Space Invader: Helen Johannesen & Helen’s Wines

Space Invader: Helen Johannesen & Helen’s Wines

Hey there, queens of the universe. Nasty Galaxy drops on October 4; have you pre-ordered your copy of this linen-bound, full-color, brimming-with-advice, cocktail-party-in-your-lap? It picks up where#GIRLBOSSleft off and dives into all the inspirational, bizarre, funny, endearing, glamorous (and a few definitively unglamorous) nooks of Sophia’s life. It’s all in there, and we can’t wait for you to see it.

In the weeks leading up to the release, we’ll be taking you on a journey around L.A. to get to know some of the baddest mamajamas in the galaxy who inspire Sophia on the regular. Last week, we popped by to visit Nicole Katz of Paper Chase Press and Amanda Chantal Bacon, founder of Moon Juice. Check back in the coming weeks to see where we’re headed next!

Back in June, we kicked off the “Portrait of a Girlboss” series with Helen Johannesen, director of the beverage programs for some of L.A.’s best restaurants (Animal, Son of a Gun, Trois Mec, Petit Trois) and proprietor of Helen’s Wines, a little gem of a wine shop nestled in the back of Jon & Vinny’s. In the months since, Helen’s wine club and delivery program has officially gotten its wheels, and her tasting classes (paired with chips and guac or antipasto, depending on the vibe you’re seeking) have become the go-to for Angelenos seeking an experience that brings wine drinking back to its origins—namely, all that is delicious and fun.

We popped into the shop on Fairfax recently with Nasty Galaxy (which has its own section on “How to Order a Bottle of Wine Like an Asshole”!) to check out what’s good and what’s glou-glou, and to see what’s new for one of Food & Wine’s best sommeliers of 2016. Santé!

To you, what is a Girlboss?

If women were not so disenfranchised in the workplace in general, then this concept would not have to exist. But the reality is that it does, and it’s important. Being a Girlboss is about eliminating intimidation that is derived from male-female relationships. It’s the concept of putting intelligence first and evening the playing field. I do this every day.

Tell us a little bit about your space. What inspired the aesthetic?

I designed the shelves in Helen’s with the intention that I could elegantly pack the space full of wine. We worked with an amazing architect named Jeff Guga on Jon & Vinny’s & Helen’s, and he selected the white oak aesthetic. The sign was always going to be pink neon, from the very very beginning and the cursive is my handwriting. The space is supposed to feel comfortable, intimate and exciting. It is chic, sophisticated and welcoming.

What role do you see your business playing in the galaxy of L.A.?

I have many long term goals for the Helen’s and the wine shop that I will keep to myself for now, but in general, I think that there is a need for wine education and expanding people’s understanding of what they are consuming the same way that farmers markets in L.A. have done for food. I want my brand to continuously be associated with quality, whether it’s in a value-driven sense or at the highest level when I am curating someone’s personal cellar. I think everyone should have a little Helen’s wine in their fridge. I only buy the dopest shit!

Anything exciting on the horizon?

Teaching more classes. I have a potential wine writing partnership in the works, and just general domination! I am also coming out with a quarterly catalog that is going to be packaged like a zine. It will highlight the gift boxes I am putting together and the Helen’s Wine Club — which is also a killer gift!