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Archive for August, 2009

Local Wine Events

August 28th, 2009 No comments

Have you just moved to a new city?  Have you just started to cut your palate on some good wine?  Did you just purchase a 110 bottle wine cabinet and you want to experiment on some new wines?  Get on the internet and start searching for local or regional wine events.  Here in San Diego, there is an incredible event, the San Diego Bay Wine and Food Festival.  Each November this wonderful wine event is held on the San Diego Bay and 2008 was my first year in attendance.  Let me sum this up: I already have my tickets for 2009.  The atmosphere was amazing, the food incredible and the wine poured faster then you can taste.  Hundreds of wineries and restaurants lined the park just begging for you to enjoy. 

 During my time around the wine business, I’ve also spent my fair time at local wine stores.  Many middle to high end wine shops will have weekly tasting for customers or club members.  These tasting are generally less then $20 and give you a chance to taste different blends, wine regions or varietals.  This is a great opportunity to create a relationship with a wine merchant and increase your wine tasting range. 

 Don’t miss out on local wine events in your area. Google words like wine festival (city name), local wine events (city name) or wine tasting (city name).  Enjoy the events and the entertainment to follow…

The Case for Custom Wine Cellars

August 25th, 2009 No comments

Building a personal custom wine cellar has increased in popularity in recent years, but so have wine storage facilities.  There are many advantages to a storing your wine in such a facility, including 24 hour temperature monitoring, walk in or locker style storage and even pick up and delivery service.  There are equally as many disadvantages that may accompany such a facility, including access to your collection, available wine racking, rent and available rental space.  A wine storage facility can be a great short term solution or even temporary holding facility, but for the real enthusiast or budding collector is it time to consider a personal custom wine cellar?

A custom wine cellar is the wisest investment one can make if you have a large or growing collection of wine and vintages that require aging and proper storage to reach their full potential.  Truly, a wine cellar will add to the enjoyment of wine and wine collecting.  Starting from scratch, you can design and build a custom cellar specifically for your wine collection, taking into account available space, budget, cooling unit application and the convenience of ready access to your collection.

Recently, the wine cellar became the number one new addition to a luxury home, just passing the theater room.  Though a wine room should be built for your personal enjoyment, it does add to the resale value of a home.  A custom wine cellar can come in all shapes and sizes.  Racks can be designed using racking kits or Vintage Cellars Distinctive Series Hand Made Racking.  The great thing about a wine cellar is that it can be designed and built to fit your collection and match your personality.  Analyze how much you will grow your collection over the next 10 years, how much space you would have to rent in a storage facility, where in your house could you build a cellar.

Back in August of 2008, I met with a client that wanted to consider turning an interior closet space into a wine cellar.  The space would hold about 300 bottles and it was going to be near impossible to install a cooling unit.  In the same meeting, we ventured into the laundry room to look at using 10 feet of wall space and closing it in glass.  Once again, project cost versus the number of bottles stored did not add up.  We then walked outside to talk about an entire addition onto the home.  What we ended up with was an addition onto a house, complete with an tasting room, flat screen TV and custom hand made wine racking for 2400 (including a library ladder to reach up to 11 feet).

Dream about your personal wine cellar and find a way to make it come true.

Is it Time for a Wine Cabinet?

August 19th, 2009 No comments

Let me start by asking you a simple question; how much do you spend on wine each year?  For most people, the passion for wine starts with a bottle here and a bottle there.  The next thing you know, you have a wine rack on the kitchen counter with 8 bottles.  It might be time to start considering protecting the investment.  Wine purchased off your favorite 90 point scale for under $25 can still benefit and remain fresh under the proper conditions.

Ideal wine storage conditions are a constant 55 degrees with a relative humidity about 70%, away for direct sunlight, heat and vibration.  When you consider a wine storage cabinet, my first recommendation: stay within your budget.  My second: consider the space or location available.  Wine cabinets come in all shapes and sizes, from 6 bottles to 600 so my last recommendation: don’t undersize.

