Wine industry veteran Jordan Salcito understands sophisticated gastronomy. Her tenure at icons such as Eleven Madison Park and Momofuku make that clear. But as a true aficionado, she also knows that the spirit of imbibing goes beyond white tablecloths and prize-winning chef paired-foods. It’s about clean flavors, quenched thirsts, friends, sense of place, and celebration. Enter Ramona, her canny (literally) wine spritz, sold in four packs. It boasts fresh, organic ingredients, extremely decent Italian wine, picnic appeal, and a cool kid vibe. We caught up with Salcito for a spritz-y apertivo.
You have reimagined the wine cooler. What inspired you?
I’ve long felt that the wine cooler is essentially a spritz gone awry; it was a cheap, cheesy wine-based beer alternative without much integrity. If you look into the history of spritzes, adding water—as well as fruits, herbs, spices—dates all the way back to ancient Rome and Greece.
Spritzes and spritz culture inspired me to give the wine cooler an upgrade and redirect it a bit to prioritize things like taste (which should be delicious!), organic ingredients, natural and transparent production methods, and an ethical supply chain.
Why do you think that “can culture” is a current trend?
I’m so happy to see people embracing cans in this way. We’ve long been a fan of its lower carbon footprint, its supreme portability, and the fact that aluminum is the most recycled material on earth.
What do you say to wine snobs about can vs. bottle?
I think we’ve been very fortunate to have some incredible fans who are well-regarded wine snobs! [Sommelier and winemaker] Rajat Parr was an early Ramona supporter; the legendary Burgundian winemaker Guillaume d’Angerville in Volnay posted us on his Instagram feed; and Erin Chave, who lives on the hill of Hermitage with her husband, Jean-Louis, is one of our earliest and most fervent fans.
But who are your typical imbibers?
I am thrilled to report that it’s impossible to answer this question. While several industry friends are fans, I love when people that have nothing to do with the wine world discover and fall in love with Ramona!
Have you grown outside of the U.S.?
We are excited to have an amazing following outside of the country. Currently, we have distributor partners in Ireland, England, Canada, Iceland, Denmark, and France.
Why source from Italy more than any other wine region?
Italy has a 4,000-year history of organic farming and a perfect climate for organic viticulture. We are able to source the best grapes and organic citrus fruit possible this way. Italy is also ahead of the curve with regulations and has some of the highest viticultural standards in the world. (For example, Italy banned the use of glyphosates—e.g. Round Up—back in 2016, and other European countries followed suit in 2020.) Our decision to move our entire production to Italy occurred after our test batch, when we were encouraged to add the neurotoxin velcorin as a preservative and were told it is in ‘almost everything’ and yet didn’t have to be disclosed. Another example of how the strong chemical lobby in the U.S. obfuscates transparency! In Italy we simply pasteurize our cans in warm water.
Your products are very clean. Tell us more about that.
Now more than ever, consumers have become more discerning with their palates to prioritize taste as well as transparency with production. ‘Clean’ is a buzzword now but organic ingredients and chemical-free production methods have always been part of our DNA. I’m always surprised that we remain [rare] in our commitment to this despite the popularity of beverages in cans! We had fun with the term ‘clean wine’ earlier this year in a campaign with author and actress Jenny Mollen, who posed in a bubble bath with RAMONA.
This is all such an interesting pivot for you. What lessons have you taken from your impressive F&B and sommelier career?
I’ve really learned to listen to my intuition and to stand true to my value system in every decision, whether it is production-related or team-related.
Which is your personal favorite flavor?
I love them all! But lately, for my daily aperitivo, I’ve been enjoying the Blood Orange Spritz poured over a large ice cube in a rocks glass, garnished with a wide lemon twist.