A stellar kosher wine, and Johnnie Walker goes platinum

Over the past several years, kosher wines have received numerous accolades and have garnered praise from prominent wine critics and publications. But those who need further proof that kosher wines are firmly part of the mainstream wine world need look no further than their local Trader Joe’s specialty grocery stores.

Kosher-anything at Trader Joe’s is regional, and not all regions carry the same products or even carry wine. But for those stores that do, look for their kosher wine exclusives (for those that don’t, talk to the store manager). Trader Joe’s features some mighty tasty kosher wines, at a mighty fine bang for your buck.

Check out, for example, the Terrenal Wines. Imported by Welner Wines, these are some of the few under-$10 kosher wines regularly worth drinking. The Terrenal Tempranillo 2010 (non-mevushal) begins with floral and blackberry aromas that expand nicely in the glass and combine with red berry, dark chocolate, spice and earth flavors balanced with bright acidity and a remarkably lengthy finish. Think pasta, stews, hearty casseroles, beef ribs and even curried chicken.

Initially an Israeli fruit seller, Shimshon Welner saw the potential of switching apple orchards to vineyards during a visit to Washington state’s Yakima Valley. With a grant from the Israeli government and irrepressible enthusiasm, he cleared a former battlefield in the Golan of more than 250 shattered tanks to plant vineyards and establish the Yarden winery.

Welner left Yarden in 1989, but returned to the wine business in 1996 when he joined Royal Wines to develop its Chilean Alfasi portfolio. Along with his wife and son, he established Welner Wines to focus on high-quality, value-priced kosher wines from around the world — including Chile, Israel, Spain, Italy, France, South Africa, Argentina and Australia.

Spirits-wise, we thought we’d review the newest sure-to-be-blockbuster whisky to hit the U.S. market: Johnnie Walker Platinum blended Scotch Whisky.

Made from a blend of single malt and grain Scotch whiskies from more than two dozen distilleries, and aged for at least 18 years, this new “Platinum” addition to the Johnnie Walker portfolio was introduced in August. It retails for approximately $110 a bottle and has been getting solidly good reviews and lots of buzz.

Blended Scotch is a mix of malt whisky and non-malt grain whisky. Non-malt grain whisky is easier and less costly to produce, but the resulting spirit is thought to be lighter, less interesting and less full of character and flavor. Malt whisky, which is made of 100 percent malted barley, is comparatively expensive and slow to produce. It is made in a less efficient batch-distillation, but is thought to render a more intense, more interesting flavor.

So is the new Platinum any good? Unsurprisingly, yes it is. Given the market share and track record of the Johnnie Walker brand, we are confident this will be a big hit too. Give it a shot!


Joshua E. London and Lou Marmon write a weekly syndicated wine and spirits column. For more reviews see www.grapelines.com.