Blog posts, Cheese, Holiday Wines, Italian Food, wine, Wine and Food Pairing

Thirsty Thursday Chats Passover and Easter: Wines and Foods to Delight and Grace Your Holiday Table

As part of my monthly segment on 850 KOA with The Mandy Connell Show, we are once again turning our attention to holiday wines and the foods that love them. This time, we are taking a look at options for your Passover or Easter holiday scene. Since both holidays were severely limited in 2020 due to the virus, this year looks to be slightly better thanks to the efforts to get vaccines out there and better understanding of how this particular scum bag operates. I do hope that you will get to spend time with family and friends this year and would like to offer some options to make this holiday even more special.

I will kick this post off first by discussing some wines from Israel for my friends who are either looking for Kosher wine or who are interested in trying some more unusual wines. If you don’t know, Israel is hot and dry but the Israeli wine growers have truly mastered the art of terracing, irrigation, and root grafting to make some truly lovely and affordable wines. Heavily influenced by Bordeaux wine makers (specifically, Lafite-Rothschild), the wines coming out of the small Mediterranean country are worth a serious look. In the March 2021 segment of Thirsty Thursdays (this show airs on 4 March at 2pm Mountain or catch the podcast on iHeart), we will be tasting a lovely white wine from the Golan Heights Winery, produced in Galilee (making it also very appropriate for those observing Easter!) A blend of Viognier and Sauvignon Blanc, the Hermon White is a delightfully crisp and brightly acidic wine, perfect for your holiday celebrations (although I am not sure if this one is Kosher for Passover, it is certainly Kosher for all other events.) Coming in at around $10-14, you can pick up a few bottles without breaking your budget. This is a perfect wine to pair with chicken dishes or light salads or seafood.

Our red wine, also from the Galilee, is a lovely and balanced Cabernet Sauvignon and is actually Kosher for Passover (thanks, Susan Witkin for the list!) The tannins on the Barkan Classic are balanced with medium acidity and dark, black fruit, making this wine a lovely wine to pair with lamb or heavier proteins. Salt will really bring out the best in this wine, so for Easter observers, this wine would rock your Easter ham as well. It is on the young side, so do be sure to open it up and allow it to breathe for 30 minutes or so. This wine also is very affordable and you can find it priced anywhere from $12 to $15.

I promised Mandy some unusual wines for our Passover and Easter discussions, so let’s take a look at some fun wines for your consideration. I have several white wines to offer, moderately priced in that $21 to $30 price range, so if you have white wine drinkers joining you for the Easter holiday (or spring, in general), here are some fun wines for you to try (and some are orange! Wait…what???? More to follow on that.)

In addition to our white blend from Galilee, we have a unique and bright wine from the eastern European country of Georgia…now, it is hard for me not to hum “The Devil Went Down to Georgia,” when tasting wines from Château Mukhrani (although I do wonder if El Diablo picked out the names of some of these wines for me to try and pronounce!) Our white wine is a common Georgian grape called Goruli Mtsvane. I am going to just call this one a “gor-oo-lee” because my southern born tongue is NOT going to tackle the second part of the name. This hearty grape is resistant to a common plague for wine growers, downy mildew (gardeners in Colorado should also be familiar) and holds up well against frost. It is also known as “green Gori,” (now, I can pronounce THAT!) You will note the floral components on the nose but it definitely has a citrus influence, hello lime-aid, on the pallet. A great wine for your first courses or even with a cheese course if you are going all out this year for your holiday table. It also has a honeyed finish and bright acidity, so pair this one up with Big Mama’s fried chicken, Nana’s sausage balls, or Auntie M’s cheese ball. Yum. Sorry…I am having flash backs to my childhood…give me a moment…

*Shakes off nostalgia* Okay, where was I? Oh yes…orange wines! I would like to give a shout out to a Mandy listener, Kendra, sent me a question after our last Thirsty Thursday segment about orange wines. What a great question and yes, orange wines are having a moment right now. So, what are they and why should you care? Well, orange wines are, quite simply, the rosés of your white wine varietals. Instead of spending a short period of time on the skins of the grapes like rosés, these are white wines that remain in contact with the skins (and sometimes seeds) for an extended period of time in order to impart color, complexity, and tartness that its white wine brothers and sisters lack. Often compared to sour ales, these wines (which can also be called auburns) have a firm structure than their white wine counterparts and can thus hold up against bigger foods (ie, your Easter ham or even, EGAD!!!, your red protein of lamb!!!) They are often big, bold, dry, and yes, tannic! Love red wines but they hate you? Drink orange wines. Now, because of the time spent on skins and seeds, these wines are not going to be in your bargain bin section. If you go to to a typical liquor store, you may get a blank expression if you ask for an orange wine…but trust me, the $30 to $60 you may spend on some of these wines, especially for an important holiday, will be worth it. For our Thirsty Thursday segment, we will be enjoying a gorgeous orange wine from Sicily called Cos. I won’t try to pronounce the rest of the name, because once again, this southern girl’s tongue is tongue tied. This wine was fermented in clay (yep, good ole terracotta for six months to a year) with natural yeast. The varietal is Zibibbo (say that three times) and is a perfect wine to enjoy with your salumi and cheese tray. This is the kind of wine that pairs with turkey, ham, prime rib (yes, try it), or your Noni’s stuffed shells. This the wine that I planned for when I decided my Lenten sacrifices…I gave up spirits and beer because this wine would ruin me when I tasted it with Mandy. Hey, wine was a miracle, after all…and this wine lives up to that. You will spend at least $30 for this gem…but sooo worth it.

