Tracing the Exodus from Egypt with wine

When the Jews left Egypt, they traveled from Egypt through the Sinai and the Negev desert. I think the Nana Estate Winery in Mitzpe Ramon is one of the Israel’s best-kept wine secrets.

Carmel Selected (photo credit: BARKAN/CARMEL)
Carmel Selected
(photo credit: BARKAN/CARMEL)
While we won’t be able to travel for Passover, we can recreate the journey of the Children of Israel through wine. So I suggest that for each of the four cups of wine, you choose a winery from a different region of Israel, starting with southern Israel. Different regions of Israel have different “terroirs,” a combination of soil, weather and growing conditions. I’ve tried to give you a mix of large and boutique wineries.
First Cup: Nana Winery, Mitzpe Ramon
When the Jews left Egypt, they traveled from Egypt through the Sinai and the Negev desert. I think the Nana Estate Winery in Mitzpe Ramon is one of the Israel’s best-kept wine secrets. All of their wines are good, but my favorite is the Chenin Blanc (NIS 90) which has an amazing aroma of fruit including green apple, pear and lychee. They have just bottled their 2019 Chenin Blanc and it should be ready by Passover.
Second Cup: Barkan Winery, Kibbutz Nachshon
Barkan has a new visitor’s center at Kibbutz Nachshon near Latrun. One of Israel’s largest wineries, Barkan offers wines at all price points. I suggest using the Altitude series (NIS 120 each) as a way to take a “wine break” during the seder. The Series consists of three variations of cabernet sauvignon, grown at different altitudes: 585 meters above sea level, 624 m. and 720 m. I recently tasted all three simultaneously, and the differences among them were striking.  Pour each into a separate glass and compare, going back for sips every half hour to see how the wine develops. The wines are aged in oak barrels for 12 months.
Third Cup: Carmel Winery, Galilee
The Carmel Winery is one of Israel’s oldest wineries, started first in Rishon Lezion in 1889 and later in Zichron Ya’acov. Once the corona threat passes, I highly recommend a visit to Zichron to see some of the ancient barrels. They have wines at all price points. If you want to impress your family, buy a magnum of the Merlot Private Collection for NIS 80. A magnum is double the size of a regular bottle and it will look impressive at the center of the table. Another option, if we are still doing “social distancing” is to buy small individual 375 ml bottles of Private Collection Chardonnay (NIS 20) or Cabernet Sauvignon (NIS 20). Both offer very good value for money.
Fourth Cup: Matar Winery, Golan Heights
For the fourth cup, I’m suggesting a wine that is rare even outside of Israel. Matar is the kosher winery of Pelter Winery in Ein Zivan in the Golan Heights. The soil is volcanic, giving the wine a unique flavor. I am suggesting the 2016 Petit Verdot (NIS 160) made of one hundred percent petit verdot grapes aged for 18 months. There are few wineries anywhere where petit verdot is made as a varietal, meaning it makes up at least 85 percent of the wine. The Matar version has a deep purple color and astringent tannins that pucker your mouth, with aromas of lilac and violet. A way to end the seder on a high note!


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