Exploring Modern Kosher Wines

Purple Grapes In Scenic Vineyard

DID YOU KNOW that drinking Kosher wines can be cool? On August 18 at Exploring Modern Kosher Wines, a Jewish Federation wine tasting, sponsored by the Cultural Arts Program and coordinated by Cantor Judy Sofer, attendees will learn to stop whining about Kosher wine. The featured speaker, Cantor Keith Miller, is founder of d-cantor, an online retail wine company in the San Fernando Valley. So prep your palates because Keith will share five of his favorite Kosher wines and pair them with food certain to make them shine. He’ll also talk about what makes a wine Kosher, what’s new in the world of wines and why we should be open to trying new ones. Attendees will celebrate Havdalah, mingle, munch and make new friends while having (note wine terminology) an elegant and crisp evening.

Cantor Keith’s love of wine led him to his current career. Although he’s still a cantor and still a member of the Cantor’s Assembly, he’s no longer on the pulpit. “I’d say probably 20 or so years ago, I started developing an interest in wine.” He had gone to his friend’s home for Shabbat dinner and brought a bottle of what he thought was a nice wine, a Beringer white zinfandel. But when his friend poured them “a glass of Caymus Conundrum white wine, a white blend from Caymus family … it was almost this moment of revelation.” Keith had never really tasted anything quite like that before.

With his interest sparked by that moment, Keith began taking a variety of different classes to learn more about wine. “I like to say that I think about wine in the same way that I think about Torah, which is that the more you learn, the more you realize how much you do not know. The more you study Torah, the more you learn, but you realize that there’s just an infinite amount of knowledge that is there to study and to hopefully enrich you.” Keith is also the first to point out that while he is a wine professional, having taken numerous courses, he is not a sommelier. “It’s not fair to people who have gone through specific classes to be a sommelier.” Keith says that while having his business doesn’t require any special certification, he wants to be as knowledgeable as he can. His studies have helped him gain insight into the process for making wine, different wine regions of the world, different grape varietals and wineries, but claims they’re just the tip of the iceberg and that the learning is ongoing. Probably the most important aspect of learning about wines for Keith is tasting them so that you can compare one wine to another and figure out your likes and dislikes

I wondered whether people automatically assume, because of the company name, that Keith’s just an expert on Kosher wine. “Obviously within the Jewish community they do.” Because he does so many events, he’s looked at as having that niche because of his connections within the community. Keith grew up in the L.A. Jewish community and as part of it, still has very deep roots here. As such, it’s no surprise many congregations and organizations turn to him when planning an event featuring Kosher wines. Keith says that to “a lot of people, it seems mysterious, and obviously there’s been a long time belief that Kosher wine is inferior to ‘regular’ non-Kosher wine, so I’ve looked at this as an opportunity to educate people. To show that there really are, for the most part, no differences at all between non-Kosher wine and Kosher wine.”

In his business, Keith considers himself an ambassador for Israeli wines. At the Jewish Federation event, Keith will introduce a wine from Israel because it’s important to him to support Israeli wineries and grape-growers. “It’s a passion of mine, and I’m a Zionist, so I do what I can to promote Israel and put Israel in a good light. If I can do that through something fun, enjoyable and approachable, then I’ll do it through wine.” Kosher wines are now being made around the world from California, Canada and South Africa to Europe, Australia and New Zealand. “People are going to the trouble to make Kosher wine, so let’s see what that’s about and learn from it. Worst case scenario, you taste something you don’t really like and move on which is the beauty of a tasting.” Guests will try things that they probably wouldn’t have had an opportunity to taste before. “Hopefully you’ll find several wines that you enjoy and will consider trying and enjoying again in the future.”

Keith will give an introduction to all the wines, talk about them and answer questions for people during the tasting. Attendees will visit five different stations with food and wine pairings so they can expect to try five different styles of wine: sparkling, white, a rosé, a red and a dessert. The plan is for guests to taste the wines separately as a stand-alone, and then see how that might change when trying the wine with food. “It’s great to see people’s reactions as to how the wines interact with food,” says Keith. “I think it’s important to remember that, by and large, wine-makers are making wines to serve as a complement to a food, so usually not just trying it and having a glass of wine alone, but to have it with some cheese, with some crudités, with some Spanish-style tapas and … think in those terms.” He’ll also discuss Kosher wines that are Mevushal, wines that go through a process which enables them to be poured by people who are either not Jewish, or are not religious Jews.

Whether you’re interested in being educated about wine or simply seeking an enjoyable evening in a lush backyard setting at a private home in the Arcadia-area, this wine tasting is going to be the not-to-miss event of the summer. Come hang out with friends, old and new, while sipping delightful wines and maybe even learning a thing or two!

Find d-cantor enterprises at www.d-cantor.com/ Tickets for August 18 are on sale now for $36 each; 7:30-10:00 p.m. Call 626.445.0810 or visit www.jewishsgpv.org to reserve your spot.

Ronna Mandel is a contributing writer to JLife. You can find her blog at goodreadswithronna.com.


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