Confession: I’ve never been to a wine tasting… Well, not at a venue where wine and food pairing is done. The only wine tasting I’ve done is at a vineyard, which is very different from my experience at Salt Bar & Grill. Salt offers wine/whiskey and food pairings about once every six weeks. Salt is located in the Junction Mall, where WWW Shop & Bar was, but with a new name, comes a new identity and this new identity is FUN.
It was another Bloggers Night Out courtesy of EatOut Kenya. I had been invited to Salt along with foodies Jay, Lyra, Kaluhi, Sandy and Jacquie who’s the talented photographer for my blog and took all of the photos for this event! When we got there, we were greeted by Rajay, the friendly, generous owner of Salt. We sat down to a glass of either Chardonnay or Pinot Noir “3 Girls” (no relation to Four Cousins, lol). It’s important to note that 3 Girls is a wine from Napa Valley (!!) and if you’re a fan of wine, you’ll know this is an exciting/big deal to have it available in Kenya. Salt Bar & Grill are the only establishment that sell California wines at a great price point. A bottle of 3 Girls is ksh 1800/- and it was such a treat to be able to try it! I had a glass of the Pinot Noir and it was some of the best Pinot Noir I’ve tasted in Nairobi. It was fruity and full bodied without much tannins (the dry mouth feeingl after a sip of red) so it was very easy to drink.
Now would be a good time to mention that Salt offers over 30 different wines by the glass. Plus all the wines sold by the glass are also sold in-house by the bottle at shop price! So, you can pull up a seat at the bar, have a glass of wine, fall in love with it, and take it home.
As Rajay and I got to talking, I mentioned that I loved California reds, he said he had a special wine also unavailable elsewhere in Kenya and brought out a bottle of 2012 Lodi Cabernet Sauvignon. He opened it and gave me a sample. It smelled sweet and robust, like a grape Jolly Rancher, you know, the classic artificial grape scent? You can tell I have a sophisticated palette 😉 . I also noted it was a little chilled, Rajay explained that this was because red wine is meant to be served at room temperature, and with wine having been born in Europe, room temperature is more like 18°C. This wine is incredible, and spoiler alert: it was my favourite wine of the entire night. It was SO good, and totally drinkable even to the amateur wine palette (aka me). The retail price for this wine at Salt is ksh 3,500/- which isn’t bad when you consider shipping price, availability, and quality.
When surrounded by the soft ‘pop’ of corks ejecting from the bottle and wine pouring faster than I could drink it, it was hard to quell my inner Desperate Housewife. When I drink wine, I become bubbly, giggly, chatty, and most importantly — pink. Yes, my cheeks and (on heavy nights) chest area get flushed. I feel like one of those sponge bath toys I used to play with as a kid that had the instruction “just add water” and poof, I’d have a spongey duck or elephant. Now that I’m older, I come with the instruction “just add wine” and I’m basically a guaranteed good time.
After about 45 minutes of mingling and drinking 3 Girls Pinot Noir, we were escorted to a special room to begin the wine tasting.
This is where my lack of experience began to shine bright like a diamond. Our sommelier for the evening, Victoria, welcomed us into the room explaining that we would be doing a ‘wine tour’ (if you will) of Spain. I could see several bottles on the table behind her. She explained that each course would be paired with two different wine samples. Oh man I was excited. Seriously, is there anything better than wine and food?
Next, she did something I wasn’t expecting, she opened a power point presentation. I felt my heart sink a little with the realization that we weren’t just throwing back wine and enjoying a couple of cheese platters. I know, class it up Soni. But my spirits lifted as Victoria began speaking about wine, her passion and excitement radiated from her and it was completely contagious. She was incredibly knowledgable about all things wine-related and she easily engaged her audience. Suddenly, I was craving to know as much as she could impart on me about Spanish wine.
Here’s the basic break down of our meal and wine pairing and I’ll throw in a couple tips and surprising facts that stood out to me at the end:
First Course — a charcuterie platter: goat cheese, apple slices, olives, prosciutto (cured ham) and slices of bread
Freixenet, Cordon Negro, Brut Cava or “Cava” for short
It’s important to understand the difference between Champagne and Cava. Simply put, a Champagne that is not produced in the “Champagne” region of France but rather in Spain is considered a Cava. To me, they’re very similar. Cordon Negro is a Cava and it is totally betch-approved. Drinking anything out of a champagne flute is culturally synonymous with class. This Cava has only 4 grams of sugar to every litre of the beverage, ONLY FOUR GRAMS OF SUGAR. Let that sink in as you enjoy the Cordon Negro guilt-free if you’re calorie-conscious. It’s tasting notes were on point: it was light and crisp, with subtle undertones of pear and mandarin. Now, if you’re like me and don’t reaaaally understand the flavour description, you should know it’s a fantastic drink for a hot day or to accompany a charcuterie platter because it cuts the fatty flavours from the cheeses and cured meats. Drink this Cava when you’re looking to treat yourself, when you’re celebrating, or when you want to indulge in a boozy breakfast. Everyone’s going to love at least one glass of this Cava.
