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If you’ve been to any nonprofit event in our valley, then you know Greg Amsler either by sight or by reputation or both.  Greg, proprietor of Salt Creek Grille, ranks at the top of the most giving Restaurateur in the SCV.

Beyond having a big heart, Greg owns one of the most successful steak houses around.  As part and parcel of that achievement, Greg has also developed a refined appreciation for wine.

Greg’s restaurant experience began in college as a waiter and bartender.  Not then realizing his calling, after graduation he did medical sales for fifteen years.  Rumors continue to this day that the racy drug salesman portrayed by Jake Gyllenhaal in “Love & Other Drugs” was essentially biographical of Greg in his younger years.

Acknowledging that he was meant to run restaurants, Greg founded Salt Creek about eighteen years ago.  That’s when his wine education began.  He’s in charge of the wine list and learned over the years what the SCV will buy.

One of his biggest challenges has been luring diners to move off from their comfort wine to a new discovery that Greg’s convinced they will love.  When pushing one of his new wine discoveries, he’ll offer samples just so the wine gets some exposure.  Two relatively new Pinot Noir additions from Oregon to the wine list demonstrate how this can be successful, Sineann and Ponzi.  It took a while but now they’ve both “taken off.”

(Hint to the reader: If you go on Monday nights, you can get a bottle of either one, as well any bottle under $100, for 50% off.)

Pinots are selling well, Cabernets continue to perform, and Kendall Jackson Chardonnay is a mainstay.  But more importantly, Salt Creek’s diners are looking for value.  A cult wine won’t sell just because of its name.  He carries Opus One and Silver Oak, but has comparable Cabs that are significantly less expensive.  He’ll encourage folks to try new things, knowing that if they learn that Greg knows what he’s talking about, they’ll return. 

Greg keeps an inventory of about 700 wines, all maintained at proper temperature and humidity.  (He bemoans that he lacks a sexy gal in a swing to get the bottles.  Ah well, sacrifices.)  He also has two wine lists.  One for bottles he has deep inventory of, another higher priced and limited availability. 

His prices, while not cheap, are fair and reflect the industry standard of multiplying his cost per bottle by a factor of between two to four.  But his bargain is that his corkage fee is only $10.  For Greg, what’s most important is that the Salt Creek customer enjoys her dining experience and believes that she has received good value for her dollar.

As Greg says, wine is part of the culture of Salt Creek.  I like that kind of culture.

© Carl Kanowsky