When I began collecting, I made that error.  I filled a 56 bottle Avanti cabinet within 6 months.  After gaining some experience in the matter, a 220 bottle cabinet was the perfect size to fit my wine collecting habit.  Wine tasting and collecting can quickly become an addiction.  Allow yourself room to grow.

Location and available space are very important factors.  Wine cabinets and wine refrigerators come in all physical sizes but they have something in common: cooling.  There are front, side and rear venting cabinets designed to fit just about any space.  Make sure you consultant with a wine cabinet specialist to make sure the cooling system in the cabinet will work in your environment.  Not all cabinets can operate in a garage setting due to extreme summer temperatures.   Many wine cabinets can only operate with exterior temperatures less then 80 degrees.  A top venting wine cabinet will need about 17 inches of head room for air exchange.  Side and rear venting cabinets also need space to exchange air.  Consult an expert.

Keeping budget in mind (like all “appliances” or “furniture”) you can go affordable to top of the line.  There is a simple formula to consider: take the number of bottles the cabinet stores and multiply it by the average price per bottle you would store.  The more expensive your bottles, the more you want to protect that investment with the highest quality product available.

You may be at the beginning, middle or maxed out your collection.  Either way, make sure you consider budget, location and size when purchasing a wine cabinet.

Discovering Sonoma County!

August 19th, 2009 No comments
Good Laughs and Port

Good Laughs and Port

As wine enthusiasts, I’m sure by now you have seen the movie Bottle Shock and the event that put California wines and the Napa Valley on the map. Since that time, Napa has evolved into a major wine destination, with busy tasting rooms and weekend traffic heading north through Yountville, Rutherford and St. Helena. Personally, I love the area, the food and the wines. However, on your next trip to Northern California, don’t forget Sonoma County.

Every year (at least once a year) I take a business trip to the Bay Area to market Vintage Cellars to wine shops, storage facilities, interior designers and architects. It’s a whirlwind tour to market custom cellars, wine storage cabinets and cooling units in 2 days. Why do I work so hard on Thursday and Friday? So I can spend Saturday and Sunday in wine country. This year was a little different as I invited some friends from around the country join me. I was going to play wine tour guide on a weekend adventure in wine country.

I live life by a couple of simple rules and one is to never miss a chance to eat at the Rutherford Grill, just north of Napa. I had to stop by a couple of wineries on the way there, to set the mood for my friends and because the Rutherford Grill does not charge a corkage fee (an almost unheard of practice these days).  I’m a self proclaimed BBQ aficionado, and these ribs live up to my standards.  Wait, I went off course to hit this place but Sonoma County is just over the mountains to the west.

Sonoma County just feels like home when you get there. Sure, it has a fair share of big corporate wineries and stuffy shirts charging a $25 tasting fee for 1 oz of the estate grown Cab, but we hit the back roads to find some real small market gems. Sonoma offers a wide variety of regions perfect for a wide variety of grapes. The Russian River Valley, Alexander Valley and Dry Creek Valley are just a few must drive through places. Even on a Saturday, in tasting rooms no larger then your kitchen, my friends and I found a warm and inviting environment. We tasted amazing wines in all different varieties: Pinot, Zinfandel, Chardonnay, Merlot, Blends, Sav Blanc and Cab.

What I like about this atmosphere is many times the wine maker is available (if not the one pouring the tasting) for questions, comments and thoughts about the wine. Many of these wine makers are bold enough to do different styles like a 50/50 Cab/Zin mix or a straight Cab Franc. I like out of the ordinary and people willing to try something a little different even though it may not be popular in the market place. I met Alex Davis, wine maker at Porter Creek, a certified organic winery. I also met Virginia (owner) at Yoakim Bridge, a dry farmed vineyard. There is nothing better then a personal touch to a wine tasting. Oh, and ask any of them “what is the best place to grab dinner tonight?”…you won’t be disappointed.

