(Photos | By of Kelvin Valdavinos Photography)
Ahja King has a talent for making delicious meals using fun and easy recipes and simple ingredients. “I get a lot of joy out of cooking for my family,” she said. “I have learned ways to make food taste good without slaving over a hot stove or purchasing numerous ingredients.”
A secret ingredient to her recipes is no longer a secret.
In the fall of 2021, King launched Dry Canyon Salt Company in Redmond. She handcrafts three wine salt blends — white, rosé and red. “Too often recipes are too hard or complicated calling for several ingredients,” King said. “One jar of wine salt can make a ton of recipes taste amazing.”
The idea for making wine salt blends stemmed from her not wanting to waste wine. “About 20 years ago, we had a wine tasting party and there were several bottles leftover of open wine,” she said. “I used the wine to make a balsamic glaze to rub on our meat and my family loved it.”
She experimented creating salt blends using wines, adjusting the recipe until she discovered the perfection of mixing the salt and the wines. “I gave the salt blends as hostess gifts, and my friends would call me asking me to make the wine salt for them,” she said.
When the pandemic hit in 2020, she was standing at her stove making a batch of wine salt when her husband, Camden, told her she should start a business selling her wine salts. “I had been telling him no for years because the salt blends were something I just did for our family and friends,” she said. “He convinced me to explore the idea.”
What she discovered is nobody had created a business making wine salts. “This is a brand-new product,” King said. “I did the market research and realized this could be my business. The challenge was I had never brought a product to market.”
Utilizing her vast experience working in the food and beverage industry along with her love of cooking, King embarked on learning everything she needed to know about starting a business. “My husband gave me the best advice when he told me to talk to the smartest people I know, tell them what I was planning and get their input,” she said.
She spent a year testing her recipe until she figured out the technique for handcrafting a consistent product. She launched her company in September of 2021. “The ingredients aren’t a secret as they are on the label,” she said. “What took time to figure out is how all the pieces come together to create a consistent product. The final recipe is written on binder paper in a Ziplock bag.”
King said gourmet wine salt is salt infused with wine. It can be used as a seasoning or anytime you use salt. “I tend to favor salty flavors over sweet,” King said. “The wine salt is the perfect balance of salty, savory and a touch of sweet. I advise people to use it just like they would use a splash of wine to improve a recipe.”
A few of her favorite recipes using the white wine salt include Dry Canyon Fish Packets, Grilled Avocado and Shrimp Salad and Grilled Chicken and Eggplant Caprice. She rubs the white wine salt into chicken before baking and the red wine salt into beef before grilling. The rosé enhances the flavors of seafood.
Since it is a new product, King said she dedicates her time to educating people how to use the wine salts and asking people about their favorite foods. “The wine salts allow home cooks to prepare high-quality food,” she said. “The wine salts are easy to use — just like adding a dash of wine to a recipe — and the wine salts make good food taste even better.”
Dry Canyon Wine Company is a family-owned small business handcrafting wine salt blends.
Dry Canyon Wine Company products are sold online, at the NorthWest Crossing Saturday Farmers Market, Newport Market, West Coast Provisions, Central Oregon Central Oregon Locavore, Food For Less, Schoolhouse Produce, Arome, Eqwine Wine Bar and SCP Redmond Hotel.