At Covenant Winery, in Berkeley, California, we make wines to enhance mealtime. In truth, lunch and dinner taste so much better with a glass (or two) of wine. This is a lesson I learned after a decade living in France, and it’s one that has changed my outlook on life.
Covenant also happens to be a kosher winery. But our wines are fermented with native, indigenous yeast and, for the most part, are unfiltered and unrefined. What keeps the wines kosher is simply the fact that they are handled only by Sabbath-observant Jews in the cellar. If the wines were not kosher, we would make them exactly the same way.
So why kosher? It all started in 2003 with a dare from our partner Leslie Rudd, whose famous vineyards in Napa Valley produce some very fine (non-kosher) wines. Leslie and I are both Jewish, but back in 2003, we weren’t particularly observant. Leslie dared me to make a great kosher wine, and I said I could do it with great grapes. That was the beginning of Covenant.
But we needed Sabbath-observant hands, which we found at Herzog Wine Cellars in southern California. Our first five vintages were made at Herzog with Napa Valley Cabernet using the protocols I had learned as a winemaker and wine writer. (I wrote for Wine Spectator magazine from 1992 to 1999.) From the very beginning, the wines were widely acclaimed by the media and consumers. We became successful, and—as a kind of bonus—I became more observant. It’s no exaggeration to say that the wine brought my family and me closer to our Jewish roots.
Today we make some 7,000 cases of wine at our Berkeley winery and another 1,500 cases at Covenant Israel, where we started making wine in 2013. In our spare time, my wife, Jodie, and I write cookbooks—the latest being The Covenant Kitchen, Food and Wine for the New Jewish Table (Schocken Books). Every recipe is paired with wine, which is pretty much how we see the world.
Join Jeff Morgan of Covenant Winery for a wine tasting at Ohr Kodesh Congregation on November 13 from 7 to 9:30 PM. Hors d’oeuvres and dessert will be served.
Top photo courtesy of Covenant Winery