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Herzog Wine Cellars, California

Herzog Wine Cellars, where cigar smoking is strictly kosher.
Alejandro Benes
Posted: August 30, 2010

Joseph Herzog is walking toward my table while he gently pulls the cork out of a bottle of a 1996 cabernet sauvignon.

"Just look at that cork," Herzog says, handing it to me. "It's perfect."

So is the wine. Like silk. Rich, ruby-red silk.

"The wine is just great," Herzog softly remarks.

The wine is his. Well, it belongs to the Herzog Wine Cellars in, of all places, Oxnard, California. Herzog Wine Cellars (not to be confused and no relation to the Herzog Winery in New Zealand) is a kosher winery, one of two in California. The state of the art facilities in Oxnard, about 60 miles northwest of Los Angeles, are listed on the Ventura County Wine Trail map. The restaurant at the winery, Tierra Sur, also kosher, is on many of the area's lists of best restaurants. What is not so often noted is that Herzog Wine Cellars is cigar friendly.

After Joseph finishes his second pouring of the '96 cab into my glass, my dining companions and I study the menu. I ask the server whether he recommends the seared duck breast with confit of duck leg and red wine, fig and shallot sauce or the wood-grilled rib eye steak with onion gratin, almond bread crumbs and cabernet green peppercorn sauce.

Joseph interjects. "What do I always say?" he asks the waiter. "I recommend the rib eye," the waiter advises.

My guests choose the Cornish game hen and the wood-grilled organic salmon.

Before we can decide on an appetizer, a plate of house-made kosher chorizo and salami, accompanied by roasted red pepper and a green chickpea mash, is set on the table with thinly sliced French bread and English mustard. The restaurant makes all its own charcuterie, some out of lamb, like the "bacon." On other visits I've ordered the lamb sausage, which is really a version of a beautifully spiced merguez, a classic North African sausage.

After I take the final sip of the cabernet, I order a glass of the zinfandel. Great with the nicely cooked rib eye.

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