Los Angeles-based wine influencer Andrea Jaramillo.

A Guide to Santa Monica’s Luxe Wine Scene

Text by Anne Wallentine
Images by Tim Aukshunas

While there are exceptional wine bars across Los Angeles, Santa Monica’s breezy terroir seems to foster spaces that are both luxe and relaxed, where curious wine-drinkers can find anything from the latest local, biodynamic wines to classic international appellations. 

For timeless wines in a stylish spot, Esters, Rustic Canyon Group’s Art Deco gem of a wine bar, hosts themed tastings on Sunday afternoons (12-9pm). Their Monday cellar nights (4-10pm), when they open rare and high-end bottles, shouldn’t be missed. 

Far from champagne problems, Esters has declared 2024 the year of “Champagne Resolutions.” Co-owner Kathryn Coker says champagne shouldn’t just be for special occasions, so Esters is offering more champagnes by the glass as well as a wide variety of bottles on their shelves.

The newest shop on the block, Divine Vintage, has brought a well-curated charm and a popping patio scene to Montana Avenue with its unique combination of wine and vintage clothing. Their popular weekend tastings (Saturdays and Sundays, 2-6pm) and expert selection of bottles have drawn local celebrities through the door —although the team is far too discreet to share names. 

Community “is what drives it all,” says David Kianmahd, Divine’s operations director. Partners and co-owners Nick Dumergue and Jen Rush combined their love of wine and vintage treasures to “create a gathering spot where you can come in and enjoy the ‘take-me-away’ adventure of wine and cool things,” Kianmahd says. 

New Zealand-born Dumergue is a globe-trotting sommelier who has worked “all over the world and [in] every part of the wine business,” as he explains. His extensive personal experience informs the bottles that line the shelves: “These are all my favorites,” he says. Dumergue looks for “classic wines of the world” that are “classic for a reason,” while keeping an eye to modern tastes for natural and orange wines. Around 90% of the wines are international, to encourage customers to explore wine regions beyond California. He has found that “the neighborhood’s really curious and they want to try new things.”

It’s the elegant, “Cheers version of a wine shop,” Kianmahd says: small and cozy enough to be neighborly but refined and curated enough to find a bottle for any occasion—and perhaps even a champagne saber, should you need one. 

If Divine is the smart, maximalist neighborhood spot where everyone knows your name, Offhand Wine Bar is the cool, minimalist cousin who can show you around town. Offhand was opened in 2022 by Westside Winos, a group of friends, wine lovers, and DJs: Justin Leathers, Teron Stevenson and Khalil Kinsey. Their taste for “pairing wine and music,” as Leathers puts it, has made their otherwise unassuming corner on Santa Monica Boulevard a buzzy weekend hotspot, mentioned in actor Issa Rae’s list of L.A. favorites.

Offhand’s staff-selected tasting flights rotate weekly, and they partner with local food pop-ups on the weekends. Sundays alternate between elevated French seafood bistro Mignonette and the Serrano Experience’s Spanish Basque cuisine. 

“Wine can tell a lot of stories,” says Jaramillo. It’s about the artistry and regionality of wine as well as “the communities that surround it” and the people who consume it together.

Their wines are selected entirely from the West Coast, from Valle de Guadalupe to Washington’s Colombia Valley, with an emphasis on “from-our-backyard, California natural wines,” Leathers explains. They’ve been excited to introduce skeptics to natural wines, and see people of “all ages, all generations” enjoy their space and their efforts to bring “a little more culture to Santa Monica.” 

“It’s really cool being able to branch the culture and wine and make that intersect,” says wine influencer Andrea Jaramillo. Most people might default to red, white, or rosé—but for Jaramillo, it all began with an orange wine. A down-to-earth connoisseur, Jaramillo got her start as “a regular person who likes wine” and “wanted to share what wines I was drinking with my friends.” A few months after she started her TikTok channel Mas Vino Please in 2020, a post about orange wine helped it take off. Today, she has nearly 40,000 followers, a successful newsletter and podcast—all of which aim to make wine fun and accessible.

For the events and tastings that Jaramillo hosts around the city, “I’m always trying to find wines that I don’t think people will naturally gravitate to on their own,” she says. “I always try to showcase wines that people might not go for, and kind of open them up to a different avenue of exploration in wine.” 

Each oenophile shares that enthusiasm for exploring new wines. For recommendations, Leathers points to Berkeley-based Broc Cellars’ Got Grapes on the bar’s subtle retail shelves—which double as décor—as one of the bottles that got him into natural wine. Dumergue, meanwhile, is excited about wines coming from the north and south of Italy: Piedmont and Sicily’s Mount Etna. He’s also keen on encouraging the recent interest in Portuguese and South African wines.

Sommelier Nick Dumergue stocks the shelves of Divine Vintage, the spot he co-founded.

Jaramillo finds herself drawn to sophisticated “natural wines that are very clean and dialed in and aren’t overly funky,” and is excited by the contemporary wines coming from the San Luis Obispo Coast like Scar of the Sea and Say When. Jaramillo has also collaborated with friends and winemakers Wonderwerk to produce a fruity, floral red wine, Como la Flor, and the sparkling, rose-infused Chismosa. “I wanted to create a wine that felt like it represented the people I hope will drink it,” she says, so the labels and flavors “speak to Latin culture and the communities I grew up with.”  

What do these tastemakers think the future holds for Westside wine? Dumergue has noticed local consumers trending towards lighter, chillable reds, which have softer tannins. Jaramillo notes that, in the US, there is currently “a lot more attention to hybrid grapes,” and in California, more exploration beyond the region’s traditional Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon. She’s intrigued by experiments with California Albariño and Riesling, the latter by vineyards like Cole Ranch. 

“Wine can tell a lot of stories,” Jaramillo says. It’s about the artistry and regionality of wine as well as “the communities that surround it; the farmworkers…that are picking the grapes,” and the people who consume it together. 

What better way to bring all those stories together than raising a glass? 

Other Westside Picks: If you venture further afield from Santa Monica: Vin on Rose and Venice Fine Wines in Venice and Stanley’s Wet Goods and Bar & Garden in Culver City all offer ace selections and atmosphere.

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