Three Bottles, One Shop is a series in which we take a peek into an L.A. wine shop and ask the owner to pick and describe three great bottles on offer. Have a shop you'd like to see featured? Email email@example.com.
In 2007, Jill Bernheimer was working in the film industry in development and production. "I guess I could say the film industry drove me to drink," she says, smiling. As a way to subsidize her hobby, Bernheimer started a small, online wine business. Two years later, the hobby blossomed into a career and Domaine L.A. the retail store opened.
"I learned very quickly that people shopping online tend to be looking for specific wines, and that kind of shopping is very points-driven," Bernheimer says, talking about customers who take their buying cues from critics and wine magazines. "That's not why I got into selling wine. With the store, I can do more hand sales."
What she sells is a lot of French wines, a lot of wines from the new breed of California wine makers, a lot of Champagne. "My tastes have changed a lot since I started out," Bernheimer says. She's interested in higher-acid wines now, and things "that can be part of a meal rather than being the meal itself." The wines she sells aren't always the wines that customers who walk through the door are looking for. "Especially with Champagne, people come in who are looking to buy a gift and they're looking for something that the recipient will know how much it cost, so a familiar label that everyone knows. But you know what that yields? A mass-produced wine."
Domaine L.A. focuses only on grower-producers, meaning you're not going to find any of those high-end, well-known labels. "I don't like to be combative, or make people think what they're looking for is wrong somehow," Bernheimer says. "I'll help them find what they're looking for, even if they're not going to find it here. Hopefully that will build some trust, and maybe next time they'll come back and take a chance."
Domaine L.A. holds two weekly tastings, one on Sundays from 2-5 p.m. that costs $10-$20, and a much more casual affair on Fridays at 5 p.m. that costs $5 and is really geared toward the after-work crowd, a wine to sip while they shop. Bernheimer also has just relaunched the online store, where you can browse and buy on the web.
We asked Bernheimer to choose three wines from her current inventory she's particularly excited about. See her picks and descriptions below.
NV Cedric Bouchard "Val Vilaine Inflorescence" Blanc de Noirs Brut Champagne ($66)
"I've carried this Champagne since I first opened the brick-and-mortar shop. I had a bottle in New York the year prior, and had been trying to hunt it down in California ever since. As soon as the wine found a local importer, just about the time I opened my doors, I bought as much as I could afford (at that time, not much!). This is the entry-level offering from Bouchard, and the epitome of a small production "grower-producer" or "RM" (Récoltant-Manipulant) Champagne. It's single vineyard, single grape variety (in this case, Pinot Noir), zero-dosage and always single vintage (2009, even though labeled NV). It's a terroir-driven Champagne, and pretty much the opposite of the bottlings from negociants who blend for uniformity and consistency of style for their basic cuvées. Bouchard gets what the harvest gives him, and it's beautiful. About 80 cases per year make it into the state, so it's not something that sticks around all year (we may have a couple of bottles still hidden in the back!)."
2011 Puzelat-Bonhomme "Le Telquel" Vin de France ($18)
"This is mostly Gamay with a little bit of Grolleau from the Loire Valley, made by winemaker Thierry Puzelat. It's aromatic, with spice and perfume, lighter in body, has a core of acidity present, and is modest in alcohol (about 11.5% ABV). It's really a great wine for the dinner table though it's certainly enjoyable on its own. I should also mention that it's organically farmed and made with no additives, fining or filtration. It's a classic Loire "Vin Naturel," though I find it accessible and a good way to introduce people to a style that might be a bit unconventional."
2012 Arnot-Roberts Rosé ($23)
"Like the Bouchard Champagne, I stockpile as much as I can get. Made from two Portuguese grape varieties (Touriga Nacional and Tinta Cao), it's bursting with precise
berry fruit and a backbone of minerality. For me, it's really representative of some of the great things happening in California: winemakers stepping away from reliance on well-known appellations and grapes and doing things that might not make perfect marketing sense but that actually work in the bottle."
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