F = for women on the rise

Britt Meets Sommelier and Founder Helen Johannesen

Britt Turpack

Posted on April 10 2018

In 2009, native New Yorker Helen Johannesen moved to Los Angeles and worked at Craft for two years before she joined chefs Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo to oversee the wine lists for a number of their owned or part-owned restaurants including Animal, Son of a Gun, Trois Mec, Petit Trois, Jon and Vinny’s, Trois Familia and Kismet.

In 2015, Johannesen then became a partner in Jon & Vinny’s pizza and pasta restaurant — aptly named — Jon & Vinny’s, as well as retaining her Director of Operations and Beverage Director position across all six restaurants. 

In the back of Jon & Vinny’s, Johannesen also has a wine store called named — you guessed it —Helen’s. In an bid to inform and educate customers as well as make more wine accessible to all, Johannesen is known to hold wine tastings and workshops in the shop too. Johannesen was named one of the the top Sommeliers of the Year in 2016 by Food & Wine magazine.

WHY is Helen Johannesen so cool?

WHY is she a good role model?

WHY should you read this?

I will spell it out for you. It’s very simple.

She is an innovator.

She’s ambitious.

She carved out her own path.


As she puts it,

“She works hard.”

“She has focus.”

“She has vision.”

And she starts everyday like she’s nowhere (#humble) with the intention to get somewhere.

And as we are approaching the half way mark of 2018, I really think it’s important to realize to get anywhere in this world you need those character traits mentioned above to live a full life, no matter what field one may be in.

Helen took her interests and stayed open to opportunity… and then she HUSTLED. She made a career happen for herself. And that, my friends, is why I admire her so much.

“I started working in a restaurant in college to make friends. But once I got there, I knew the environment fitted with my vibe and my energy. I didn’t know where I wanted that to take me but I knew it (a restaurant) is where I wanted to be.” Lesson: You Don’t Need To Have All of The Answers But It’s Important To Honor Your Self Needs

On the opposite side of that, she also recognized what didn’t serve here and was able to set boundaries. It’s funny, I’m really beginning to learn that it is just as important (if not more important) to be aware and acknowledge the things that don’t serve our best self-interests, as it is to recognize what does… OK, tangent done. Back to Helen.

“I moved to LA ten years ago. At this point, I knew all I wanted to do was work in restaurants. Los Angeles was so appealing because of the accessibility to all of the great Farmers’ Markets and good food. Back then, I knew I could do whatever I wanted to do here. It was still a city that was “becoming.” You could carve your own path here and there were no limits as to what I could or could not do.”


Helen has been working with Jon and Vinny (Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo) for 10 years. In the last three, she has been a partner with them.

Do you recommend picking wine by the label?

“No! Don’t do it. (She laughs) Find a wine shop that you like. You need one that is not a grocery store or a liquor store. You have to find a person you like and who you trust, and together build a wine profile that’s specific to you.”

Just FYI People: Helen’s Wine Shop Currently Delivers All Over LA!!! Honestly, it is as easy as emailing her at info@helenswines.com and telling her what your likes and dislikes are in regards to wine.


You make it all look so easy. How do you do IT? (Run your own business)

“It’s important to remember this shit doesn’t just happen overnight. Honestly hard work and the ability to just keep pushing on.I operate on lists. So as long as I’m constantly checking things off those lists then I’m OK. More importantly, a strong belief in yourself. SELF DOUBT KILLS THE MOJO. It’s also unrealistic to expect you won’t have self doubt, but when that self doubt does creep in, I overwhelm those thoughts with positivity.” 

A M E N  S I S T E R

xx @brittlovessmoothies

Helen's Wines / Helen on Instagram

Pics of Britt and Helen by Kristin Burns


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