation of Winnipeg and the Rady JCC, Etz Chaim, Hebrew U, Shaarey Zedek, and Winnipeg Board of Jewish Education) is Faith Kaplan’s session “Boreh Pri Hagafen: An Introduction to Wine Tasting.”

The obvious question in my mind was how come Faith got to run that session?  Is she a qualified oenophile?

I started thinking about it when I noticed that Faith’s wine tasting session was at the same time as my talk about Israeli-Jordanian relations in the aftermath of the revolution in Egypt.  That’s when I realized that while I was working away at preparing my talk, all Faith had to do was pour wine! Not only that, but I was cheated out of the opportunity to attend her wine testing session.

Let’s get serious, who wants to do a session that’s competing with wine tasting? Had I realized in advance I would have tried to combine our sessions, which would have made for an interesting question and answer session. 

In an EXCLUSIVE one- on- one interview with Faith after the event, The Winnipeg Jewish Review posed the “hard question”:  What qualifications do you have in the field of wine tasting?

She replied, “I like to talk and I like to drink wine.”

I replied, “You mean you like to whine?”

She stuck to her guns. “I’m a good talker and I’m a good drinker,” and that was reason enough to run the wine testing session, she claimed.

And I thought to myself, based on those credentials the Federation could have given her a phone card and sent her to the liquor store to pick up the wine, but how did she get to actually lead the session? Faith smiled mysteriously and I began to wonder how many glasses she had sampled and whether there was any left over.

Faith began articulating how she had learned to assess wine with skillful “swirling, sniffing and swishing.” She knew how to classify a wine’s age by its colour. Personal taste dictates whether a wine is too “acidic or sweet”, but there is a universal disdain for wine that is corked or worse, leaves a “bad aftertaste.” She claimed that she could tell if a wine smelled like “fruit, flowers, stinky socks, raw sewage or cholent that was left over from last Shabbat.”

And then Faith lowered her voice to make sure no one could overhear, leaned closer and admitted her sensitive nose could always tell if the wine had “a disagreeable odour.”

I began to be persuaded that she actually knew what she was talking about.  Heck, by the time she was done talking she had convinced me that she had grown up picking grapes in Napa Valley, and that she still had blisters on her toes from too many years of barefoot grape crushing. (This is the preferred method by vintners the world over, though more expensive to execute than machine crushing.)

What clinched it for me was when she intoned “I can appreciate a well made cork screw when I see one.”

Which is why I want readers to know that if you have wine tips, wine suggestions, wine-related emergencies or surgeries, or even if  you just want to invite Faith to a party so that she can “talk, sniff and drink wine, ” please contact [email protected] and we will do our best to forward your inquiries in a timely fashion.

P.S. In all seriousness, Faith Kaplan, a woman of many rich and varied talents, once contemplated a career as a wine professional and started the International Sommelier Accreditation program. When she realized that she would likely be returning to the hospitality industry to hone her skills, this self admitted “worst waitress in the history of Nibblers Nosh” determined she was too old to work evenings and weekends, and despite her affinity for working a room, Faith only completed the first course on Wine Fundamentals. This bon vivant may not be a certified connoisseur, but she is certainly a lover of wine, and a bona fide oenophile.


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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

Opinions expressed in letters to the editor or articles by contributing writers are not necessarily endorsed by Winnipeg Jewish Review.