My friends can’t wait to return as there are miles and miles of uncharted territory we have yet to discover…

Go Green with Recycled Materials

August 14th, 2009 No comments

Vintage Cellars is proud to announce two new ways to move toward sustainability in the building industry.  Yes, we have taken wine racking and gone “green”.  As you know, over the past 20 years Vintage Cellars has been the Southern California leader in high end custom hand made wine racking.  Our quality and reputation are unmatched in the industry.  Now, it’s our turn to lead the wine storage industry into the future.

Recently, Vintage Cellars was presented with a unique opportunity.  In a complete home tear down and rebuild project in Beverly Hills, we took the existing cedar siding on the old home and hand milled new wine racks.  Not a step was skipped in the process.  We worked with the client to design their dream wine cellar, used an existing portion of the old home and built beautiful custom hand made wine racks.  We have the ability in the marketplace to produce a 100% recycled wine rack.

If you read the previous wine blog, you know Vintage Cellar also designs and builds wine cellars with unique wine racks known as the Vintique Collection.  Vintique wine racks are made from recycled wine barrels and fermentation tanks from the Napa Valley.  The wine barrels and tanks are dismantled and re-engineered into recycled wine racks, individual wine bottle storage, diamond bins, case storage, glass racks, archways and anything you can imagine.

As you can see, Vintage Cellars is leading wine cellars towards sustainability and green building.  For more information or to learn more about the release of these environmentally friendly recycled wine racks, please contact us.

Dining Room Nook Becomes Wine Cellar

August 13th, 2009 2 comments

Vintage View Wine WallCreating the “Modern” Wine Cellar

You’ve finally bought that house of your dreams and that 200 bottle Eurocave just can’t satisfy your desire to grow that wine collection.  Where are you going to build your personal wine cellar?  What about the 7 ft by 30 inch deep nook in your dining room?  Sure, we must consider how to cool the environment and prepare the room properly, but let’s assume it will work out.  It’s time to consider the décor of the home, how many bottles to store, the amount of space available and how to easily access the wine.  These factors are all tools to help determine what type of racking to use.

Wine consumption and collection has increased exponentially over the past 10 years.  To meet the market demands and the American consumer demands for quality and choice, the wine racking market has been exploding with new and exciting products.  Classic redwood wine racks, old world terra cotta clay wine tiles, new “green” recycled wine barrel racks and modern metal Vintage View racks are just the tip of the iceberg.

In this particular case, the home was modern/contemporary and the desired cellar capacity was about 400 bottles.  I couldn’t think of a better idea than to use Vintage View racking.  Using a small nook in the dining room (that also has a small window area into the kitchen), we developed a plan using sliding glass doors for access, floor to ceiling mounts and Vintage View racking.  The end result was a 432 bottle capacity wine cellar with a gallery wall of wine label artwork viewable from the dinning room table.  Outside of the beautiful results, this project met another important consideration: budget.  In this design, the wine racks and the installation came in under $3,000 (this does not include doors, room preparation or the wine cooling system).   Now there is money left over to help fill the space with wine bottles.

Plastic Wine Bottles?

August 11th, 2009 2 comments

If you haven’t seen it, I’m sure you might be ready to jump out of your seat. On Saturday (8/8/09) I came across and article in the LA Times Business section, “Plastic bottles aim to remold wine industry”. This article has brought up recent memories for the cork versus screw top debate. Now, no one who knows me would consider me a wine “snob” but I do have my opinions on the subject… Plastic wine bottles are a short term solution!

Reading about these plastic wine bottles, I don’t think wine collectors and wine cellar owners are going to budge from the traditional glass bottle. Plastic wine bottles will come with a “use by” date. The serious wine enthusiast and wineries that produce wine that is designed to be aged will have no use for plastic. Can you imagine a Vintage Port that could easily age 25 to 30 years in a plastic bottle?

