Jordan Salcito’s interest in wine was sparked by her grandfather, who created his own vino in his basement. Salcito grew her knowledge about the grape during her more than a decade working in the wine and restaurant industries, which included serving as Sommelier + Manager at Eleven Madison Park and helming all of David Chang’s beverage programs for the Momofuku empire. So, creating her own cocktail brand was a natural next step.
Salcito, who passed the Master Sommelier “Blind Tasting” exam on her first try, launched Ramona in 2016. Three years later, the sparkling wines and spritzes line received two Double Gold Medals and one Gold Medal in the world-renowned San Francisco International Wine Competition.
We caught up with Salcito to learn more about her impressive career, the sparkling sips, and more.
What inspired you to establish Ramona?
JS: Spritzes and spritz culture, plus my love of great wine, inspired me to create a beverage for casual moments that prioritized things like taste (which should be delicious!), organic ingredients, natural and transparent production methods, and an ethical supply chain.
You served as Sommelier + Manager at Eleven Madison Park, then led all of David Chang’s beverage programs for the Momofuku empire. Did that at all influence what you were hoping to achieve with Ramona?
JS: My tenure at both Momofuku and Eleven Madison Park helped establish habits of working hard to create something delicious and not settling for anything less than my best. I would say that my experience at Momofuku was particularly conducive to creativity, though. David Chang, who hired me, values exchanging ideas and experimentation more than any other person I’ve worked for (besides myself), and the culture he created certainly benefited my ability to tap into my creative tendencies.
You passed your Master Sommelier “Blind Tasting” exam on your first try. What was that like and how did you prepare?
JS: I have to give all credit to a man named Jay Fletcher who coached me through this rigorous process for a couple of years. Of course I blind-tasted regularly with sommeliers here in New York but no one understands the mechanics and logic of blind tasting better than Jay. I am incredibly thankful he decided to mentor me.
Ramona is on a mission to democratize fine wine. Tell us about that.
JS: I have long felt that the value system associated with fine wine – organic or biodynamically farmed grapes, a point of view, a delicious end product – should not be reserved for wine collectors and sommeliers. My goal with Ramona was to create a beverage for casual moments that shared this value system. Our label design is inspired by the Russian Constructivist movement and rejected the notion that fine art belonged only in elite circles. That inspired Ramona’s label and we feel the same way about fine wine – it should be accessible to everyone in a format appropriate for everyday moments.
Can we expect any new flavor launches this year?
JS: In fact, we are debuting a new flavor, the Amarino Spritz, later this summer- “slightly bitter,” as the name suggests in Italian. The balanced, yet slightly-bitter spritzes of northern Italy were the main inspiration for Ramona and I can’t wait to launch our organic, 90-calorie version.
Jenny Mollen joined Ramona earlier this year as Chief Brand Officer. What made you want to have her join the Ramona team?
JS: Ramona, named for my sister’s childhood alter ego, has always stood for speaking up for what one believes without taking oneself too seriously, and about having fun along the way. Jenny is the perfect representation of Ramona’s fun-loving, high-integrity rule-breaking spirit.
What are your go-to Ramona pairings?
JS: So many! I would say my favorite Ramona pairing at the moment is “6:00pm” but it’s also delicious with everything from crudité to lobster rolls to tacos and olives. I also love to pair Ramona with “bedtime routine” for my two boys.
You also host the “Opening Up with Jordan Salcito” podcast, which debuted last year. Can we expect a season two and if so, any idea about guests yet?
JS: We are planning a season two for the fall but are still solidifying our line-up – send your recommendations our way on who you’d like to hear from!
Where can we find Ramona on the East End?
JS: I know we’re available at Duryea’s in Montauk, Highway Restaurant, Claudio’s in Greenport, Wainscott Main and more – check our website for stockists, and of course we’re also available online at www.drinkramona.com.
What does an ideal day/evening in the Hamptons look like?
JS: Ideal Day: I meditate and squeeze in a bit of exercise (MelissaWoodHealth.com), followed by coffee and breakfast at Carissa’s, followed by lunch at Duryea’s or La Fondita with the family, an afternoon on the beach with the boys, followed by an early evening boat ride before either heading to Crow’s Nest or making a simple dinner – usually grilled fish or pasta with loads of vegetables and a giant salad with friends.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
JS: We’ve recently launched direct-to-consumer so that anyone in the country can get Ramona conveniently delivered straight to their door via DrinkRamona.com. Additionally, this summer we’re launching our wine club – The Spritz Society – so keep an eye out for that in June!