If you spend any time on the luxe street of Canon Drive, you might spot Christian Navarro cruising up to Wally’s Wine & Spirits in his lightening-speed 1948 Vincent Black Shadow motorcycle or sitting at a corner table near the gourmet shop on his computer deep in creative thought. That is, when he’s not walking his French bulldog named Violet.
Looking more like a rock-star with swagger, the 52-year-old Navarro dons his signature chunky Tom Ford shades and his chic lightweight nylon Prada blazer, the modern-day wine guru has held a top spot among celebrities and oenophiles since 1991.
This vision did not start out with six-figure British imported vehicles and an enviable lifestyle of traveling to the most sought- after global wine regions as the president and principal of one of the country’s leading wine merchants. Rather, it began with a job sweeping floors at The Wine House in West Los Angeles in 1986. Blessed with a keen palate and a hunger to learn, Navarro forged his own path to success in the L.A. wine world. Eventually, he caught the attention of the former owner of Wally’s, Steve Wallace.
He also connected with multi-faceted entrepreneurs, Paul and Maurice Marciano. When Wallace decided to retire in 2013, Navarro and the Marcianos saw an opportunity.
“This would not have happened without Paul and Maurice Marciano. They are great businessmen. We work hand in hand every day and they are dreamers like me, and they are allowing me to chase my dream,” Navarro tells the Courier from a perch at a wooden communal table in the back of the Beverly Hills café.
These days, Navarro bounces around between three locations while coaching his buyers. They help bring in a staggering inventory of over 30-35,000 bottles in Beverly Hills alone. He also focuses on strategic planning from a fulfillment location and headquarters in Culver City. And, he works with chefs at the Santa Monica location and Executive Chef Ryan Kluver in Beverly Hills.
“My job is to give them support and be creative and keep them within the lines of our philosophy and beliefs by creating opportunities,” said Navarro.
As for fall foods to pair with wines, charcuterie boards and European cheese selection are staple nibbles, but Navarro likes to shake things up in the kitchen.
“Our food is similar to French traditions but new and exciting since our menus are ever-changing and we follow the seasons very closely,” he said.
Tried and true menu items at the Beverly Hills location also include the $100 chicken with truffles and smashed potatoes and the Wally burger which Navarro claims is, “the best in town.”
With fall menu planning on the horizon, rosé season is on the way out in most parts of the country, but Navarro has remained bullish on the grape since the beginning of its popularity.
“Rosé is easy, fun, everybody likes it and not too serious,” he said.
One of his favorites is Billecart-Salmon Rosé.
“It goes with everything,” he confirms. “That said, there are really high-end rosés and, in this town, it’s rosé all day and you can drink it all year round in California much like in the South of France and Italy,” he added.
As for best sellers on his current watch, Marciano Estate in Napa and Miraval are among his favorites for year-round drinking. The latter is from the Provencal wine partnership of former couple Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie.
“We were lucky that they have both been very good friends and customers and even gave us a six-month exclusive when they first released the wine,” Navarro recalls. “Our other friend, Ryan Seacrest mentioned it on his radio show, and the rest is history.”
With all of the celebrity associations and jet-setting to his favorite “fun” wine regions of Boudreaux, Burgundy, Spain and the Tuscan Coast, he is much more excited about what’s closer to home.
“The Central Coast is the most exciting wine-making region in the world right now and it’s right in our backyard,” said Navarro.
He’s also keeping his eye on Happy Canyon in Santa Barbara.
“Vineyard buying in California is not as expensive as in other parts of the world so that is allowing the entrepreneurs and young Turks to come in to take chances and push the envelope. It takes off the pressure. They have to go for sure hits in the old country and it’s so much more expensive ($2 million vs $2,000 per acre here), so you can have a bit of fun with it. Like Napa in the 1980s when people took chances,” he said.
The Mexico City-born, Palm Springs raised Navarro has been in Beverly Hills since he was 18 years old, and states with the conviction of discovering a hot new varietal, “Beverly Hills is back! I’ve seen it go up and down but it’s better than it ever has been. It’s like a little village and community. I can’t walk down the street without seeing someone I know. It’s a fun place to hang out. It’s a little bit like ‘Cheers’ but wrapped in a Lamborghini,” he said.
Christian Navarro’s Best Beverly Hills Life
According to Navarro, “You have really great quality people here who are real professionals and they travel the world, so they know what the best is, and they expect the best.”
Here is a list of his favorite places and services:
-My favorite bartender: Carlos at Spago
When you walk in the door, he knows all of his guests by name and knows exactly what they want. From the perfect Martini to my full glass of Dom Perignon this gentleman has been serving it up for years.
-I am known for my glasses: Optimetrix, Boris
I walk in and I get the best service and options around.
-I love Sushi and my favorite place in town:
They are under the radar but the fresh fish they fly in directly from Japan and around the world is second to none all in a special small cozy setting.
-Breakfast, there is one place that stands above all others: Nate ‘n Al
I really love the tortilla brei I feel half Jewish and I’m Mexican so makes sense.
Bedford Shoe & Luggage repair
Anytime I need my special pair of Belgian loafers fixed or my travel bag fixed these are my go-to saviors.
-Newcomer with great food: Croft Alley
They serve killer food with great value.
-Favorite Designer store: Celine
Heidi Slimane has transformed this great brand in to a fantastic option for men.
-The greatest hand-crafted suit in the country:
If you are looking for the ultimate in one-of-a-kind leather and exotic jackets this is an absolute must.
Jeff Hamilton ig@jeffhamilton/phone 213-810-5555.
My Favorite wines: 2009 Dom Perignon Champagne $180
The King of all Champagne’s really delivers everything you ever wanted.
2016 Marciano Estate Cabernet Sauvignon $250
This wine crafted by Master winemaker Morgan Maurez is my absolute favorite wine in Napa. Simply delicious!
2016 Nicolas Jay Pinot Noir $65
Mind blowing Pinot Noir from Oregon that if you closed your eyes you would swear its grand Cru Burgundy.
2012 Aleksander Reserve Red $155
A wine that rivals the Titans of Napa and Sonoma at a fraction of the price from my favorite up and coming region Paso Robles.
2016 Hilt “Cuvee Fleur” Chardonnay $45
An amazing value for one of the tastiest Chardonnays in America.
2012 Chateau Haut Brion $500
This wine is the greatest value in 1st growth Bordeaux right now in the world. Drinks well now or can age for a couple of decades.
Wally’s Wine + Spirits 447 N. Canon Drive Beverly Hills, CA 90210 Menu: wallywine.com Phone: 310-475-3540