On Sunday, March 31, Christian priests and ministers will lift chalices of wine in remembrance of the sacrifice, death, and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth. Many churchgoers will drink from the same cups as an acknowledgement of, and sign of faith in, the church’s foundational story. Known as sacramental, communion, or altar wine, the wine poured and consumed during religious ceremonies is specifically intended for this use.
Wine was employed in the very earliest religious celebrations. And when Christians gather together at the Easter table, it is likewise appropriate to mark the occasion with a glass, or two, of wine.
There are several wines of religious significance that will inspire lively conversation at the Easter dinner table.
Galil Mountain Chardonnay is grown in Upper Galilee, in Israel. The Galilee region was presumably the home of Jesus during 30, or more, years of his life. The first three gospels of the New Testament are mainly an account of Jesus' public ministry in the region. This wine has citrus characteristics rounded out with attractive oak. If stored properly, it should age well over two to three years.
Dalton Canaan White Wine is a blend produced by Dalton Winery, also in Israel. Canaan and the Canaanites are mentioned more than 150 times in the Old Testament. This white wine is a Sauvignon Blanc, Viognier, Chardonnay, and Muscat blend, with bright citrus and savory herbal notes tempered with a soft and creamy texture.
Domaine Jean-Louis Chave St. Joseph Offerus is a red wine produced with grapes grown in the great northern Rhône Valley wine appellation known as St. Joseph, in France. St. Joseph is a west bank appellation producing reds from the Syrah grape and whites from Marsanne and Roussanne. The region is named for Joseph of Arimathea, canonized in the middle ages. According to the gospels, Joseph, a man of wealth, was present for the resurrection, and donated his own prepared tomb for the burial of Jesus after crucifixion.
Mastroberardino Lacryma Christi Del Vesuvio is the stuff of folklore and tradition. Legend says that Lucifer grabbed a piece of heaven as he was being cast out of it, and dropped it near Naples in Italy. When God found a piece of heaven was missing, tears were shed, and vines grew on Mount Vesuvius where God’s tears landed. This wine is predominantly Piedirosso, an Italian red grape variety from Campania. Piedirosso is typically used as a blending wine in the Naples area. When it is blended with Olivella and Aglianico, the wine is known as Lachryma Christi del Vesuvio, as it is in this case.
Yarden Mount Hermon Galilee Red is produced by a vintner considered the pioneer of high-quality Israeli winemaking. Mount Hermon itself is located in the highest point in Israel. It covers an area of 5,000 acres and rises more than 2,500 meters above sea level. Mount Hermon is mentioned in both the Old and New Testaments. Yarden’s Mount Hermon is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc.
Principe Corsini Fattoria le Corti ‘Sant’ Andrea’ Vin Santo is named after the only member of the Corsini family that was canonized a saint, a former bishop of Firenze, Sant’ Andrea Corsini. Vin Santo or Vino Santo (holy wine) is a style of Italian dessert wine.
Several of the wines on this list are from Israel. It would not be difficult to argue that any Easter dinner would be enhanced by serving a wine from the Holy Land.
Documented as a wine producing region in biblical times, modern-day Israel’s reputation as a fine-wine producing region is growing, and many good bottles find their way to the United States.
The history of wine in Israel is as old as recorded history. In fact, prior to the discovery of the world’s oldest known winery in Armenia, the earliest known wine press had dated back to 1650 B.C. and was excavated in the West Bank in 1963. There is archaeological evidence of winemaking in the region over five thousand years ago, and evidence that wine was used in religious ceremonies and as a libation.
Although there are vineyards in virtually every corner of Israel, the best wines are grown predominantly in the north, in the Galilee and Golan Heights. Israel’s grapes are the international varietals with which you are familiar — Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Merlot, amongst others.
If you plan on dining out this year rather than hosting, several restaurants in the Baltimore area are featuring Easter specials.
Local favorite Fleet Street Kitchen has developed tailored brunch, lunch, and dinner menus. The Easter dinner bill of fare features a duck confit appetizer with soubise, caramelized onion crumble, orange peel mostarda, and duck jus. The chef is also preparing a roasted veal loin entrée with late winter vegetables, oyster mushrooms, braised flank, and lobster-veal sauce.
A special, lamb-centric Easter menu will be served at Lebanese Taverna from 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m., including Sharhat (sliced lamb loin with a three-herb green sauce), Habra Nayeh (fresh chopped lamb with garlic, marjoram, olive oil and mint), and slow roasted leg of lamb. In addition to the specials, the à la carte menu will be offered all day.
Other local restaurants offering Easter specials include:
Roy's Hawaiian Fusion
Wit & Wisdom
Access a full list of participating restaurants and more information here.