A worm-filled bottle is hardly what you would expect to find in an Italian wine shop, but Wine Expo staffer Erik Moreno has a soft spot for tequila. His mother is from Jalisco, the Mexican state where the spirit is produced. Nine years ago, Moreno began systematically cleansing the Santa Monica store's shelves of Cuervo and Patrón and replacing them with bottles from artisanal producers. Over the years, he has amassed a curiosity shop-worthy collection of more than 70 bottles. Moreno's tequila procurement mantra is simple: Only 100 percent blue Weber agave tequilas, no mixtos (a blend of agave and grain alcohol), are allowed. Only those blancos, reposados and añejos — the names correspond to the length of time the tequilas are aged — that pass his rigorous taste tests (a hard job) land a permanent spot. And many are priced at or below those from larger tequila producers. Among Moreno's current favorites are a light, cocktail-worthy $16 blanco from Ranchero Jalisciense and a $31 vanilla-scented añejo from D'Los Altos. For solo quaffing, the clove and caramel-laced Don Cardona reposado is hard to beat. It's a more robust $67, but no one ever said you had to share. 2933 Santa Monica Blvd., Santa Monica. (310) 828-4428, wineexpo.com.

—Jenn Garbee

LA Weekly