Back in 1968 when Steve Wallace opened Wally’s Wines and Spirits, it was strictly a neighborhood liquor store — with some wine. That was long before the store, which moved several times before ending up in its current location on Westwood Boulevard, became known as the wine shop to the stars.
Wallace got interested in wine early on. He had to, really. After working in high school as a valet parker at Romanoff’s restaurant in Beverly Hills, at 22 he became the manager of the Daisy Club, the era’s equivalent of Studio 54, a job that involved buying wine. He knew nothing about it, but took some of Robert Balzer’s courses at UCLA.
Soon he was driving up to Napa Valley and getting to know the winemakers. “Wine wasn’t part of our culture in the ‘60s,” he says. “People didn't think much of California wines. But now wine is very much part of our culture.”
Two years ago he sold the business to his partner, Christian Navarro, and the Marciano brothers of the Guess fashion line, but he still stays interested. So what’s he drinking these days?
Tequila. Specifically, Don Julio 1942 Añejo.
"I’ve been drinking Don Julio for a long time and when the 1942 came out four or five years ago, I switched," says Wallace. "The Don Julio 1942 is well balanced, easy to drink and you get a taste of oak in there."
"I drink it with just ice. In the summer, though, I sometimes adulterate it with a slice of orange." It's obvious Wallace is not a cocktail kind of guy.
"My mother, who lived to be 98, drank it. Every day at 5 p.m. sharp, she’d have a shot of Don Julio 1942 neat," he says. "I often stopped by her house to replenish her supply and have a drink with her."
Wallace has been doing a lot of traveling lately, and says tequila is showing up in places where he’s never seen it before. He was just in Ireland and was surprised to find tequila had made its way there too.
“Made from just agave, tequila is the healthiest drink there is — not that I care about that,” he laughs. "But then again, my mother lived to be 98."