Carl Kanowsky: A delicious solution for Valentine’s Day

Carl Kanowsky

Quandary: After 35 years of marriage, what to do on Valentine’s Day? Fortunately, Salt Creek Grille comes through!

Terry and I decided to hold our own little wine tasting while being served a sumptuous meal.

Arriving at 5 (early, yes, but it beats the crowds that flock to the dearth of fine restaurants serving our valley), Jennifer Chadwick got us seated. We told her that we had brought two wines with us, a fine California chardonnay and a Paso Robles Rhone from an acclaimed producer.

You see, Greg Amsler, Salt Creek’s proprietor, had proclaimed that he enjoyed whites like sauvignon blanc and just about any red, but he is not a fan of chardonnay. To challenge that perception (and maybe win over a convert), we brought the 2015 Aubert Chardonnay from Reuling Vineyard.

Aubert, though based in Napa Valley, has outstanding resources for chardonnay in neighboring Sonoma County. And Mark Aubert hit gold with Reuling Vineyard. Robert Parker ranked Aubert’s chardonnay from Reuling from a relative low of 94 to a lofty 99.

So, our waiter opened the Aubert. Unfortunately, I had bought the bottle at auction and wasn’t sure about how well the previous owner had cared for it. While I’ve had it for several years and always kept it stored on its side in the right temperature and humidity, I guess the prior owner had let the cork dry out.

Jennifer Chadwick, Director of Sales for Salt Creek Grille, arrives with a bottle of Aubert Chardonnay.  Photo courtesy of Carl Kanowsky.

The cork crumbled, successfully resisting any attempt at a clean extraction. Jennifer came to the rescue with a strainer and a decanter. Fortunately, the backbone of the wine allowed it to still shine. Despite its 15 years of age, it was still bright and crisp, with some hibiscus in the bouquet. Banana and vanilla tastes combined with a long finish – I loved it.

Terry got tropical and banana on the nose and stone fruit and shale in the taste, along with a potpourri of additional fruits – lemon, grapefruit and peach. She noted the long finish, also.

Jennifer also thoroughly enjoyed the Aubert, detecting many of the same notes as Terry and I, along with a sweet-tart flavor.

Greg’s reaction – em, not bad.

Now we did get Greg’s attention when we opened up the 2018 Saxum Gratias. Here’s the winery’s description of the wine: “Gratias is a one-off, so we decided to offer it to you at a price that conveys our gratitude for your support. The wine is on us, you pay for shipping. A blend of 42% grenache, 25% zinfandel, 18% mataro, 14% syrah, 1% tempranillo. 15.4% alcohol. Paso Robles, Willow Creek District AVA. 330 cases produced.” 

WOW! A Saxum for free, amazing!

Berry on the nose, dark red fruit on the palate, a brooding wine. Like all fine wine, it slowly blossoms once opened. Both Terry and Jennifer picked up vanilla and currant, finding it a little tight at first, likely a wine to benefit from more aging. Remember Greg’s reaction to the white – “em, not bad.” He took one sip of the Gratias and immediately walked off with the bottle to deliver some to his wife, Chel, and her sister, Kim, telling them, “Now, taste this!” Clearly a red wine lover.

Salt Creek’s offerings were outstanding. We started with the barbecued artichoke, the smoke, the butter, and the garlic all magnificently combining for a real treat. Terry’s lobster ravioli was tasty, but I devoured the blue-cheese-crusted top sirloin. The Saxum and the top sirloin worked beautifully together. Given it was Valentine’s Day, we concluded the evening with Salt Creek’s signature chocolate ganache souffle. Delectable! Happy Valentine’s Day, my love.

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