Perfect day for lunch in a kosher vineyard

On a gorgeous autumn day in Napa Valley, the kind that travel magazines feature on their covers, I was part of a privileged group of eight to spend an afternoon with Ernie and Irit Weir, owners and vintners of Hagafen Cellars.

As we walked with Ernie through the vineyards, we sampled purple-black Cabernet Sauvignon grapes that were sweeter than any I have tasted. We nibbled on raisins just plucked from the vine that would make any noodle kugel shine. Ernie explained his growing methods and what, indeed, makes a wine kosher. (Among other requirements, grapes from new vines may not be used for making wine until after the fourth year, and every seventh year the fields must be left fallow. Only Sabbath-observant male Jews are allowed to work on the production of the wines.)

Intellectually I knew that good kosher wines existed, but until I actually tasted them I was a little suspect that they would be the cloyingly sweet wines that Jews are so accustomed to drinking on holidays.

A sit-down lunch began with a refreshing, seasonal citrus salad matched with a 2004 Napa Valley Estate Pinot Noir. Daughters Maya, 15, and Tamar, 6, looking very much like fairytale Persian princesses, helped serve our next course of grilled salmon and a Persian specialty, Rice Tadeek. (“Tadeek” is the Persian word for the crunchy layer of rice that forms on the bottom of the pan.) A 2001 Napa Valley Syrah broke the “white wine with fish rule” flawlessly.

Persian Rice with Tadeek |Serves 4 to 6

2 quarts water
2 tsp. salt
11/2 cups basmati rice
3 Tbs. unsalted butter

In a large saucepan bring water with salt to a boil. Add rice and boil 10 minutes. In a colander, drain rice and rinse under warm water.
Melt butter in a large nonstick saucepan. Spoon rice over butter and cover pan with a kitchen towel and a heavy lid. Fold edges of towel up over lid and cook rice over moderately low heat until tender and a crust forms on bottom, 30 to 35 minutes.
Spoon loose rice onto a platter and dip bottom of pan in a large bowl of cold water 30 seconds to loosen tadeek. Remove tadeek and serve over rice.

Cilantro and Roasted Pecan Spread | Makes 2 cups

1 cup sour cream or yogurt
3 oz. cream cheese
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 cup cilantro leaves
1/2 cup roasted pecans
1 Tbs. lime juice
1/2 small onion
2 cloves garlic
1 jalapeno, seeded
1 Tbs. ground cumin
1 Tbs. tahini paste
A pinch of sugar
Salt and pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients in a food processor until well-blended. Serve with toasted pita triangles.

Harvest Salad | Serves 6


1/2 cup olive oil
2 Tbs. balsamic vinegar
1 tsp. honey
1 tsp. mustard
juice of 1 lime
1 tsp. soy sauce


6 cups mixed greens
1 cup cherry tomatoes
1 small red onion, diced
1 medium cucumber, peeled, seeded and diced
2 beets, roasted, peeled and diced
2 Asian pears, cored and thinly sliced
1 cup glazed walnuts

Whisk dressing ingredients until well-blended. Toss with remaining ingredients.

Louise Fiszer is a Palo Alto cooking teacher, author and the co-author of “Jewish Holiday Cooking.” Her columns alternate with those of Rebecca Ets-Hokin. Questions and recipe ideas can be sent to j. or to [email protected].