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Virginia’s Molon Lave has a place at Seder table with kosher wines
Question of the Day
Warrenton, Va. — Walking through the cellar of Molon Lave Vineyards, the tape bearing the words “void if tampered” wraps around the knobs of tanks and the corks of barrels.
During the Passover Seder meal, four cups of wine are incorporated into the annual Jewish feast. The silverware, dishes and unleavened bread are closely supervised to conform with ritual demands — and so is the wine.
For Louizos Papadopoulos, owner and winemaker at the 5-year-old Molon Lave, the production of kosher wine adds a layer of appreciation to the winemaking art.
“It’s opening our wines to people who can appreciate it in a different scope,” he said.
While Mr. Papadopoulos expects an increase in the kosher wine business with Passover, the wine business as a whole has never done better. Americans consumed 750 million gallons of wine in 2012 — that’s 2.73 gallons per person, according to the Wine Institute.
Kosher wines, from traditional American brands such as Manischewitz and Mogen David to a slew of highly praised new imports from Israel, Chile, Argentina and other markets, now constitute a U.S. market topping $30 million in sales a year, according to estimates.
As the first and only kosher winery in Virginia, Molon Lave is looking to fill a void for the faithful throughout the mid-Atlantic.
“We can make good wine, but there really is no good wine for people who cannot — are not allowed — under their religion to appreciate it,” he said.
Kosher wine, which makes up to about 25 percent of the Warrenton-based winery’s total product, does not differ in production methods from non-kosher wines. The grapes come from the same vine, are pressed the same way and go into the same bottles.
“Really, there is no difference in the method that it’s made other than the handling and the supervision. Those are the two key words,” Mr. Papadopoulos said.
The people who handle the grapes during production must be verified to be Orthodox Jews, and the entire process must be supervised by a rabbi who is certified under the Orthodox Union. Kosher wine makers can’t use any products, such as unauthorized yeasts or other potentially non-kosher ingredients, that might violate kosher standards.
Ironically, the initial reason behind Molon Lave’s production of kosher wine had little to do with religious convictions, the winemaker recalled.
Mr. Papadopoulos also works in the jewelry business and has colleagues in the diamond business in New York.
“They jokingly said we should make some kosher wine, and that’s how it started,” he said.
Those same friends are the vineyard’s customers today.
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