If you want to splurge even more, check out the Bea orange wines (they will range from $50 to $80.)

We have even more red wines to try…after all, red wine plays an important role in The Last Supper and many Christian denominations. I even have an ancient varietal that depicts The Last Supper on its label…and it is a favorite of mine for Easter simply because of its approachability and pairing ease. Instead of introducing the wines (we have several, to include some from Greece, Georgia, Italy, France, and South Africa), I am just going to leave this here…

Now this would make for a lovely offering for your holiday wine table. What? You don’t have a wine table when your family gathers? Well, we do. And it is awesome.

I already mentioned the Piculit Neri (second from the left.) This is an ancient varietal brought back to modernity by wine maker, Emilio Bulfon, and let me tell you…you cannot go wrong with this little wine for your table, any time of the year. It is the perfect food wine and I love it’s simplicity of balance. The acidity and tannins have equal play on the pallet making it the perfect wine for whatever food you are enjoying. Having pizza? Check. This $20 wine is an excellent choice. Having a rack of lamb or leg of lamb for your post Covid-zombie-apocalypse Easter celebration with your family (sorry, did I just describe my family’s gathering now that Grandma and Grandpa and Nana are all vaccinated?) then you chose correctly. This wine is a common guest at my table, regardless of the time of year.

I chose a few other wines that will delight the wine enthusiast and as well as the wine novice…Painted Wolf (between Piculit Neri and Barkan) is a Pinotage (a varietal created in South Africa) that the coffee lovers in your life will appreciate. It is a cultivated grape combining Pinot Noir and Cinsaut and the result is one of licorice, sweet tobacco (think cherry and vanilla pipe tobacco), and smoke…it is PERFECT for barbeque or smoked ham. At a reasonable $20 price range, this wine is fantastic for your spring flings, especially if they involve barbeque ribs, pork, or ham.

If we are representing the early Biblical world, Greece needs to be in the mix. Thema, which is a blend of Syrah and (please don’t ask me to pronounce it) Agiorgitiko, this wine also embodies a coffee lover’s dream…dark notes of tobacco, toffee, plum, and coffee…it has a tannic back bone suited for lamb or prime rib but acidity that can hold up to a country ham with scalloped potatoes.

And not to be out done by the Greeks, the Georgians (Château Mukhrani) are also representing well with a big, tannic wine, suitable for your heavier proteins, especially if steak, prime rib, or wild game are on the menu. Saperavi is the varietal and it is the most famous of the Georgian wine grapes. This wine is noted for its jammy quality, with rich, black fruits on the nose and pallet, and its ability to age. Buy some for Easter and lay down what you don’t drink in 2021. At only five years in bottle, this funky little wine can easily lay down for another five plus years.

We also have, finally, and I have to take a moment for this one, a 100% Grenache Châteauneuf-du-Pape…I mean, COME ON! Yes, Wine Folly calls this wine (CDP) the “gateway drug to French wine” (and they’re not wrong) but usually CDP is a blend, heavy on the Grenache with the kitchen sink thrown in…they can add up to 16 different varietals. But this little beauty is 100% pure, unadulterated, Grenache. Justin, the manager of The Wine Gallery, didn’t even ask me if I wanted this to taste. He just put it up there, up front, and insisted on its inclusion in this tasting. It is that glorious. However, it is not for the faint of heart. The price point makes this one a challenge, so if you have wine drinkers who don’t appreciate the nuance of French wines, maybe save this one for the post party.

Soooo, the food. Our food tasting will be an assortment of local cheeses and charcuterie from Springside Cheese Shop, as well as some amazing offerings from The French Kitchen, which will be offering a sale on their frozen food selections on March 6th plus upcoming Queenet and Baguette celebrations this month, and even gluten free options from Outside the Breadbox Bakery, we will also be enjoying some delicious lamb chops doused in an amazing rub from Savory Spice Shop, Nana’s Sausage Balls made with Springside’s 3 Year Cheddar, and Auntie M’s cheese ball made with Savory’s 7 Onion Dip and Springside’s 2 Year Cheddar, Springeside’s Pueblo Chile spread, Denver Chip Co.’s yummy chips…and did I mention Springside offers sandwiches now??? Whew! Hope Mandy and Chuck have their appetites ready cause we got some food to eat and wine to taste!

As always, please feel free to reach out to me via this platform or on my website, I am happy to answer questions, offer pairing suggestions, or help you find the perfect wine for your event.

Thanks for listening!

Cheers and namaste,


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