Jordan Lari—a New York-based beverage director for The National Bar & Dining Rooms in The Benjamin hotel—has loved wine for as long as he’s loved literature. His zeal for all things vinous developed while he watched his father grow and groom a wine collection, propelling him to pursue his passion professionally.
But Lari is no one-trick pony. Before working for a variety of restaurants encompassing a diverse mix of clientele and cuisine (including Tribeca Grill, Gilt, Nice Matin and The Lambs Club restaurant), Lari lived and traveled in Europe and earned a master’s degree in creative writing at Florida State University. The wine lifestyle he’s built is one he says has grown in tandem with his appreciation for fiction—a confluence he considers sublime.
Here’s Jordan Lari, in his own words, telling W.E. his perfect summertime wine-and-book pairings.
by David Mitchell, with Bruno Clair’s Les Vaudenelles Marsannay
“David Mitchell’s novel is one I recommend to everyone. You must read it before it becomes a cinematic comic book. Touring through humanity and culture, beginning with the fictionalized dawn of American imperialism through the fall of civilization and beyond (I hope I’ve not given too much away), it’s an important novel because of its content, craft and execution. In many respects, the novel deals with the integrity of the soul, and for that reason, I chose a wine with real soul—a red that is summer-appropriate. Bruno Clair’s 2008 Les Vaudenelles from Marsannay is one that won’t require a second mortgage (although the 2009 vintage may be more easily found). Light and lean and packed with bright acidity, red-fruit notes (think cranberry, underripe strawberries and pomegranate), it has classic Burgundian minerality and earthiness. The 2008 is so refreshing that it drinks almost like white wine. This lean red wine not only captures the soul of Burgundy, but also of its village and vineyard.”
by Homer, with Domaine Sigalas Assyrtiko
I’ve been more shaped by travel and literature than by anything else, and The Odyssey is the metaphorical journey that we are all on. The two places to which I’ve returned most, and that I love above any other places I’ve been (excluding, of course, New York), are Rome (where I lived for a number of years) and Patmos, a small jewel in the Greek Dodecanese Islands. I’m in love with the idea of sitting on the beach, thumbing through The Odyssey again while sipping a fantastic glass of Assyrtiko, a variety indigenous to Santorini. I highly recommend the Assyrtiko from Domaine Sigalas. It’s widely available, very high quality and typical of the variety and style. Bright, fresh and crisp, there are lemon, citrus and persimmon notes and an unbeatable smoky minerality.
The Sun Also Rises
by Ernest Hemingway, with Ameztoi Rubentis
Getariako Txakolina Rosé
Summer is all about travel, discovering new places, foods and wines. Along the way, you discover new attitudes and new things about yourself. No book has ever captured for me the formative experience of travel like this Hemingway masterpiece. There is something so alluring about being on holiday, in particular if that holiday is in Europe, and reading this novel. For me, the best parts take place in Spain, particularly around the town of San Sebastián in the País Vasco. And while this may be my favorite summer novel, my favorite summer wine is probably Ameztoi’s Rubentis, a Getariako Txakolina rosé. It’s slightly spritzy, with laser-beam-like acidity, dazzlingly light, floral and aromatic, and it’s a marvelous value. I can’t help but conjure up images of Hemingway himself squirting a long stream of wine from the bull hide of a half-drained bota, riding atop some 1920s camion, a Basque beret atop his head.
The First Man (Le Premier Homme)
by Albert Camus, with Domaine Ott Clos Mireille Blanc de Blancs
Perhaps the least-known work in Camus’s arsenal, this is a decidedly personal, deeply moving, semiautobiographical story of the young writer as he emerges from Algerian poverty. While I don’t have any Algerian wine to suggest now (in 10 years, this may be a different story), I recommend a wine from the coast of Provence that is equally unknown. I’m amazed to find that almost no one I ever ask has tasted Domaine Ott’s white called Clos Mireille Blanc de Blancs. This particular vineyard abuts the Mediterranean coastline so closely that sea spray is a constant and key vineyard feature (or so I choose romantically to believe), and its location allows a decidedly oceanic mix of soils. These elements combine to transform the blend of Sémillon and Rolle into something a touch briny, reminiscent of shucking oysters and sipping wine dockside. With great acidity, focus and expressive minerality, this wine is one of France’s truly great and undiscovered gems, situated across the Mediterranean from the troubled homeland of young Camus.
Three Ways to Wax Poetic About Summer Wine and Food Pairings
1. Summer is the season for some of my favorite ingredients: pole beans, heirloom tomatoes, peaches and other stone fruits. There are tons of fresh, vibrant, exciting flavors that become a part of the summertime palate.
2. Try pairing Assyrtiko with fresh vegetable salads, goat cheeses and light fish dishes. Branzino (what Greeks call barbounia) with butter, lemon and oregano roasted on a sheet pan with potatoes is tough to beat.
3. Txakolina is the perfect summertime wine, having a brief season, not unlike heirloom tomatoes. It makes for a summer treat that we yearn for the rest of the year.