Grape Expectations at Wally’s Vinoteca

Shop, eat, hang out, linger after midnight, and, of course, drink at this new Beverly Hills emporium

Wally’s Vinoteca, the new culinary-miscellany offshoot of Wally’s Wine & Spirits that opened on Beverly Hills’ North Canon Drive last week, might have a full bar, a bustling kitchen, a cheese shop, a high-end hooch salon, a reserve room, a beer cooler, a sake cooler, a dessert cooler, and an accessory alcove, but there’s no question about where Christian Navarro and his partners, Paul and Maurice Marciano of the Guess jeans empire, want to place their emphasis: It’s on wine.

Wine inhabits the walls here, it lines every shelf and table, it greets you from the floor-to-ceiling cubbyholes just inside the double doors. Oh sure, you can feast on pizza or pheasant or scallop carpaccio from Ralph Soroczynski’s kitchen, you can indulge yourself with a selection of international cheeses, but wine, in all its forms, looms over you. Sooner or later, you’ll have to give in.

Vinoteca is a bit like an Eataly for Francophiles, a multiverse of food and drink with a French and California theme. It’s borne from Navarro’s travels and, to an extent, his lifestyle. In many of the cities he loves, the places he gravitates to are the places where the whole community gathers.

“I want this to be one of those places,” he says, “I want this to be a place where neighbors and rock stars share tables.”

It’s certainly designed for rubbing shoulders: All of the tables are long and communal, crafted from Italian marble and tall enough for standing (you can also sit on wicker bar stools). It’s meant to be a place where you can pop in, to grab a bite or a double shot, a glass of bubbles, or a couple of bottles before heading to the next party, or linger for a longer nosh. Navarro hopes Vinoteca, open from 10 a.m. until 2 a.m., will be a post-shift hangout for the restaurant industry, where chefs and servers can down a shot of Fernet or a glass of Bandol.

Other details are striking, like the counter for cheese and prepared foods, adorned by a gleaming Italian meat-slicer and a cheery mosaic of game and fowl (the latter from Monika Scharff, formerly a Disney craftsperson). Pieces from the Marciano’s art collection will rotate on and off the walls. Then there’s all that wine, rising to the ceiling in long custom wood shelving that creates, in places, the feel of a library or a chapel. The selection is huge, 30,000 bottles that should grow to 60,000, and bears the stamp of Wally’s classics, strong in Bordeaux, Burgundy, and California, but Navarro has a bit more room to play around with here. So walk out with Petrus if you like, or a vintage Cheval Blanc, but you might be just as happy with a bottle of Robert Biale’s Black Chicken Zin or Kyle MacLachlan’s Washington red, Pursued by Bear.

Navarro and his partners plan to open Vinotecas (Vinotecae?) in several cities across the country, including San Francisco, Chicago, Dallas, and New York. Watch your back, Eataly.

redarrow Wally’s Vinoteca, 447 N. Canon Drive, Beverly Hills, 310-458-1141