You may have seen a saucy pink can decked out with a woman with a citrus smile and the name Ramona blasting out in bold lettering. What is this jazzy beverage, and who is responsible for such a creation? Ramona is a canned spritz made with Sicilian grapefruit juice and Italian wine; it's the invention of sommelier Jordan Salcito, a Colorado native who now lives in New York City.
Salcito was born in Park Hill, moved to Genesee when she was seven, then graduated from high school in the Hilltop neighborhood. She moved to Manhattan in 2005 and has been a staple in the wine world there for about a decade. Her most notable gigs have been as the director of wine special projects at Momofuku and as a sommelier at Eleven Madison Park. Nowadays, she says, much of her time is focused on spreading the delicious word about Ramona — including in Denver, where you can sample the spritz and maybe even catch Salcito flitting about town while visiting her parents.
Westword: How did you come up with Ramona?
Jordan Salcito: The idea had lived in my head for a while. Basically I wanted something to drink besides Perrier when my husband cracked open a beer. I wanted something fun and casual for those moments, yet also high-integrity, organic, delicious and wine-based. And I vaguely recalled wine coolers from the 1980s, which were terrible but had potential. The thing that I wanted didn't exist, so I decided to make it.
Can you tell us about the name?
My youngest sister, Anne-Marie, created an alter-ego scapegoat named Ramona when she was five. She was a Beverly Cleary fan. Any time she did something she wasn't supposed to, she blamed it on Ramona. That name in its various contexts always stuck with me. I loved saying it, and the spirit of a mischievous alter-ego scapegoat seemed perfectly fitting for a high-end wine-based spritz in a can.
Why do you think we need a flirty, pink wine-and-grapefruit drink?
I created Ramona because I wanted something exactly like it to exist, and it didn't. I wanted a portable, high-quality, irreverent alcoholic beverage option that wasn't cheesy or too sweet and that made sense and felt appropriate in traditional beer moments. There is something innately versatile and charming about a spritz, and I'd been unable to find a portable, organic version that I wanted to drink. I like to think of Ramona as the love child of a mimosa and an Aperol spritz. Who doesn't need that?
What made you decide to go into the wine/sommelier business in the first place?
After working in various aspects of the restaurant industry, I fell in love with wine because it seemed to me the connective tissue of so many interests and industries. Wine, great wine, is history, anthropology, philosophy, chemistry, geology and geography all encapsulated in a bottle. That crystallized for me at a wine event, the La Paulée de Neige, in Aspen in 2006.
I became a sommelier during the summer of 2007, when Bonnie Munshin and Liz Willette hired me for the summer program at Nick & Toni's in East Hampton [New York]. That was a summer position. Later that year, in October, I was hired on to the wine team at Eleven Madison Park.
When you visit Denver, where do you go for wine?
My go-to places right now are Tavernetta, RiNo Yacht Club and The Proper Pour [a liquor and wine shop inside The Source]. When I'm in Boulder, Frasca Food and Wine, Pizzeria Locale and Boulder Wine Merchants are favorite spots.
It seems you have a soft spot for Bobby Stuckey [co-owner of Frasca, Pizzeria Locale and Tavernetta] joints. Is there a reason for that?
Bobby Stuckey has been a friend for thirteen years, since Frasca opened. I remember he explained the German Prädikat system to me on an early visit, and my mind was blown. That moment is one of the reasons I decided to work with wine. So seeing Bobby and his team is always something I look forward to, both personally and professionally. Bobby is a friend, a mentor and an inspiration. And his wine programs are world-class.
What do you miss most about living in Colorado?
I miss having a back yard— and going for runs outdoors. It's just not the same in downtown Manhattan.
What's your ideal Colorado day?
My parents and both of my sisters live in Colorado, so an ideal day usually starts with waking up with our son, Henry, two, and drinking a cup of coffee while my dad makes breakfast, a tradition he loves and at which he excels. Then I'd meet up with my sisters and some friends and head to the Clyfford Still Museum, have a light lunch, and then have tea with a friend and mentor, Lily, who lives next door to my parents. Dinner could involve either cocktails and dinner with friends in Denver at Tavernetta, or in Boulder. Or making something at home and raiding my dad's wine cellar, which has gotten quite good.
What do you think about Colorado wine?
Oh, goodness, I need to try more of them.
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Why did you leave Colorado?
I moved to the Main Line, just outside of Philadelphia, for college. Then I moved to NYC in 2005 to cook at Daniel and to write. Cooking at Daniel led to harvest in France and then, post-Daniel, working as a sommelier.
Where can we find Ramona?
The Proper Pour has lots of Ramona in stock, and they deliver in Denver for free. Apparently no one takes advantage of that. It's also available at Hazel's, Argonaut, Mondo Vino and lots more. For a full list, check out our website: drinkramona.com.