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New York Jewish Couple Redefines Kosher Wine Market

 “We want Jews to stop drinking terrible wines or good wines that are overpriced. They don’t need to compromise anymore.”
[additional-authors]
March 28, 2024
Larissa and Ami Nahari

When Larissa and Ami Nahari made the decision to venture into the wine industry, they encountered skepticism. Despite working in unrelated fields and lacking expertise in wine beyond their appreciation for it, the New York Jewish couple remained resolute in their mission to revolutionize the somewhat stagnant kosher wine market. Their aim was to introduce a diverse range of wines that were previously unavailable.

Ami recalled how some individuals even chuckled behind their backs, doubting the young couple’s prospects. Yet, their astonishment was palpable upon discovering that they had been honored as the Most Innovative Kosher Company by the Jewish Link last year.

In a phone interview from their New York home, Larissa recounted to the Journal the genesis of their wine business.

“Upon inquiring about an importer, we were surprised to learn they didn’t have one. That’s essentially how we got started, and from there, other Israeli wineries learned about us, and our journey began.”

“We traveled to Israel because Ami is originally from there, and we wanted to establish a deeper connection,” she said. “At the time, we were exploring various business opportunities, not specifically related to wine. However, during our visit, Ami’s father introduced us to a winery, and we were immediately drawn to it. Upon inquiring about an importer, we were surprised to learn they didn’t have one. That’s essentially how we got started, and from there, other Israeli wineries learned about us, and our journey began.”

Despite lacking any prior knowledge of importing wine to the U.S. or distributing it to stores, they embarked on a journey of learning from scratch. Moreover, shortly after commencing their imports from Israel, they made the bold decision to venture into producing their own wine. Teaming up with Gabriel and Shimon Weiss of Shirah Wine, they introduced a line of California wines, Twin Suns, that were more accessible and budget friendly. Their main product, a cabernet sauvignon, garnered critical acclaim with a score of 93 points at the New York International Wine Competition and was hailed by Jewish Link Kosher Wine Guide as the best kosher red wine under $25. Over time, their product range expanded to encompass some of the country’s most esteemed wine regions, including Napa, Sonoma and Oregon’s Willamette Valley.

Twin Suns’ namesakes, twin sons Ivri and Eitan

“We’ve introduced numerous wines and spirits to the kosher market that were previously unheard of. However, the brand closest to our hearts is Twin Suns, named after our twin boys: Ivri and Eitan,” Larissa said. “Their birth coincided with the inception of River Wine.”

“It’s almost impossible to make certain kosher wines such as Amarone, which is a very famous Italian wine,” said Ami. “We were the first to make it as well as Passover whiskey and Passover aged tequila, which was not available before to consumers.”

Their portfolio of kosher wines is extensive and impressive, including Super Tuscan, Willamette Valley Oregon Pinot Noir, Old Vine Zinfandel aged in whiskey barrels, and Barbera D’Asti.

The company’s growth has surpassed their expectations, advancing rapidly. While they sold 700 cases of wine in their first year, this year they exceeded 40,000 cases in sales.

Balancing parenthood with the demands of traveling to wineries, both domestic and international presents its challenges, but with the assistance of Larissa’s mother, they manage. 

“When we journey to Italy, France or Israel, we typically bring the boys along,” said Larissa said. “When we travel to wineries in Napa Valley or Oregon, we usually take turns. Having your own business has its own benefits, but also keeps us very busy. We are just really non-stop. We always look for the next thing, what the kosher market doesn’t have yet. We are constantly evolving.”

Larissa was born in Connecticut, growing up in what she describes as a “very wine-centric household.” Ami was born in Yemin Orde, near Haifa, and spent part of his childhood in Toronto, where his parents served as “shlichim” (teachers for the Jewish Agency), before returning to Israel and making their home in Efrat, an Israeli settlement in the West Bank. Ami moved to the United States 25 years ago, where he met his wife.

Their company now exports wine to 12 countries and enjoys widespread distribution across the U.S., with major markets in New York, Miami and Los Angeles.

 “We want Jews to stop drinking terrible wines or good wines that are overpriced. They don’t need to compromise anymore,” said Ami. “They can drink kosher wines like regular wines. We introduced a new Italian line called Dacci, which is mid-tier, and we have a unique rosé from Oregon, which is very high-end.” This wine was just selected by Trader Joe’s to be sold on the mainstream rosé shelf, not necessarily as kosher, which is very rare for kosher-certified wines.

Buyers can find The River Wine products in many kosher markets around town as well as Ralphs and Pavilions.

Meanwhile, their twin sons remain completely unaware of the significance of having a brand named after them. 

“People are always enthusiastic when they meet them, but they don’t quite grasp the excitement,” Larissa said. “They just roll their eyes.”

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