Here it comes.
My stomach lurched as I thought about the hours spent in card stores, looking befuddled and searching for someone else’s catch phrase to define my love.
And what is it doing here in February? The remnants of winter, or at least what those of us on California’s Central Coast refer to as winter, still frigidly lingered and yet we are told to think romantically?
It was particularly dreary as I sped home the other day. As I passed another brown and dormant vineyard Love is in the Air came on the radio (The Tom Jones version, not John Paul Young’s. Sorry Purist.) and a wave of irony washed over me. It was clear that drizzle filled the air, and not love.
Or did it…
As I rounded a corner a field of wild mustard caught my eye. There in the middle of the grey and damp, were vibrant yellow flowers full of hope and resilience, and I felt my smile forming. Perhaps Mr. Tom Jones had it right after all and this was a time for romance. But could it be found amongst the muck of winter? (Again for those of you that have real winter, I apologize for the reminder.)
As a newlywed, expressing my love has come naturally. We believe the best way to experience love is by diving in, and finding something new. We are always hunting for the next adventure, whether camping the Pacific North West, to exploring the wonder in everyday activities. I knew I truly loved my wife when I realized there was no one else I would rather do this with. It’s who we are, helplessly curious.
This passion for discovery was what propelled me into the world of food and wine. Every new dining experience became a study of aroma, texture, history, and harmonization. Delving into this enthralling world of flavor became exponentially more fun now that I had my wife by my side.
As the song ended I agreed that Love [was] in the Air, and the feeling of irony was out the window.
It was time for a new adventure.
The path of culinary exploration is well worn, yet, bias be damned, the John Muir of my trail is Will Torres-Executive Chef at The Restaurant and JUSTIN Vineyards & Winery. To embrace this season of love, my wife and I decided to give Will’s inspired menu a chance to combat this winter drear.
As we were seated, the romantic and enchanting dinning room was rife with anticipation. Our server, Kevin, skillfully explained the choices for each of the five courses and suddenly I was a mess…. choices? How can one hope to choose between a perfectly seared Venison Loin with garden greens, cippolini onions, and grits or a local Short Rib cooked slowly overnight and plated with wild mushrooms and Romanesco cauliflower? Luckily, my wife was there to save me from this happy culinary conundrum, and made sure we never doubled up on a dish.
The gustatory adventure unfolded with something nearing culinary alchemy. The Borscht soup mixed local Bautista Farms beets with Canada’s Northern Divine Caviar, showcasing Chef Will’s ability to seamlessly blend the bounty of the central coast with unique flavors from around the world. Vogue cooking methods such as ‘Sous Vide’ were showcased in dishes like the Squab and the poached Ocean Trout. These were balanced by classic techniques as seen in the perfectly seared Mano De Leon Scallops. Each course was perfectly paired with a JUSTIN wine, and while each pairing was breathtaking, the epicurean synergy of the Venison Loin with the 2009 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon made our night.
In the middle of winter we had found a reason to rejoice. Love for each other and discovering something new had bloomed once again. While driving home, with both our hunger and curiosity appeased, a familiar thought reemerged:
Here it comes.
I hope this season gives everyone a chance to feel the love, and express it perfectly. Perhaps you’ll try a culinary adventure, by experiencing The Restaurant at JUSTIN six course Valentine’s Day Dinner. Whatever you choose, I hope you see your own field of flowers.
Chris Jahns, CSW
Assistant Tasting Room Manager
To book a reservation for the Valentine’s Day Dinner or any other night please contact our Reservation Desk by phone: 805-591-3224 or e-mail: innkeeper@JUSTINwine.com