Ready for the holidays? This year, who isn’t? Unlike past years, 2020’s holiday season will be more intimate with less extended family and less celebrations with friends. But that’s no reason to skimp!
We’ll be celebrating Chanukah with flair. That means lots of hearty, comfort food; Cultivar wine; and treats! Chanukah this year is before Christmas: December 10 through December 17, 2020. (If you celebrate both holidays you have a month of non-stop celebration from Thanksgiving through to Christmas!)
Jewish holidays start at sundown. So, the first night you light your Chanukah menorah is at sundown on the first day. For 2020, you’ll light the candle for the first night (rightmost candle from the center candle—the Shammash or helper candle in your menorah) on December 10th.
Traditional Chanukah Foods
Chanukah celebrates the reconsecration of the Temple in Jerusalem after the Macabees expelled the Greeks. When they went to light the menorah on the new altar, they found only enough oil for one day. They used the oil they found, and the menorah stayed illuminated for not one, but eight days.
To commemorate the miracle of the oil, we eat lots of fried foods. The most popular of these foods are latkes or potato pancakes and sufganiyot or jelly-filled donuts. Luckily, latkes make a great side dish for brisket.
Pairing Wines with Chanukah Brisket
Brisket, in my opinion, is one of the best Jewish holiday staples. It’s filling. It looks harder to cook than it really is. And best of all? It pairs with so many Cultivar wines.
Our favorite Cultivar reds for our Slow Cooker Chanukah Brisket, which we typically eat for the night of Chanukah that falls on Shabbat (December 11th this year) are:
If you like savoring your wine and have some left for your dessert, you can even enjoy some 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon Leaky Lake Vineyard with Graham Cracker Toffee Treats. When preparing your treats be sure to use a 1:1 mix of bittersweet, dark chocolate with your chocolate chips when coating your caramel-soaked graham crackers. This gives your treats a little bite and doesn’t overwhelm your wine.
Pairing Wines with a Cheesy Repast
Because Chanukah lasts eight nights there are lots of opportunities to eat good food and drink great wine. One another night we celebrate Judith, who according to lore was either the aunt or daughter of Judah Maccabee, the hero of the Chanukah oil story.
During the siege of her town of Bethulia in Israel, Judith met with the Assyrians’ general, Holofernes. She served him food—cheese—to make him thirsty and drink more wine. After he drank a lot and passed out, Judith took his sword and cut off his head. The Israelites inspired by his severed head attacked and the Assyrians fled.
We’re not Kosher, but for holidays we like to observe some of the basic guidelines: no pork; no shellfish; and no mixing of dairy and meat. Rather than make sure we have an hour between when we nibble on cheesy goodness before diving into our brisket, we just celebrate Judith on a different night.
As Judith probably served cheeses made from either goat or sheep’s milk, we put together a cheese plate with Goat Gouda, Goat Cheese, and Goat Brie. Along with the cheese plate are fresh from the oven Pomegranate Pips, Pecan with Goat Cheese and Persimmon with Goat Brie stuffed dates. For our main, we typically enjoy Pecorino Romano, Panko Crusted Baked Eggplant.
The best part of this meal? Both white wine and red wine drinkers will be happy.
Our favorite Cultivar wines for our celebration of Judith are:
2019 Cultivar Sauvignon Blanc Napa Valley
2018 Cultivar Cabernet Sauvignon Napa County
2019 Cultivar Pinot Noir Santa Lucia Highlands
We serve our eggplant with lemon slices, puttanesca, goat cheese crumbles, and fig balsamic vinegar on the side. Depending on which Cultivar wine our guests are enjoying they can finish the main to match.
We recommend freshly squeezed lemon with the 2019 Cultivar Sauvignon Blanc Napa Valley; puttanesca with either the 2018 Cultivar Cabernet Sauvignon Napa County or 2019 Cultivar Pinot Noir Santa Lucia Highlands; goat cheese crumbles with drizzled fig balsamic vinegar with the 2019 Cultivar Pinot Noir Santa Lucia Highlands.
Eden Hensley Silverstein is a third-generation Californian, who has been feeding her family, friends, and soon-to-be friends around her kitchen table since she was in third grade. Along with her husband, 8.5 year old daughter, and Maine Coon/Ragamuffin rescue cat, she makes 849 sq ft a welcoming home in The Mission. They share recipes and misadventures on The Road to the Good Life.
DISCLAIMER: I was provided with the Cultivar wines for free by Cultivar SF for tasting and pairing. All opinions are my own. The links in this post are not affiliate links. I simply like the wines and wanted to make it easy for you to learn more about Cultivar and the wines. Some of the wines are only available through the Cultivar Wine Club. If you’re in SF, I highly recommend considering it as you can pick up your wines at Cultivar SF and enjoy tasty bites at their release parties.