No one can dispute that the elevation of kosher wine worldwide rests squarely on the shoulders of one family. The Herzogs, owners of Royal Wine, have single handedly, for well over 100 years, built a trade in all levels of kosher wine, from the ultra-high-end to entry-level table wines.
Without overstating how much one family business has done to promote the variety and availability of kosher wine, note that the wine or juice on your Shabbat table, even if it is not distributed by Royal—though it likely is—exists because of the market that a single family created and solidified. It has operated for the past 70 years in America.
Today, Royal Wine Corp., which owns Royal Wine Europe, Kedem, Kayco and Manischewitz, makes or distributes between 85 and 90% of the world’s kosher wine, zigzagging the globe and sourcing such wines as New Zealand sauvignon blancs to California chardonnays to the best-available French bordeaux wines, and everywhere in between.
Speaking of French wines, 30 years ago the Herzogs created a relationship with the storied, titled Rothschild family in France to do small kosher runs of some of the world’s most famous Bordeaux. The first, Barons Edmond Benjamin de Rothschild Haut-Medoc 1986, released in 1989, was made by Pierre Miodownik, a living legend winemaker who presided over every kosher French vintage between 1986 and 2014. In his now “retired” life, he makes Rhone-style wines in Israel with his tour de force label, Domaine Netofa.
Miodownik, with his successor Menachem Israelievitch, Baroness Ariane de Rothschild—the current CEO of the Edmond de Rothschild Holding SA and representative of Edmond de Rothschild Heritage Wines—and the Herzog family, all broke bread together this past Sunday evening to celebrate a 30-year-long partnership, to mark a milestone and to celebrate the quality and enduring craftsmanship they have created and supported.
A Dinner to Remember
While it was an evening to celebrate heritage, it was also an evening of firsts. Jean-Georges Vongerichten, a celebrated French chef with close to 40 restaurant holdings all over the world, closed his restaurant The Fulton, located at Pier 17 at New York’s Seaport district, for an entire day so it could be kashered. The event menu was approved and the dinner was attended by none other than Jean-Georges himself, and featured foods that appear on the restaurant’s regular menu such as Florida red snapper ceviche and seared black sea bass. The menu was implemented by The Fulton’s executive chef, Noah Poses, and Englewood’s Noam Sokolow, a restaurateur and private caterer, who worked collaboratively in order to ensure that glatt kosher standards were maintained.
When Sokolow was first presented with this unique opportunity by Royal, he was happy to participate. “I knew that there was no place better to celebrate and mark the occasion other than with the best French chef today, Jean-Georges Vongerichten. We have had a working relationship with Jean-Georges’ group for the last several years, and have done similar events at his famed restaurant The Mark on the Upper East Side,” Sokolow told The Jewish Link. “When I asked if we could use his newest restaurant, The Fulton, on this date, with the Baroness in attendance, it was an immediate ‘yes, we will make it work.’ Working together with the Jean-Georges team, we ensured that all food and service-related items would meet the standards that are synonymous with the Jean-Georges brand, while at the same time ensuring that all was glatt kosher for all the attendees.”
And while the speeches, including those by the Herzogs, by the Baroness and by Miodownik, were memorable, the wines spoke for themselves. The five-course dinner began with Champagne Barons de Rothschild Rosé, one of the crispest, snappiest wines I’ve ever enjoyed. It paired beautifully with the ceviche, served with crisp Granny Smith apple slices, fresh sorrel leaves and impossibly crunchy sourdough croutons.
Next, the Château Malmaison Baronne Nadine de Rothschild Moulis-en-Medoc 2016 was paired with a surprisingly generous salad of kale and greens with an herb dressing, pine nuts and accompanied with sliced duck breast. The wine, which comprised 80% merlot and 20% cabernet sauvignon, was extremely smooth and pleasing. The sea bass, delightfully crispy skinned, was accompanied with savory roasted carrots and served atop a flavorful lemon turmeric sauce. It was served with the Herzog Russian River Chardonnay 2017, a surprisingly sweet, buttery, oaky wine from Sonoma.
The meat course, a medium-rare grilled beef filet, served over a piquant, garlicky broccoli rabe salsa verde and fingerling potatoes, was accompanied with the Chateau Clarke Baron Edmond de Rothschild Listrac-Medoc 2016 (70% merlot and 30% cabernet sauvignon), and three flights of the Barons Edmond de Rothschild Haut-Medoc, from 2014, 2015 and the special 2016 30th anniversary edition. While all were excellent, the buzz around the tables was all about the 2016. “It’s truly the best of the three,” said Mendy Mark, of FillerUp Wines.
Dessert was a playful melange of chocolate, peanut caramel and chocolate crunch, accompanied with a tart passion fruit sorbet. The sparkling star of the course was the Champagne Barons de Rothschild Brut Cuvee, the likes of which I have never before tasted. Truly the most complex yet easy-to-drink champagne I’ve ever had the pleasure to enjoy.
Something else special that happened that evening, outside of the planned program and beautiful speeches emceed by Royal Executive VP Jay Buchsbaum, was that Simon Jacob, a wine aficionado originally from West Orange who now resides in Israel, brought and opened a magnum of the original “wine that started it all” from 1986, the Edmond Benjamin de Rothschild Haut-Medoc. A curious group gathered around him to try it, some expressing concern that it would no longer be good, that it would be well past its prime. After all, it is the world’s first French kosher wine, bottled some 33 years ago. Should one even expect it to be drinkable?
Once a small serving made its way to my table, we divided it up so everyone who wished could taste it. I was shocked to find that it had a floral nose, no vinegar, with a scent of green pepper. “It’s good. It’s for drinking right now,” Jacob told me. “It’s a delight.”
By Elizabeth Kratz