OneHope Winery's kosher cabernet sauvignon. (Photo/Alix Wall)
OneHope Winery's kosher cabernet sauvignon. (Photo/Alix Wall)

Napa Valley’s OneHope is latest entry into kosher wine market

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Napa Valley is known as the No. 1 wine region in the United States, but it’s not exactly famous for its kosher wine.

It used to be that the only game in town was Hagafen, which opened in 1979. That changed in 2005 with the debut of Covenant Wines. At the time, its wines were bottled at Herzog Wine Cellars in Oxnard, using mostly Napa grapes; in 2014, Covenant opened a winery in Berkeley.

Now, a newcomer has entered the Napa kosher market: OneHope Winery, which so far has produced two vintages of kosher cabernet sauvignon.

“Hagafen and Covenant are making wonderful kosher wines, but we as a people are never satisfied,” said Isaac “Yitz” Applbaum of Oakland, a primary driver behind the endeavor. “Why not have 10 or 20 great kosher wines? Today, that’s where we’re headed. We’re going to continue to make new varietals to help expand an already existing market.”

Applbaum speaks with the authority of an owner, but he has no official title (he calls himself “an informal adviser”). He is, however, an investor who admits to having certain privileges, such as tasting from the barrel and offering his input. He was also the person who prodded and convinced CEO Jake Kloberdanz to take a chance on producing kosher wine.

Jake Kloberdanz, CEO of OneHope Winery
Jake Kloberdanz, CEO of OneHope Winery

“From the first time I met him, he planted the seed of the idea, not knowing if I’d ever buy a piece of land or property, let alone create a kosher wine,” said Kloberdanz, who described Applbaum as “a force of nature” and said he serves as one of his strongest connections to Judaism.

While OneHope’s kosher wines are new on the scene, the business was founded back in 2007, so it’s taken a while to get here.

So far it has produced about 1,500 cases of kosher wine (about 18,000 bottles), making up only 1 percent of its total output, but Kloberdanz says the intention is to scale up as the business grows.

“I believe it’s important that there’s more of a presence of kosher winemaking in our No. 1 wine region,” Kloberdanz told J. “While a couple people have led that so far, I think we have a fresh approach to it and can reach a whole new demographic, and I’m excited to be part of it.”

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For wine to be considered kosher, it can be touched only by the Sabbath-observant. OneHope’s winemaker is Mari Wells Coyle, but kosher winemaker Dan Levin regularly visits and is the one to remove the kosher wine from the barrels for tasting. He also serves as mashgiach, or kosher certifier, for OneHope and neighboring Marciano Estate, which has a small output of kosher cabernet sauvignon.

Kloberdanz, 39, grew up in Fremont, attending Temple Beth Torah’s Gan Sameach preschool, in an interfaith household that he described as mostly agnostic. His maternal grandmother played a huge role in his life, he said, both as the family’s first entrepreneur, and as someone who had a strong connection to Judaism. He recalls a profound experience visiting Yad Vashem’s Avenue of the Righteous as a teen when his grandmother took the family to Israel.

“That place forever changed my life,” he said. “The way I felt there centered me in purpose. It’s where I first began thinking about the future and how we can impact the next generation.”

OneHope was founded 15 years ago by Kloberdanz and friends — wine lovers, all of them — who began throwing wine-tasting parties to raise money for charity. It has raised over $8 million to support causes such as fresh water projects in the developing world, breast cancer research and nutrition programs for children and families. Many of the investors are directly involved in choosing which charities receive funding.

Wine barrels at OneHope Winery, which recently began producing a kosher cabernet sauvignon. (Photo/Alix Wall)
Wine barrels at OneHope Winery, which recently began producing a kosher cabernet sauvignon. (Photo/Alix Wall)

OneHope is one of the largest direct-to-consumer sellers of wine in the country, but the winery opened just last year. It isn’t open to the public; rather it serves as a place where investors and friends can host dinners, hang out and even spend the night (on the private weekday tour I received, two members were playing pickleball on a court right outside the winery building). Sitting on the St. Helena Highway, between Oakville and Rutherford, it’s a modernist building with clean lines, flooded with natural light, surrounded by vineyards, with the Mayacamas Mountains visible in the distance.

“It’s a great place to go hang your hat, it’s a place you want to be when you’re not at home,” said Applbaum.

The kosher cabernet sauvignon starts at $100 per bottle; the winery’s next release in the fall will be a fumé blanc (a variety of sauvignon blanc aged in oak barrels), which Kloberdanz and Applbaum are particularly excited about. The wines can be purchased at

“Making our fumé blanc kosher was a special kind of a statement,” said Kloberdanz. “These aren’t just our best kosher wines, they’re some of our best wines, period. That’s our commitment to this. We’re starting at the highest level we could.”

While Kloberdanz knows the price point is too high for many consumers, he promised this is only the beginning. Kosher consumers can expect more reasonably priced wines from OneHope going forward, he said: “We’ll be working on more that are more approachable and available from a volume perspective in the future.”

Alix Wall
Alix Wall

Alix Wall is a contributing editor to J. She is also the founder of the Illuminoshi: The Not-So-Secret Society of Bay Area Jewish Food Professionals and is writer/producer of a documentary-in-progress called "The Lonely Child."