When Domaine LA opened its doors in 2009, owner Jill Bernheimer knew she wanted to do something different with her wine shop. Zeroing in on natural wines well before that phrase entered Angeleno lexicon, Bernheimer aimed to highlight small producers and growers that took a hands-on approach from start to finish. As a result, she categorizes her inventory as honest wines, clarifying: “that means wines made by people, not manufactured by corporations.”
Before becoming a low-intervention evangelist, she spent a decade working in the film industry, but slowly made the transition from independent producer to full-time natural wine purveyor. In 2007, to fuel—and monetize—her growing interest in wine, Bernheimer began blogging on the topic and selling hard-to-source bottles through her first website, Domaine 547. As her online business continued to grow, she went all-in, making Domaine LA into a brick-and-mortar reality on Melrose Avenue two years later.
Since then, Bernheimer has turned the shop into one of the most influential natural wine destinations in the country, one that educates customers on up-and-coming winemakers with weekly tastings, monthly wine clubs and her knowledgeable staff. For Bernheimer, the goal is not necessarily to stock the most sought-after bottles, but rather, those that are produced with integrity.
So what does Bernheimer do when she’s not curating Domaine LA’s wine wall? Here, she tackles our Lookbook Questionnaire to share the best thing she ever drank, the album she’d play on loop for the rest of her life and one thing she wishes would disappear from wine lists forever. —Tatiana Bautista
What do you want to be when you grow up?
Best thing you ever drank:
A bottle of Georges Laval Champagne, New Year’s Eve 2016, accompanied by a hamburger. The only way to describe it is perfect.
Worst thing you ever drank:
A liter of Coke, emptied out by about a third and topped off with Bacardi white rum.
First time you ever got drunk:
See above. It was our high school orchestra trip to Montreal, which ended up with 50 of the 55 students suspended.
If you had to listen to one album on loop, for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Apparently to the chagrin of my employees, it’s my Spotify running playlist that has a heavy dose of the Chainsmokers. In reality, it’s probably Cat Stevens’ Tea for the Tillerman.
What’s the weirdest hobby you currently have or have had?
I collected a lot of weird things as a kid, ranging from Happy Meal boxes (I thought they’d be valuable one day?) to snow globes. I’m currently trying to keep my life clutter free, so collecting things is all in the past.
What do you know now that you wish you’d known five years ago?
It’s all going to be okay.
Weirdest cocktail experiment you’ve ever attempted:
I’m not really a cocktail maker. I mean, I’ll drink one out but at home it’s really just wine.
What’s your favorite thing to do when you’re not eating, drinking or drink-making?
The most luxurious and indulgent thing I do is nothing. What a treat, to take a break from everything.
Weirdest drink request you’ve ever gotten:
People come in and ask for non-alcoholic wine from time to time, which I just don’t understand!
Your favorite bar, and why:
I’m more of a restaurant person so I’ll say Marvin, because it’s a restaurant that can be frequented as a wine bar. I can go there with a friend, or as easily just go there alone and enjoy a drink and a bite without being bothered.
Best meal you’ve ever had:
I had this amazing meal in Bologna many years ago, where they passed around gigantic communal antipasti platters from table to table, and had free flowing wine and limoncello and a vat of mascarpone for dessert. I thought it was just the best food and atmosphere I’ve ever experienced, and I think was called Da Silvio. For years I tried to research it and found nothing online (now I see it’s ranked 300 out of 1500 on TripAdvisor). I’m starting to think it was the equivalent of the Olive Garden but it was just magical that night.
What’s your go-to drink in a cocktail bar?
I love a good sour or a fizz or any number of things with egg whites and apparently complicated to make—which is why bartenders tend to hate me.
Whatever is most zippy and refreshing. Generally bubbles.
In a dive bar?
Gin and Tonic. But more likely water…
Your preferred hangover recovery regimen:
I’m not frequently hungover, but my day generally starts with a workout no matter what state I’m in and it usually does the trick.
The one thing you wish would disappear from drink lists forever:
For cocktails lists, puns. Why does every new-fangled drink have to have such a clever name? Give me a Manhattan, please.
For wine lists, the obligation item. You’ll see a really thoughtful list, and then the glaring inclusion of a New Zealand Sauv Blanc or a mass-market Champagne that just doesn’t fit in.
The last text message you sent: