John Malloway knows wine. He stocks select bottles – along with one of the county’s best collections of Port – at his shop, Monte Vista Wines & Spirits on Soledad Street in Monterey. But Malloway doesn’t drink wine, or anything alcoholic, for that matter. He has been sober for more than 33 years.
Although he claims a career in forestry was his goal, a Monterey grocery had been in his family since the ’30s. When the store was lost to downtown development, Malloway’s father purchased the wine and liquor shop. “My father said, ‘Hey, I need help at the store,’” Malloway recalls.
That was 47 years ago.
Weekly: Is it hard to be around all of this?
Malloway: It’s all about acceptance. I’d just get into trouble and it’s not worth the consequences.
And yet you are known for your wine expertise.
I know my wines. This is my specialty – the nose knows. If I have to, I swirl and spit. And I always spit.
What has been the biggest change in the industry?
The one that hurt was in 1978, when they knocked out Fair Trade. Under Fair Trade, everything had a minimum price and you couldn’t go below it. That’s when my father said ‘I don’t need this.’ But I did. I bought the business from him in 1979. In the chain stores you can get sparkling wine cheaper than I can buy it. So I do better with high end. And my wine selection is a lot of stuff you don’t see. You pick your niche and go for it and do the best you can.
So that’s the key to success?
In this business you just have to be different. I really appreciate it when people say “I love what you’re doing here.” I think we’re good, but I’m biased. I just try to take care of my business and my customers.