Want to pop bottles? Get it at ksh 3,850/-
Muga, Rioja, Blanco 2014
The Rioja was also coupled with the charcuterie platter and was a little more acidic than the Cava. The Rioja was dry and crisp. I’m not the biggest fan of white wines and this one was a bit too dry for me but it definitely paired well with the charcuterie platter. Like the Cava, the Rioja cut into the natural fats of the cheese and meats. The Rioja opened my eyes to the importance and significance of wine and food pairings. On it’s own, I didn’t care much for the wine, but I quite enjoyed it when paired with the charcuterie board. Drink this wine on a sunny Saturday afternoon in your backyard with some good music, good friends, and delicious bitings (grapes, cheese, crackers, cured meats).
Thirsty for a clean and crisp white wine? Get it at ksh 2,300/-
Second Course — steak, salad, and fries
Candado De Oriza, Crianza, 2010
This red is what you’d call a “dry” red wine as it has soft tannins that give your mouth that dry feeling after taking a sip. It has a full-body flavour that lingers in your mouth well after your last sip. The Crianza is soft and fruity and therefore it paired well with the steak. This is the kind of wine you’d drink with a beautiful piece of red meat on a date.
Want this red? Get it at ksh 2,850/-
Emilio Moro, Malleolus, 2008
It was around this point that I understood why there was so much sparkling water on the table. The water helped quench the dry feeling in my mouth after drinking dry red wine and also helped to clean my palette. The Emilio Moro is a full bodied red wine and is wonderfully aromatic. It’s the kind of red wine you want to savour because of it’s intense flavour. With deep aromas of vanilla, wood, and spices, this is the kind of wine you’d drink by the fire with a big blanket.
Want to cuddle up? Get this wine at ksh 6,800/-
Third Course — dessert: more cheese (manchego), apple slices, and chocolate <3
Numanthia, LVMH, 2008
I mentioned earlier that my favourite wine of the night was the Lodi Cabernet Sauvignon: well, my favourite wine of the food pairing was definitely the Numanthia. It’s incredibly fruity and sweet in a reserved subtle way. It tastes of sweet spices and red fruits. The fruits used to make this wine come from vines that are 50 – 100 years old. This is the kind of wine you can keep in your house for up to 30 years and it only gets better with age. This sweet wine coupled deliciously with the dark chocolate. Drink this wine while binging on Netflix and cookies, after a heart break, or on a girls night dishing some good goss.
Looking for this sweet red? Get it at ksh 7,750/-
I’ll round-out this post with facts and tips about wine:
- What makes Spanish wine special? Spaniards have a wine quality classification that they strictly adhere to meaning you’ll always know exactly what you’re getting. Plus, Spanish wines generally receive more aging than most other wines around the world, often making them more flavourful.
- According to Victoria, Spanish wine makers feel that wine making is about pride and heritage. They love their wine with a Latino passion (it could be tasted in the wines presented that day).
- Curious to know whether the bartender provided the wine you asked for? Take your wine glass and tilt it away from you at a 45 degree angle on top of a white surface. The colour difference between the outer wine in the glass and the wine at the center, will clue you into the wine’s age. The sharper the contrast, the older the wine.
Salt offers so much more than a bar and a wine cellar. It’s wine tasting experience is fun and engaging and at the price of ksh 4,000 it’s a great deal considering their wine portions and the delicious meal. I left Salt with an appreciation of Victoria’s passion for wine and a desire to attend more of their upcoming tastings to keep learning about (and tasting) wine. Check out Salt’s Facebook page or join their mailing list to learn of upcoming events or pop in their shop some time for a glass of wine. Keep your eyes peeled for the newest edition of Yummy Magazine for more on Salt and our Bloggers Night Out. And finally, hit me up the next time you head over there and tweet me @sonisideup with your thoughts/opinions.