Interviewed by Sarah Langdale, Social Media Manager
Janine Lettieri has worked in New York City fine dining for over a decade with sommelier roles at Fleur de Sel, the three-star Michelin restaurant Le Bernardin, and the Waverly Inn. Janine holds certificates from the Court of Master Sommeliers and the American Sommelier Association, as well as a Diploma in Wine and Spirits from the Wine and Spirit Education Trust. Janine is pursuing the Master of Wine credential, which only 27 Americans hold.
Q: How would you describe your wine personality?
JL: Particular about wines I know but open to trying new things.
Q: What are your favorite foods?
JL: Asian, Indian, Mexican, I love spicy ethnic food. At home, simply prepared fresh local produce and artisanal meats are my staples and comfort foods.
Q: What are your favorite wines to drink?
JL: My two favorite varieties are Nebbiolo and Pinot Noir. I love both red and white Burgundy, German Riesling (especially aged), and Austrian Riesling and Grüner Veltliner.
Q: What’s the most epic wine you’ve ever tasted?
JL: A 1929 La Tache from Burgundy circulated at a La Paulée after party left a lasting impression–it was close to 100 years old, ethereal and yet still full of life.
Q: What is your favorite NYC restaurant?
JL: That’s very difficult but if I have to choose a favorite, I should probably choose the one that I go to almost once a week–Prime Meats in Brooklyn on Court Street. Eleven Madison Park for special occasions.
Q: What’s your favorite wine region to travel to?
JL: The most magical winegrowing region I have ever been to is Ribeira Sacra in Spain’s Galicia. Piedmont, Burgundy and Napa Valley are some other places I could visit year after year and not tire of.
Q: Why did you get into wine?
JL: As a kid wine was often served at family dinners and that is how I got my first taste for it. Through college I worked in restaurants and loved the work hard, play hard lifestyle. But it felt irresponsible to be serving expensive wine to diners without knowing anything about it. I took a couple of classes and got totally hooked. I never thought my quirky hobby would blossom into a successful career.
Q: Why did you join Lot18?
JL: The potential to change the way Americans buy wine and the pedigree of the people whom I am fortunate enough to work with.
Q: If you had one piece of advice for buying wine, what would it be?
JL: Trust your instincts. It doesn’t matter what the critics say. Don’t let anyone tell you what you should or shouldn’t drink–if you like it, it’s completely valid, if you don’t that is too.
Q: What is challenging about being a candidate for Master of Wine?
JL: It’s difficult to turn your passion into something you need to be so disciplined about.