From Paso reds to Italian whites, The Saltner has it all
By Emily G. Peters
It’s just before the weekend dinner rush at The Saltner Wine & Cicchetti in Monrovia. A four-top tips their wine glasses while Tony Bennett croons quietly in the background. It’s hot outside, too – really hot – and the perfect excuse to enjoy a glass of rosé while waiting for your cheese plate to arrive.
“My husband initially suggested that we open a brewery. I told him that if we could make three batches of drinkable beer, we’d do it,” said The Saltner owner Julie Kalicki, who boasts 30 years’ expertise in the food and wine industry. “We failed three times, and I got my wine bar.”
The Saltner opened two years ago, featuring small batch wines you can’t grab at the supermarket and “cicchetti” – wine-friendly gourmet bites. The bar has been converting casual wine drinkers into enthusiasts ever since.
“I’ll pour a one-ounce tasting before someone buys because I want the customer to be happy with what they’re drinking, to explore the wine and learn their own palettes,” said Kalicki. “I think giving them a chance to ‘try before they buy’ really sets us apart.”
She’s not passive with her own palette, either. Kalicki travels regularly to tasting events, festivals, even Paso Robles’ “CAB Camp” where she’s exposed to dozens of winemakers churning out spectacular varietals.
“People aren’t aware of how good Paso Robles wines have become. They’re used to Napa – but what was 50 wineries a few years ago has exploded into 500 in Paso,” said Kalicki, who’s training to become a certified sommelier. “Wine is like art: everyone has an interpretation, everyone’s palette is like a fingerprint. It’s my job to help them find wines they’ll love.”
At The Saltner, you may find Kalicki or her talented staff building custom wine flights at the bar. Cicchetti like Tuscan beef stew and glazed salmon are popular pairings: the result of collected recipes perfected through time. A good drink, a delicious bite – it’s all part of helping customers feel at home.
“We wanted more of a European feel; a small, comfortable place that feels like you’re hanging out at your friend’s house,” said Kalicki. Before they opened, she and her husband Jan handled 90 percent of the build-out on The Saltner themselves.
“We built basically everything but the plumbing. We don’t have food lamps or microwaves, but prepare everything to order. There’s no difference between coming here and coming to my home – other than that you pay for it at the wine bar,” she said. “It just gives you a completely different kind of appreciation for your work when you do it yourself.”
Now that The Saltner has some meat on its bones, Kalicki and company are fermenting new ideas.
“Everyone in Monrovia has been so supportive, and it’s been wonderful to do business here,” she said. “We’re looking at how to incorporate wine trips, teach wine lessons at the bar – we have a couple of tricks up our sleeve.” But it’s a careful growth, making sure they’re stable before expanding.
“After all,” she smiled, “I’m not saying I wouldn’t buy a winery one day.”
The Saltner Wine & Cicchetti is located at 108 E. Colorado Blvd. in Monrovia. Keep up with upcoming food and wine events at www.thesaltner.com | (626) 385-6111 | firstname.lastname@example.org and check them out on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter @thesaltner.