Q&A with Steve Wallace of Wally's Wines
Steve Wallace is the owner of Wally’s Wines, one of the finest retail wine, spirit and food stores in the country. He is also a partner in several Los Angeles restaurants, such as Capo in Santa Monica, Brentwood Restaurant, and Cora’s Coffee Shoppe, and is a partner in Zachy’s/Wally’s Wine Auctions.
Mr. Wallace has been serving the needs of discerning clientele in the Los Angeles area for over 40 years. Wallace is thefirst to say that his relationship with The Private Bank enabled him to grow his business. We sat with Steve to get his insights on the current state of the Wine Industry:
Q: Can you tell us briefly how you got started in the wine business?
A: When I was a young man, I started a valet parking business and brought my services to the Daisy Club, a chic private disco in Beverly Hills that was like the Studio 54 of Los Angeles at that time. One day, the manager didn’t show up for work and, just like that, the owners asked me to come inside and manage the club. As the new Manager of the Daisy Club I was required to buy wine. Since I didn’t know a thing about it, I started taking classes at UCLA with professor Robert Balzer, who inspired me to pursue the business of wine. I started my first Wally’s in 1968, with the support of my parents, and the rest is history.
Q: What is your favorite part about this industry?
A: Like many industries, this business is all about nurturing relationships. Just like The Private Bank, I love making and growing quality relationships with people. I have relationships with wine producers all over the world, from California to France. Unlike other industries, however, this business becomes part of your lifestyle. The people that I work with, whether wine growers from all over the world or wine consumers right in Los Angeles, have become my life-long friends. My work and personal lives have melded, and that is my favorite part of this industry. Also, it has allowed me to travel to all parts of the world such as Europe, Australia, New Zealand, France and even Hong Kong (the hot spot for wine auctions).
Q: Can you touch on the quality of the wine over the past year or so?
A: The quality of the wine over the past year or so varies largely on the region harvesting the grapes. For example, California typically yields a consistent vintage each year. However, in 2011 they received a lot of rain and had poor weather conditions…so we are seeing the affects of that on the wine. On the contrary, France had a wonderful harvest in 2010 and is selling ‘wine futures’ without a problem.
Q: Can you explain the concept and process of ‘wine futures’?
Wine futures are when a customer buys wine that has just been harvested and put in the barrel. It is a way of reserving bottles of wine, straight from the providence where they were harvested, in advance. The customer won’t receive the wine for another few years, as it needs to age still. But they know, at the time of harvesting, that the wine is good…because we have gone out to taste it and journalists have reported on it. The grapes are harvested in September/October, we taste it in April, and the wine futures are made available in June/July. The prices are very reasonable at the beginning and increase 15-20% each year, so wine futures are a good investment. People used to buy futures just to ensure that they got a great wine at a good price direct from the grower…but now more people are buying them as investments.
Q: Have price ranges varied for various bottles over the past several years?
A: The wine industry is very competitive. Thus, you don’t have to spend a lot of money to get a great wine. In general, there are more great values available on wine than ever before. And prices have stayed fairly consistent over the past few years. You can also find increasing values on wine from Argentina, Brazil, and Spain. The exception, however, are rare, collectible wines. The rarest wines in the world continue to go up in price. This increase is due to recent demand from China.
Q: Are people drinking as much wine, or more wine, as they used to? What changes have you seen in people’s buying habits?
A: When looking at the culture of the U.S. a few years back and comparing it to present day, more people are drinking more wine across the board. Wine is an integral part of our culture and it is common to have a glass with a meal. We have seen a 7% increase in consumption in the U.S. over this past year. And as more people travel and become more sophisticated, this will continue to increase. Those that used to drink beer and whiskey are now enjoying wine.
Q: As we approach the Holiday season, can you recommend a good wine for the festivities?
A: Champagne is a great wine for festivities and it also makes a great gift. Rosé champagnes, in particular, are the best to drink and be gifted. They pair well with anything and, contrary to what some believe, the best champagnes are made of Rosé. Krug, Moet, Clicquot and Dom Perignon make an excellent Rosé wine. You can also find some great California sparkling Rosés.
To reach Steve Wallace directly, please visit www.wallywine.com or call the store directly.
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We hope you had a wonderful first quarter and are enjoying the spring air. This quarterly newsletter brings you important information on the Small Business Lending Fund, Helpful Tips for Data Privacy, an interview with our valued client The Original Fish Company, and more! Please enjoy and thank you for your continued support!
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