Californians that really take the brisket

By Richard Ehrlich, September 13, 2012

I am surely not the only person whose favourite childhood moment of Rosh Hashanah came with the blowing of the shofar. I may sometimes have had trouble sitting still during the rest of the service, but the thrilling blasts roused me to instant alertness.
Once shul was finished, of course, attention shifted from the spiritual to the gastronomic. In our family, Rosh Hashanah meant a traditional Ashkenazi meal: chicken soup and brisket. For me, however, the soup might not have existed. What mattered was the brisket.
Reader, you do not understand how your life has been impoverished by never eating my mother’s brisket. Though heavily influenced by French braising methods (this was New York in the age of Julia Child), it would have felt right at home in the shtetls where my parents’ ancestors came from. I adored it then, and adore it now. Even though these days I have to make it myself.
Brisket calls for robust wine, and California Zinfandel
fits the picture perfectly. For those keeping kosher, Baron Herzog Zinfandel is a big, fat, jammy dambuster of a wine. And at £9.98 reduced from £13.89 at, it’s also a pretty good bargain.
If kosher doesn’t matter, and price is no object, consider Ridge Lytton Springs Zinfandel 2009. Ridge is arguably California’s greatest producer, and its single-vineyard blends from Sonoma County are — though not its most expensive — its crowning glory. Big, powerful, endlessly complex. The wines are not exactly widely available, but the estimable Noel Young Wines always has them, as do Majestic Wine Warehouses. Around £30-£32 — worth every penny.
Our meal finished with a small assortment of sweet things. Never more than 20 varieties, as I remember. With those honey-rich baked goods, I would turn to an old standby: Brown Brothers Orange Muscat & Flora (widely available, around £7-£8/37.5cl). Forgive me if I have recommended this before, but it’s a perfect wine on this occasion if you don’t keep kosher. A fine way to sweeten the New Year. L’shana tova.

Last updated: 11:13am, September 13 2012