In the warehouse storage facility behind Wally's Wine & Spirits, cases upon cases of wooden wine crates sit stacked. The bear the names of some of the world's most sought-after wines. "That's going for about $13,000 a case right now," says owner Christian Navarro, motioning towards one of the crates as he nears the rare wine storage, with bottles that are worth considerably more than the $13,000 cases stacked outside it.
Navarro has long been a partner in Wally's, and has worked at the store for more than 20 years. But just recently, founder Steve Wallace decided to move on from the business he built, and sold his part of the business to Navarro, along with the founders of the Guess fashion label: Maurice, Paul and Armand Marciano.
Wallace opened Wally's in 1968, and since then it's grown to become one of the best-known independent wine stores in the country, with one of the broadest inventories. Navarro estimates that Wally's is one of the top 4 or 5 independent stores nationwide in terms of sales, and certainly the largest on the west coast.
The list of things that makes Wally's special is absurdly long. They employ experts in almost every kind of beverage you can imagine: all the wine regions, but also sake, beer and liquor. You can call Wally's and get an expert on the phone, who will then ship you wine direct -- much of Wally's business is now done by phone and internet. Their longstanding relationships with winemakers all over the world get them wines you're unlikely to find elsewhere. They have one of the best cheese shops in the city attached to the store. And on and on.
We asked Navarro to pick out three wines from Wally's vast inventory that he's particularly fond of right now -- one affordable pick, one a little more of a splurge, and one really special bottle. His selections:
Miraval Rose, $24.99, Provence, France. (Yes, the Brangelina wine)
"Showing red berries and floral notes on the nose with a real freshness on the palate, this is a pure expression of Provençal rosé. This is not just another celebrity wine, this is a serious rosé, made by the Perrin family. It is the best rosé on the market, perfect for warm weather drinking."
2011 Carillon Puligny Montrachet, $58.99, Burgundy, France.
"A vibrant palate with citrus and nectarine notes, good acidity -- balanced with a long finish. An incredible wine with grilled fish. This wine represents fantastic value and possibly the biggest bang for the buck you can get in a top flight White Burgundy."
2009 Pontet Canet, $299.99, Bordeaux, France.
"An epic and elegant example of the great 2009 vintage, this Bordeaux shows dark berries, hints of smoke and cedar with silky tannins and superb structure. This is arguably the best wine of the vintage and from the best vintage of our lifetime."