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EAST BAY TIMES -  9/5/14 - Kosher Wine Release - CLICK HERE

PLEASANTON WEEKLY - 9/15/14 - Kosher Wine Ready for New Year - CLICK HERE

NBC BAY AREA - 8/11/12

Kosher Wine Finds Champion in Livermore

The concrete-hustle of Manhattan is about as far in geography as it is in philosophy from the manicured vineyards of the Livermore wine region. And New York native, Rabbi Raleigh Resnick, admitted he knows far more about cabs than Cabernet.

“In my culture, it was skyscrapers and yellow taxi cabs,” Resnick said, tottering through a row of grapevines in Pleasanton. “This was as foreign to me as was Antarctica.”

Ever since Resnick’s rabbinical path plunked him down among the vines and wineries of the Tri-Valley seven years ago, he secretly dreamed of making his own wine. In his vision, it would be far removed from the well-intentioned, but less-than-stellar Manischewitz kosher wine that graced many a Rosh Hashana table. Still, the nagging issue of pedigree stood in his way.

“Born in New York City,” Resnick said, “never seen a vineyard in my life.”

Through a member of his congregation at the Chabad of the Tri-Valley, Resnick hooked-up with Livermore Valley winemaker Mitchell Katz, whose winery turns out some of the valley’s esteemed vintages. Though Katz isn’t Jewish, he was open to something new.

“They approached me and asked me if I had any interest in making a kosher wine,” said Katz. “I was kind of curious about it.”

Katz decided to throw in the grapes, the machinery and the know-how to the fledgling winemaker, with the understanding all the sweat and elbow grease would be handled by Rabbi Resnick.

“Everything has to be touched and done by the rabbi so technically he’ll be making the wine,” said Katz. “He even wants to drive the forklift and he’s never even driven a forklift before.”

For the wine to be labeled kosher, Resnick must supervise everything from the grape crushing, to the cleaning of machines, to the ingredients. Katz wasn’t exactly sure who was getting the better end of the deal.

“The rabbi said he has to punch down his particular grapes,” said Katz. “ I said ‘great, you can punch down some of mine while you’re at it.”

The pair hopes to turn-out about seventy cases of kosher Cabernet in time for the 2013 Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year, which this year, begins Sunday at sundown.

Resnick is holding a contest to let his congregation choose a name for the wine, which he claims will be the first kosher wine produced in Livermore. He also plans to blog about the experience.

With the energy of a hurtling asteroid, Resnick plucked a single grape from a vine, mumbled a quick prayer and popped it in his mouth. With a sigh and a spitting of seeds, he gave it a New York transplant’s seal of approval.

“To be able to bridge and fuse the Livermore wine culture with the Jewish community is literally fusing heaven and earth together,” he said.


Hold the Manischewitz: Livermore Winery to produce Kosher Cabernet

PLEASANTON — Forget the Manischewitz: the Livermore Valley plans to pass the cabernet at the table.

The Chabad of the Tri-Valley and Mitchell Katz Winery are jointly jumping into the kosher winemaking business, just in time for the Jewish new year.

Rosh Hashana begins Sept. 16 and the Chabad and winery announced they have begun production of a kosher cabernet sauvignon they hope to enjoy by the start of the next high holidays.

"Traditional kosher wine is very sweet and not considered a table or drinkable wine," said Daniel Kozak, a member of the Chabad who helped put together the partnership. "While it is used for a lot of observances or at holidays, it is not a wine you want to drink on a regular basis."

So the Chabad and Katz are tossing out the Concord grapes and ultrasweet taste that has graced many Jewish tables for decades and are replacing it with cabernet sauvignon.

Rabbi Raleigh Resnick, a New York City native who came to the Chabad of the Tri-Valley seven years ago, is providing the rabbinical supervision of the process from the "koshering" of the equipment to punching down while the wine ferments.

In order to be kosher, the winemaking process must be overseen by a rabbi, who also must certify all the ingredients. The equipment must also be sterilized in a certain way.

"This is unbelievable to bridge and bring together the local wine culture and the local community," said Resnick. "It is a fusion that will resonate so deeply and gladden the hearts of the Jewish community."

A name for the wine has not been selected but the Chabad plans to hold a contest to name it.

The process from vine to bottle could take between a year and 18 months, said Mitchell Katz, who jumped at the chance to partner with the Chabad and produce the Livermore Valley's first kosher wine. His will be the third known Bay Area winery to produce such a wine.

"One reason I said yes was because I (had) figured someone else was doing it," said Katz when he found out he would be the first in the Livermore Valley making kosher wine. "Something told me to help and I operate on instinct and Dan (Kozak) seemed like a nice guy."

Mitchell Katz Winery, which opened in 1998, produces about 8,000 cases of wine per year and plans to produce about 75 cases of the kosher wine on its first run.

"Livermore is known for wine and cowboys," said Kozak. "It is a way to bring in another sector of the community into the wine fold and puts an additional mark in Livermore's cap."

For more information on the Chabad of the Tri-Valley and to read blog posts from Resnick throughout the winemaking process, go to www.jewishtrivalley.com.


Jewish New Year under way with special kosher wine produced by Pleasanton's Mitchell Katz winery

Rosh Hashanan, a Jewish holy day that marks the beginning of 10 days of repentance and spiritual renewal, began at sundown last night.

In Pleasanton, the new year also brings wth it new excitement for the Tri Valley's Jewish community.

Following months of planning and in time for the 2012 harvest, the Chabad of the Tri Valley and Mitchell Katz Winery in Pleasanton undertook a joint venture in observance of the Jewish New Year,

A Livermore Valley kosher wine has been produced at the winery, which donated the grapes, barrels, and all the equipment for this first production.

"We see ourselves as an integrated part of community life and we are happy to partner with the local Jewish community to produce a premier kosher wine", said Mitchell Katz, the winery owner.

Rabbi Raleigh Resnick of Chabad of the Tri Valley has been providing the rabbinical supervision and overseeing the kosher production.

"I see this new project as a wonderful way of bringing together the local wine culture and the local Jewish community," Resnick said. "After all, the Jewish people probably have the oldest codified relationship to wine of any people on earth."

In Jewish tradition, wine is considered a holy beverage and an important part of many ceremonies. For this reason, the equipment is specially sterilized and the wine is handled and bottled in a very specific manner. Additionally, all ingredients and yeasts used in the process are certified kosher.

Daniel Kozak of Livermore, a member of the Jewish community with wine-making experience, spearheaded the project and coordinated the logistics.

"This inaugural year we hope to produce approximately 75 cases of Cabernet Sauvignon," Lozak said. "Once we see the process through to fruition, we can begin planning for future harvests."