Decanter aims to create European ambiance

New restaurant features expansive wine selection

What local restaurateur Jayson Knack really wants to do is exceed expectations. With his Decanter Restaurant and Wine Lounge, he wants to pour the best wine, paired with the freshest food and create the best neighborhood restaurant for the local community.

The new Rancho Santa Fe resident will open the doors to the much-anticipated Decanter in Cielo Village on Jan. 30.

For Knack it's all about the vino: Wine will be served by the bottle, by the half bottle or by the glass in special Riedel wine glasses. With its numerous display cases and a storage area, the restaurant will have the capacity to hold an impressive 6,000 bottles of wine.

And like the name suggests, all the wine served there will be decanted.

The whispers of Decanter's eventual arrival have been heard since 2007 and Knack said the hold-up was in their choosing a new location within Cielo and redeveloping their business plan from wine bar to an all-out restaurant.

The location was worth the wait - outside the restaurant is a patio with gorgeous, unobstructed views of the hills.

"You could be anywhere in Europe," he said of the ambiance Decanter aims to recreate.

Decanter will also host a grand opening night on Jan. 27 from 5 to 9 p.m. The night will be $45 a person for unlimited food and wine - proceeds will go toward the Boys and Girls Club of San Dieguito.

Wine lover

Knack has 15 years of experience in the restaurant industry, starting in an aunt's Bay Area bakery when he was just out of college.

A native Canadian, he moved to California in 1991 after a stint as a swimmer for the Canadian National Swim Team.

Knack's love affair with wine started when he was 21. He still remembers his first taste of wine. He was at dinner in San Francisco with his aunt.

"I could see the flavors of the wine in my head … honey, flowers, vanilla," he said. "The feeling I had was like a light bulb going on. It was so interesting to me how a beverage could taste so amazing and complicated."

He went on to become a sommelier and then served as the director of the Sheraton Hotel and Marina in downtown San Diego for three years. Most recently he was the managing partner of Wine Lover in Hillcrest before getting the idea to open a wine bar and restaurant of his own.

"My whole life has led to this point," he said. "I'm utterly beside myself to finally be here."

Elegant design, fresh food

Knack aims to create a restaurant unlike any other in the area. The interior was designed by David Robinson, who is known best for designing the Stone World Brewery in Escondido.

The walls are painted a deep red. Booths line one wall and a barrel ceiling creates a cave-like effect.

A 360-degree, 14-foot high wine vault in the entrance to the dining room, which will hold 1,800 bottles of wine, is the "biggest deal," Knack said.

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