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.
To follow Resnick’s winemaking blog, follow this link