Have you ever been on a wine field trip?
A wine field trip is when you venture off to a special destination to take part in fun wine-based activities.
My wine bestie Madeline and I have been obsessed with Helen Johannesen ever since she launched her Wine Face podcast. We wanted to see all of her fave bottles in real life so we went to Helen’s Wines in Los Angeles.
Does this all sound vaguely familiar? It’s probably because I recently sang my praises for Helen’s podcast here on the blog. You may also recognize Madeline from Instagram where she captures the details of her fabulous life (highly recommend watching her “i got a beret!” story) or the With Joy blog where she documents that which is near and dear to her heart.
Helen’s Wines is a teeny tiny wine shop in the back of a hip Italian restaurant called Jon and Vinny’s. It’s about the size of a walk-in closet with wine shelves lining three walls and a glass window that looks out into the restaurant.
Once you get over the size of the shop, you’ll start browsing the wines and quickly realize that Helen has managed to cram a lot of awesome bottles into a super small space. Props for that alone!
Some of the wines stand out because they have special tags with funny handwritten recommendations. Others will catch your eye with their pretty labels or unrecognizable grape varietals.
You may pick up a few bottles and get scared by the high price tags, but just when you are about to bail someone will pop into the shop to help you out.
Helen was busy recording the podcast so another knowledgeable staffer named David came to our rescue. He asked us what we were looking for and which wines we typically like to drink. Then, he started pulling bottles from the shelves.
Each time he pulled a wine down, he’d check to make sure the price was in our budget. Then, he would launch into a detailed description about where it came from, who made it, what to drink it with, and why it stands out from the rest. I was impressed by his wide range of knowledge and entertained by the stories he told about each wine.
For the record, the wine bottle pictured above was totally out of our price range. While David assured us that all of Helen’s picks are gold, he also said that everyone almost always starts out with the cheaper stuff and then comes back for the higher-priced bottles. He suggested I remember this one for when I’m ready to up the ante. Consider this my note to self!
Helen popped into the shop for five seconds during which we immediately turned into awestruck fan girls on the inside. Somehow we managed to play it cool enough on the outside that David didn’t seem to realize we weren’t really listening to his passionate discourse on orange wine.
Here we are in a state of bliss after seeing one of our wine heroes and being presented with a bevy of wonderful wine choices.
Madeline typically drinks white wine but wanted to try out a light red. She was very close to buying a pet-nat rosé with a beautiful dark pink hue, but ended up choosing a chillable gamay that will be perfect for the warm fall we’re having in Southern California right now.
David was successful in convincing me that orange wine is awesome so I bought Le Trouble Fait, which is made in France by Marc and Caroline Barriot. This is a skin-contact wine meaning the wine maker takes the white grapes and ferments them with the skin on and it results in a wine that looks white in the glass but tastes more like a red.
I also grabbed an easy-drinking white from the $20 and under section called La Pépie Muscadet Sèvre et Maine Sur Lie. Given it’s name and my weakness for all things French, it’s probably no surprise that this bottle also hails from France.
All in all, our first wine field trip was a huge success. We had a blast, learned a little bit in the process, and are basically best friends with Helen. Something tells me we’ll be going back sooner rather than later!