By Rebecca F. Johnson / Contra Costa Times
Whether it is a sip between bride and groom under the wedding chuppah, a dribble given to a baby boy at his bris or a glass poured to the prophet Elijah at the Seder table, wine plays a key role in Jewish traditions.
“Every one of these milestones and celebrations is marked in Jewish life by wine,” said Rabbi Raleigh Resnick, director of the Chabad of the Tri-Valley.
That is why it is especially sweet that for the upcoming Jewish New Year — Rosh Hashana, which begins at sundown Sept. 24 — Resnick and other members of the Valley Jewish community can enjoy a kosher varietal produced right here.
The wine is the brainchild of Livermore resident Daniel Kozak, and was crafted two years ago using cabernet sauvignon grapes and equipment at the Mitchell Katz Winery. The Livermore winery, which opened in 1998, is known for its single-vineyard wines.
The wine been aging in oak barrels and will make its debut at “L’Chaim Chabad,” a celebration of the launch of the organization’s 10th year in the Valley on Sunday, Sept. 14 at Castlewood Country Club in Pleasanton.
The wine was named “Alef” following a communitywide contest. Resnick said Alef, the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet, is especially appropriate because Jewish mysticism denotes it as the fusion of Heaven and Earth, which he equates to bringing the sublime and holy into the everyday grind.
“Introducing wine really infuses joy and festivity and spirit,” he said.
Although the process of creating the kosher wine follows typical winemaking principles, Resnick supervised each step — from ensuring sterility of the equipment to the punching down of the grapes and beyond.
“Because wine is used for sanctification and holy purposes, it needs to be produced in a special, kosher manner,” he said.
Despite the need for the rabbi to be in attendance, Kozak said many people participated in seeing the wine, which has more cachet than the traditional Manischewitz, come to fruition.
“Lots of people from the Tri-Valley helped in getting it done,” said Kozak, a Livermore resident and novice winemaker himself who will be one of the honorees at the L’Chaim Chabad event. “It was really a community effort.”
The 2012 Alef, which Kozak calls a nice addition to the Valley and had a small run of about 40 cases, could be the first of several kosher wines produced in the region.
Chabad is hoping to find other wineries to participate and partner with so that locally-produced kosher wine can be poured at many a future holiday or commemoration.