It’s always a joy driving northwards over the St. Johns River; taking in the spectacular view from the Bonaparte Bridge as well as the bucolic vistas along A1A towards Amelia Island. It’s even better when your destination is the luxurious Ritz Carlton Hotel, including an elegantly served meal at Salt, the opportunity to enjoy better than average wines and wine pairings featuring Rodney Strong wines, and meeting the winemaker.

Based on the hotel’s reputation for quality and excellence, it was no surprise that every aspect of the evening was exquisite. The staff ¬†were consistently courteous and informative. In concert with Chef d’Cuisine Rick Laughlin, we were delighted by artfully inspired dishes that featured noteworthy ingredients, flavors, and textures.

The wines were introduced by Rick Sayre, VP/Director of Winemaking for Rodney Strong, one of Sonoma County’s most enduring and knowledgeable wine professionals. Throughout the evening, Rick shared stories about the vineyard’s history, behind-the-scene glimpses into the winemaking process, and detailed tasting notes.

To break the ice, we started with a glass of Rodney Strong “Charlottes Home” Sauvignon Blanc. Our meal started in earnest, however, with Rodney Strong “Reserve” Chardonnay (Russian River Valley 2012). Its soft, creamy finish and delicate notes of French oak made an excellent companion to the creatively assembled Kale and Spinach Salad. The second course featured Steelhead Salmon paired with Rodney Strong Pinot Noir (Russian River Valley 2013). Who knew red wine could be such a wonderful companion to seafood? The third course consisted of Georgia Quail Roulade paired with Rodney Strong “Symmetry” Meritage (Alexander Valley 2012) – a distinctive red blend.

As a wine adventurer, I had been looking forward to the trio of single vineyard Cabernets from the Alexander Valley, providing an opportunity to experience terroir – tasting characteristics attributed to the growing conditions of the grapes. This selection consisted of “Alexander’s Crown,” “Rockaway,” and “Brothers,” all full-bodied reds that could have singlehandedly been the fourth course. They did, however, deliciously accompany a perfectly prepared Grilled Venison Chop.

In perfect form, we finished the meal with a lovely Chocolate Mousse Cake paired with Rodney Strong 2009 “True Gentleman’s” Port.

For all that attended, we ate well, learned more, and were treated to an evening of indelible memories.

If you missed this dinner, and are looking for inspired, creative and informative culinary experiences of this nature, Salt produces wine dinners and other culinary events throughout the year.