Jordan Salcito, Sommelier & Founder, Ramona


“I got into wine two ways. One was my grandfather, whom I never met. He was an Italian immigrant—came over from Apulia when he was 10, and he made wine in his basement because that’s what everyone did in their Italian-American community. It was bad wine, I’m sure, but it was a thing that they did, and more importantly—that is the one memory that my dad ever shares of his own father. So my dad would always offer my sisters and me sips of wine at dinner, so wine became a thing that had no taboo for me. It was just part of the dinner conversation. And then if we fast-forward, I’ve always had restaurant jobs. I majored in English Literature in college and after I graduated, I moved to New York and worked as a hostess as my after-work job to make money. It was at the weirdest restaurant ever, but they kept promoting me and eventually put me in charge of organizing these wine tastings. One of the cooks there was like, ‘You care way too much for this restaurant. I’m about to go open this restaurant with my friend Wylie, and it’s going to be awesome and you should be part of it.’ So that’s how I ended up at WD-50.

WD-50 was such a cultural statement in so many ways—it was Wylie [Dufresne] constantly encouraging people to think harder. He was incredibly inclusive and would just let anyone who was curious be part of that conversation. That’s why I ended up leaving and going to culinary school in Colorado for a year. It prepared me to come back to New York and be a part of that conversation in a real way. After getting my culinary degree, I had a chance to stage at a bunch of restaurants and I picked Daniel. It was a great opportunity, that I got—I think—because I cared. Because what is more important than caring to an organization? If you care, doors will open.

It was cooking at Daniel that led to wine. There was this exclusive event in Aspen with five winemakers, some collectors, Daniel himself, and a couple other chefs…so I asked Daniel, ‘If I can get myself there for free, can I help with this?’ After that he said to me, ‘You clearly love wine—you should work harvest in Burgundy.’ He encouraged me to ask around at the dinner and one of the winemakers said, ‘Sure, why not?’ So I booked my ticket and did that the fall of 2006. Working harvest for me was just this eye-opening moment of the creation of wine and all of the decisions that go into it. Seeing the process clarified the difference between making wine and making great wine. After that and through a series of events, I landed at Union Square Hospitality Group working as a sommelier at Eleven Madison Park around 2007. That’s also the point when I started training for the master sommelier degree. I passed the blind tasting in 2013 and the theory portion in 2015. By that point I was directing the beverage programs at the Momofuku restaurants. I didn't end up passing the service portion or the reset, but found that out the same week that my program at Momofuku Ko was nominated for a James Beard Outstanding Service Award and that I was pregnant with my son Henry. Confidence in my service skills and the realization that change was coming was the nudge I needed to say, I’m ready to do something on my own. That’s when we got to work on Ramona. We wanted to create a wine-based drink that you could enjoy most of the time, whether it’s at a ballgame or before dinner. And the realization was, why isn’t someone doing that and making an aperol spritz-ish kind of a thing that’s accessible but isn’t gross? How has this not been done yet? OK, let’s do it.

In the morning and at night, I always cleanse with Fresh Soy Face Cleanser. It doesn’t leave any residue and works really well as a makeup remover. My husband really likes that brand so we always have it around. Actually, most of the time, I use his Fresh After Shave as moisturizer. It’s pretty amazing—just so light and delicate and doesn’t clog pores. And then, under-eye—actually, I was gifted some of this Dr. Sturm Eye Cream by a friend, and I love it. It’s just light and I’m impressed with the formula.

Every day is different, but I try to keep my routine streamlined. The things that I put on no matter what before leaving the house are eye cream plus Clé de Peau Concealer in Almond. The focus for me is always on the eyes, so definitely Glossier Lash Slick. If I know I’m not coming back home until after the evening, then I do the Stila Stay All Day Waterproof Liner in Dark Brown. Then I might use Boy Brow, either in Clear or Brown, depending on the season. Clear is genius because it always works, no matter what, but I do toggle between those two. If I have more time, I like the Chanel Les 4 Ombres in 79 Spices. Mine is obviously well used–I love it! I stick to beiges and browns, maybe a little pink. I think that pink is just a happy nude color.

I always wear a lip because if I’m wearing earrings and lip color, I feel like I’m dressed. Make Up For Ever 14C Aqua Lip is great for me. And then sometimes I’ll mix it with Glossier Birthday Balm Dotcom. It’s the thing I’m most obsessed with in the entire world. It’s delicious and I love the collaboration with Milk Bar, obviously. My two-year-old loves to take lipstick out of my purse, so I had another color of lip liner that I’ve been missing for the last week. And then I love the Glossier Lip Gloss—I just feel like it dresses you up. It’s like patent leather shoes on your lips.

Now that I’m an adult, I’m better about keeping my haircut and color on point. That’s where most of the work is done. I see Jordan Sparkes at Privé and Alexis Unno at John Barrett. I met them both nine years ago. Before that, I had tried every haircut and every color under the sun, both cheap and very expensive. One day when I was working at Eleven Madison Park, I had just had enough bad hair experiences, so I just googled 'best hair salon' and up came Garren, and I booked an appointment with whoever was available, and at the time it was Jordan and Alexis… I've seen them ever since. My hair has a natural wave to it, so I like to encourage it with this curling iron from Ricky’s. It’s not symmetrical so it gives a messier look. What I love about the cut is it’s so easy to shower at night, fall asleep on my hair, deal with the bangs in the morning and five minutes of curling iron, I’m ready to go.

Either I’ll shower every day that I exercise or every other day. [Laughs] I’m very into the Tracy Anderson Attain class right now. It’s effective for core and cardio, plus I run to the studio. When I do shower, I use this KMS California Silk Sheen Shampoo and then Privé has a conditioner that I like. When my hair is wet, I like to spray the Dallas Thickening Spray from R + Co. to give it some control. Plus the packaging is fun.

So it’s a big no-no to wear fragrance as a sommelier, because your whole job as a wine professional is to make sure that you’re not smelling any taints in the wine, and that you are serving the guests the best bottle that you could possibly serve them. Fragrances, therefore, can get in the way. No sommeliers or front-of-house service professionals wear fragrances, so I stopped using them when I got in the business. But I remember in college, I got really into this Anna Sui fragrance. It was one of the ones in the really ornate bottles. Does that count?”

—as told to ITG

Jordan Salcito photographed in her home in New York by Tom Newton on June 27, 2018.