A kosher Riesling wine is being produced for the first time in Ontario – and it started as a challenge Rabbi Levy Teitlebaum threw out to a community member who always asks for more kosher products to be made available.
“I said find the product and I’d love to work with them,” said Rabbi Teitlebaum, director of the Ottawa Vaad HaKashrut (OVH).
Soon, he was teamed up with Huff Estates Winery in Prince Edward County.
The winery was intrigued by the idea of producing a kosher wine, said Rabbi Teitlebaum. “It fit their business module of being community.”
Although the winery and Rabbi Teitlebaum or OVH are not business partners in the traditional sense, the rabbi sees the relationship they formed as a partnership because, to him, “certifying their product is a partnership.”
Beyond producing and certifying the wine, he says that ,together, “we made something that wasn’t there until now, so in that sense it truly is a partnership.”
Jason Sharpe, Huff Estates Winery’s general manager, said that, after letting the idea sit with him, and doing more research, he realized no kosher wines were being produced locally. Sharpe said he’s always looking for new markets to sell wine to and believes the Jewish community should have access to the “Go Local” movement.
Making kosher wine, as Rabbi Teitlebaum explained, is a unique process.
“You have this wine master, who’s a professional and a perfectionist in what he does … but he can’t do anything. Every step of the way, whatever’s being done, from crushing the grapes, to taking the samples … [and] racking the wine – everything has to be done by us: the mashgiach or the rabbi. It’s very hands on for us,” said Rabbi Teitlebaum, who enlisted the help of a Kingston-based rabbi in the winemaking process.
Sharpe said that, with the exception of having to instruct someone else in doing the actual work, the kosher Riesling was made like their other products.
“It all went very smoothly. I believe that the reason for that is simply the mutual respect we had for each other,” said Rabbi Teitlebaum.
While the rabbi said it was hard telling the winemakers they could not touch what they were making, he feels the method for kosher certification helped create a relationship built on respect.
“What I like to do,” he said, “is spend time learning their business, understanding the way they run their business … and then fit kosher into that.”
Looking to the future, there has been talk of creating a mevushal (pasteurized) version of the wine ,which would allow anyone to handle it. Sharpe said they are also hoping to expand the production from the 220 cases they made this year.
The kosher Riesling wine can be ordered at https://huffestates.com/.