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December 16, 1988 - Image 87

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1988-12-16

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

TRENDS

Art By Joseph Thiel

Crushing Old Stereotypes

From New York State to California,
a new generation of winemakers
is producing award-winning kosher wines.

JUDITH BRODER SELLNER

Special to The Jewish News

p

lease excuse the shirt
— we're in the crush
now," aplogizes the
gray-bearded man in the
black yarmulka and purple-
spotted white shirt. With a
twinkle in his eyes, as blue as
the sky on that autumn
morning, he welcomes me to
the Hudson River Valley
winery. A tanned, muscular
man atop a nearby pickup
truck dumps basketfuls of red
grapes into a huge steel bin —
"the hopper," explains the
bearded man. "Then, this
machine," he points to a
larger vat, "takes off the
leaves and stems before we
crush the grapes into juice."

My guide, Ernest Herzog,
Grand Winemaster and
Chairman of Kedem Royal
Winery, is the dean of
American kosher winema-
kers. At 54, the seventh
generation Herzog to make
kosher wine, he continues the
family business that started
in 1848 in a Czechoslovakian
village and eventually be-
came the exclusive wine sup-
plier to Kaiser Franz Joseph.
After surviving the Nazis,
Ernest's father fled to Amer-
ica in 1948 when the Commu-
nists overran his homeland.
In New York, Ernest and his
brothers and sister worked
after school without pay at
the Lower East Side winery
where their father received a
partnership in lieu of wages.
Ibday, Ernest presides over

a state-of-the-art wine facility.
The world's largest producer
and importer of kosher wines,
Kedem imports from Israel,
France, Italy and Spain, and
produces more than a million
cases per year between the
New York winery and its Cali-
fornia Domaine de Baron Ja-
quab de Herzog.
What makes wine kosher?
"It's what doesn't go into it,"
he explains. "No meat pro-
ducts or gelatin, no grains or
corn products. And from the
pressing on, only Sabbath-
observant Jews can handle
it."
Passing on the tradition,
Ernest introduces his appren-
tice and son, Michael, soon to
be the family's eighth genera-
tion winemaker. The Herzogs
and a handful of others are

crushing old stereotypes by
producing award-winning,
premium kosher wines.
In Healdsburg, California,
28-year old Robert Weinstock
is the youngest producer of
kosher wine in the United
States. A Reform Jew, he is
president, winemaker, vine-
yard manager, and general
factotum of Weinstock Cel-
lars, the first to produce
kosher wines in Sonoma
County.
In the custom winery,
shared by other winemakers
and made kosher for his pro-
duction, Weinstock produced
18,000 cases in 1987. Ortho-
dox Jews come to the rural
town to process the wine
under Weinstock's instruc-
tions.
The New York-born bache-

for moved with his parents to
Los Angeles when he was 3.
"My father bought this ranch
as a retirement dream when I
was in high school" he says.
his arm outstretched toward
the 40-acre parcel. He has
managed the ranch since gra-
duating from high school, his
parents having returned to
their Los Angeles women's
clothing business.
Wishing to use the family
grapes father than sell them
to other producers, Weinstock
crushed his first vintage in
1984. Why kosher wine? "A
niche in a very competitive
market," he says. "We could
see future growth, with
younger Jews going back to
traditional ways and desiring
premium wines for rituals
and to serve with food. And

THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS

87

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