This Hanukkah, Napa Valley winemaker Judd Finkelstein will get out the big frying pan, the one that covers all four burners, and cook latkes the way his dad used to.
And alongside the crisp potato pancakes hell serve a sparkling wine, just right for cutting through and complementing the fatty goodness. Hell also serve his own Judds Hill Estate pinot noir, a light-bodied red with enough acidity to keep things fresh-tasting.
There will be brisket on the table, too, and for that he might turn to a cabernet sauvignon, a traditional pairing, or a ripe, juicy zinfandel that will pick up on the heartiness of the meat.
Pairing wine with the traditional Hanukkah meal can be a challenge because of its emphasis on fried and sweet foods, but its certainly not impossible.
Joe Campanale, beverage director and co-owner of several Manhattan restaurants, including LArtusi, dell anima and Anfora, sees Hanukkah pairings as being akin to Thanksgiving, with its big mish-mash of flavors, not to mention personalities.
Campanale, who grew up celebrating Hanukkah, says the meals are typically, a lot of different flavors, different types of foods. Its going to be a lot of family together. Id try to go for something that is a crowd-pleasing kind of wine that also pairs well with a variety of different foods, wines that are more acid-driven, that are crisp, that are actually going to cleanse your palate.
For red wines, that could mean a barbera, a red wine from northwestern Italy, or a white wine from Frances Loire Valley. On the domestic front, he recommends a wine such as Sandhi Santa Barbara County Chardonnay that has been aged in neutral oak to give it more acidity and freshness. Another possibility is Yarden Galilee Sauvignon Blanc 2009, imported from Israel.
Crisp, lively wines are a good choice at Hanukkah to go with the fried foods and dairy that are a big part of the holiday.
Hanukkah, which begins Tuesday, celebrates the rededication of the holy temple in Jerusalem, and fried foods mark the story of a small jug of oil that miraculously kept a flame burning for eight days as a part of the ritual.
Latkes, a kind of potato pancake, are a staple. Styles vary from mild to spicy, so thats something to think about before choosing a wine, says Finkelstein. Brisket is another holiday favorite and here, too, the important thing when it comes to wine pairing is paying attention to how it is cooked. At the Finkelsteins, the brisket will be braised with onions, tomato and garlic, hence the cab and zinfandel pairing options.
Looking to try a few cocktails this Hanukkah?
Distillery No. 209 in San Francisco, producer of No. 209 gin, makes a special version of their product, No. 209 Kosher for Passover Gin. It was developed so observant Jews could enjoy gin over Passover, but it works for Hanukkah, too, says head distiller Arne Hillesland.
Gin and red meats like beef are just made for each other, he says.
Hes even got a solution for the tricky issue of sufganiyot, the jelly doughnuts that are traditional at Hanukkah.
Try a classic Alexander cocktail, he advises, one part gin, one part creme de cacao and one part heavy cream. Its a wonderful dessert cocktail, he says.
And if youre looking for a one-size-fits-all solution, Campanale agrees with Finkelstein that sparkling wine is a good choice.
Hanukkahs a celebration, he says, and whats more celebratory than bubbles?