Secret Garden

Culver City's newest wineshop is in full bloom

There is too much to love at Bar & Garden, Culver City's newest wine and spirits purveyor.

Tucked inside what was once a 60-year-old liquor store, owners Marissa Mandel and Lauren Johnson have assembled rows of craft spirits, aperitifs, shrubs, and other cocktails accessories you'll recognize from the city's top drink lists.

But the biggest surprise is Bar & Garden's plentiful–and still-growing–array of natural wines, which range from sulfite-free to biodynamically certified.

Many of the featured wines are adorned with handwritten notes explaining their significance to Mandel and Johnson. "This label looked like a hideous Christmas ornament," read one note next to a 2009 Trascampanas Verdejo ($15 for 750 ml), "but the wine was so good, we had to have it."

The couple hopes to have their tasting bar, fashioned from a long plank of driftwood, running in a few weeks.

You could start by sipping a splashy, aromatic 2011 Vine Starr Zinfandel ($22 for 750 ml) from Berkeley's Broc Cellars, then leapfrog to a super-funky 2010 Côtes du Rhône "Le Coulet" blend ($19 for 750 ml) from Domaine Chiniard.

We don't expect this shop to stay quiet for long, but for now, we plan to take full advantage of this charming hideaway.