Hagafen Cellars Hit by Cali Wildfires | The Jewish Week | Food & Wine

Hagafen Cellars Hit by Cali Wildfires

Hagafen Cellars Hit by Cali Wildfires

Kosher winery picks up the pieces after devastation

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This week, my thoughts and prayers turn to California whose wine country has been ravaged by ongoing wildfires.

While firefighting crews have made tremendous strides in containing the wildfires, as of this writing, at least 42 people have perished, more than 170 people are still reported missing, thousands more have been displaced from their homes, over 5,700 structures have been destroyed, and more than 214,000 acres have been consumed. These are the most devastating wildfires in California history, and the fires haven’t even been fully contained yet, much less extinguished. The clean-up, relief, and recovery effort will be no small task either.

Relatively positive reports are in from two of the California kosher wineries that have been adversely affected. The Covenant Winery in Berkley, CA, about 70 miles from the fires, suffered only a small loss in the vineyards. As Jeff Morgan, co-owner and winemaker of Covenant, said in one account: “Compared to our colleagues to the North in Napa and Sonoma, we’re in very good shape.”

 

Meanwhile, Ernie Weir, co-owner and winemaker at Hagafen Cellars in Napa Valley, was also relatively lucky – one of his neighboring wineries was utterly decimated, another badly burned.

“Hagafen has made it through the fires with some small damage,” Weir noted in an email to friends, colleagues, and customers, “but nothing we can't overcome!”

Most importantly, Weir reports, “all our employees are safe and well”, and Hagafen’s “tasting room and main office building is still standing and currently open” for business.

On the downside, Hagafen suffered some significant damage: “Our guest house, chicken coop, and some winery equipment didn't fare so well” and they also “lost about an acre of cabernet sauvignon vines and a lot of landscaping around the winery.”

Founded in 1979 by Weir and his wife, Irit, Hagafen wines have a reputation for high quality. Hagefen wines have been served at the White House, and a lot of their wine is actually sold to, and consumed by, non-Jews, further demonstrating their quality. The winery is “Napa Green Certified,” meaning it voluntarily meets the highest standards of local environmentalist compliance.

Each of Hagafen’s three wine labels, Hagafen (the primary label), Prix (their high-end/wine-club line) and Don Ernesto (their quaffable line) are available through the winery, while the primary Hagafen label wines are widely available in wine stores and kosher stores.

 

In an earlier email about the fires, Weir struck a philosophical note: “We have been humbled by nature once again but we remain resilient, adaptive, creative and happy to be alive.”

As Weir later noted, “we are pushing through and trying to get back on our feet the best we know how - by tasting and selling some wine!” Indeed.

Marching orders in hand, those of us gaping agog at all this from a distance should make a point of drinking and buying more California wine, especially doing so directly from those California wineries that are still open for business (the wineries enjoy better margins from direct-to-consumer sales, so go ahead and splurge a little).

As I write this, I’m enjoying a lovely glass of one of Hagafen’s older vintage cabs. I dug mine out from my cellar, but selected this vintage because it is still available to purchase from their website under “Library Wines.”

Hagafen Cellars, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, 2006 ($95; mevushal): Upon its initial release, according to my old notes, this was a wonderful though brooding, tannic, closed, deep-dark-garnet-colored Cab (with 11% cabernet franc blended in) that over the years (per my various notes) developed into a stunning wine. Now 11 years after vintage, this decidedly softer, ruby-tinted charmer is still rich, complex, and hedonistically pleasing with lovely jammy blackberry and black cherry notes, as well as softer and rounder notes of plum and blackcurrant, tantalizing mocha, and subtle espresso. The finish is engagingly long and smooth. L’Chaim!

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