Eric Wareheim has a lot to celebrate. The comedian has been on a sold-out tour to mark the 10th anniversary of sketch comedy show Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job! Wareheim is also a staple on Aziz Ansari’s Netflix show, Master of None. He now has something else to toast: his own wines. We talked with Wareheim about his label, Las Jaras Wines.
Did you have an “aha” moment that turned you from a wine drinker into a wine lover?
I think it was a Morgon [Cru Beaujolais]…that Selection Massale sent. I drank it, and there was something so magical about it.
How did you start Las Jaras?
We had a funny idea in my comedy world with Dr. Steve Brule, [played by] John C. Reilly. He did a “Sweet Berry Wine” sketch that was so popular that every bar I would go into, if they knew me, they would come up with a glass of red wine and say, “This is from the chef. It’s some sweet berry wine.” It seemed like everyone in the service business knew it. I talked to Tim and John and said, “Wouldn’t it be funny if we made a Sweet Berry Wine?” We had two ideas. One, it could be disgusting, like Manischewitz, really sugary wine. Or, why don’t we make it good? We were like, “We should make it good.”
That’s when I talked to Joel [Burt] about starting Las Jaras. We were going to make Sweet Berry Wine and pick a bunch of other grapes and kind of start our business together.
With this rosé, last night I had it with oysters, Northeast oysters. It was crazy. I literally was turned on, by myself.
Tell me about how you wanted the labels to look and the importance of that?
To me, Las Jaras is a little bit of a time capsule of my life, my friends’ lives, and my friendship with Joel. I’m friends with a lot of fine artists. The rosé label is Amanny Ahmad one of my favorite New York artists who I’m really good friends with. I’ve known her forever. I wanted to pair artists I feel like would represent the wine. She’s [a] really gentle, elegant, magical person.
The Carignan [label] is another famous artist named Chloe Wise, who’s a little bit more out there, more challenging. Another New York artist. Her label’s pretty insane. It’s pretty much her nude on the bottle. And then the Dr. Steve Brule wine is a really graphic, funny picture of him with the wine dripping out. Another artist, Sam Borkson, is doing the Cabernet.
A big part of my job is the creative design look of everything. I’m a very visual person. When I got to wine shops, I still pick up a cool label…I really pushed Joel to do the pink tips. I just feel like it makes it super-sexy and interesting. [When I see it] I want to be like, “What the hell is that?”
How did you decide which wines to make?
The big wineries get the bulk of the grapes. Joel went up there and was like, “Well, we can buy this much Carignan, a little bit of this Cabernet…that’s all that’s available.” So we just bought it all. [From that] we have a 2015 Cab, a 2016 Cab, straight Carignan—one’s going to be the Brule, the Sweet Berry Wine, one’s going to be Las Jaras. From that Carignan, we made the rosé and the pét-nat.
On Instagram, you have photos walking the vineyards, looking at the grapes. How involved are you in the winemaking process?
I’m very deep in it…The cool thing about small-production wine is you can go to these farms and wander around…and the farmer will come out, and we just start talking.
It makes tasting it so much more interesting. You know the people and the history. A lot of these vines are old, they’re like 60-year-old vines.
What are some of your favorite food and wine pairings, one’s that you’d like your wines with?
Part of my mission for natural winemaking is… I’m trying to push vegetarianism. Even though I eat meat, I feel like mass farming of meat is going to kill the earth. Natural winemaking [to me] is the next step in organic produce. Why not drink a wine with no pesticides, no additives?
I do have this little mission with the natural wine and what I’m putting out in the world, to show people it’s not all about steaks.
With this rosé, last night I had it with oysters, Northeast oysters. It was crazy. I literally was turned on, by myself. Just really, really, really happy.
I also feel like the red wines pair so well with food, because you can drink a whole bottle and your palate will not get exhausted. Fresh, young, elegant natural wines are something you can drink all day.
The rosé is a little bit salty. It’s very dry. For something like fried chicken, it’s such a balance—it’s killer. Really works good with fried foods, [and it] also works amazing with fresh seafood, raw seafood, crudo. Oh my God, it’s endless.
What are the most common questions you get asked about wine?
The number one question is my friends ask me is, “What does natural winemaking mean? What does biodynamic winemaking mean?” Not that our wines are biodynamic. People are interested in this movement of very affordable, young wines that are not part of this bougey world. And that’s what I’m about, too. This wine is for everyone. It’s thousands of years old, this kind of processing of wine. It’s not made for rich people. I want everyone to be able to drink this stuff. We sell it for, like, $24. Still, not everyone can even afford that.
People [also say], “What are you thinking? You’re, like, a weird comedian?” And I enjoy telling my story, my passion for travel, my lust for food and how that has changed my life.
When you’re on tour and traveling for work, are you planning beforehand where you’re going to eat and drink?
When I travel, the first thing I do is load up my Twitter and I tweet my fans, “Where do I eat?” My fans know me enough to steer me the right way. For example, we were in Portland, Maine, and everyone said to go to this place Eventide, which is this unbelievable seafood place…raw oysters, lobster. I feel like that is a really good way of knowing that community. What are they eating up there, how do they serve it?
I also have favorites. In Dallas, I’m bringing a bottle of rosé and going to this place called Babe’s Fried Chicken, which is a family fried chicken place: biscuits, fried chicken and collard greens.
It’s a good little network. And, of course, I use Yelp and other friends. I text Aziz all the time. He has a really good [restaurant] list of the whole world mapped out now.
How was filming the Master of None episode in Italy and eating at Osteria Francescana?
It was fully crazy. I was such a huge fan of his, Massimo [Bottura], from Chef’s Table. We got to eat there the night before, just as friends, in the main dining room. The next day, Massimo saw Aziz and I having a spritz at a bar and he [jokingly] came and said, “Why aren’t you filming in my restaurant? How dare you!”
We were filming at the other amazing restaurant called Giusti that’s also in the first episode of Season Two. [Massimo says], “You’re coming in tomorrow before service. Bring your cameras. We’ll do this.” So we pretty much took a scene that was supposed to be us in an alley and we moved it into this private dining room where Massimo served us by hand.
And we did it real. All the wines were real. We drank like seven wines—we were getting pretty lit. If you watch that scene, our emotions are so real because we so respect the simplicity of the food and how good it was.
We pretty much kept the cameras rolling. They wanted it to be very real. We cut every once in a while to move some stuff around. But we tried to not talk and really let it happen.
What’s your take on the state of wine in America?
We’re working towards fun. Tonight I’m having a party at Wildair. You go in there, and it’s a party. People are popping corks, slamming wine. It’s some really interesting, rare wine, but you’re not in this fine dining world. Wine is meant to be drunk with friends [while] having fun.
There’s a huge resurgence in that now. Many more people are drinking wine, many younger people are drinking wine. I want to be there as the guy to be like, “Let’s have fun with this.” It’s our voice now. It’s our generation running this thing.