So you really see this trend as a true change is the wine industry? No, I don’t. I see this as a way to get mass consumed product to the mass consumer. The plastic wine bottles are lighter making shipping costs less; they hold more, allowing for a few more glasses on a per bottle basis. This is a trend that can affect wines that are designed to drink right off the shelf. I just don’t see this as a major change in the industry. 

High end wine stores, where the wine collector shops, probably will not carry wine in a plastic bottle. I’m positive you won’t find a Premier Cru available in a plastic bottle unless it’s done by Chateau de Plastique.
This article may surprise you and it may not. If you still have plans to build a beautiful wine cellar, don’t stop. Good wine in a bottle is still meant to keep at a constant 55-57 degree temperature with a relative humidity around 60%. Some traditions will never go away. Maybe another time we will discuss the screw top!

Taking A Wine Cellar Experience to Another Level

August 6th, 2009 No comments

A shared passion for wine and designing a wine cellar can really close the gap between client and designer.  After several meetings at this client’s home, reviewing several wine cellar designs and enjoying a few glasses of wine together we developed a beautiful wine tasting room & cellar.  This client and I often engaged in conversations about a full bodied Zinfandel just enjoyed a night before and what’s your favorite small family winery in Sonoma County, not just the technical aspects of wine racking.  Vintage Cellars, and myself in particular, believe in this close knit bond between client and company to better serve you and your passion for wine.  In this case, it has become a friendship.

Months after the completion of the cellar, I was asked for some food and wine pairing advice.  An upcoming party had to have the right wine pairings to make it a smash hit.  The foods were already chosen and it was my “job” (really my pleasure) to pair some good wines.  It is not in my nature to disappoint, so I spent some time developing a wine list (tasting a few) while staying under $50 per bottle.  Here is the menu with the wine pairings:

Avocado and cucumber soup with toasted crushed pepitas:  2005 E. Guigal Viognier

Chicken tenders with fresh pineapple salsa set over Field Greens drizzled with honey peanut sauce:  2004 Stony Hill Chardonnay

Ceviche: Sea Bass morsels cooked in fresh lemon juice with onions, Aji Amarillo and salt. Served with toasted canchita and patacon (SPICEY):  2006 J. Wine Co. Pinot Noir

Soy ginger marinated steak & asparagus bundles set on Chinese Long Beans:  2004 La Storia Zinfandel.   

Peach Mango Gelato and Peach tarts:  Moscato (non specific)

Here were the results:  “…Then we moved into the wine room, and we had all of the pairings you suggested and they were perfect…everyone was blown away….including myself…and trust me my expectations are always impossible to achieve… Anyways it was great ….thanks again for your help…”

Welcome to the Vintage Cellars experience…

Anywhere but the Garage!

August 4th, 2009 1 comment

I had a long conversation with a potential client who wanted to explore a new avenue to store his wine.  He was a self-admitted, “not really into wine guy” but his father had given him 20 cases, some Bordeaux, Burgundy, California Cabs and Champagne.  Over the past 2 years, the wine has taken up precious space in the garage.  Immediately, I turned the conversation into a 911 phone call from those 20 cases.  Anywhere but the garage!  There are several problems with storing wine in the garage.  First, garage temperatures are in constant fluctuation and in many cases mirror the weather conditions.  Hot summer days followed by cool evenings can cause a temperature change of 20 degrees or greater.  Excessive temperature fluctuation will cause the wine to expand and contract, which will draw in air through the cork and cause oxidation.  The second, garage temperatures often reach extreme high or low temperatures depending on geographical location.  A storage area over 75 degrees is going to cause the wine to slowly bake and below 40 degrees can make the wine become dormant (stopping the aging process). 

A fully constructed, insulated, climate controlled wine room may not be in your future.  You may not need more then a wine rack from your local import store, however, the proper preservation of a good bottle of wine is key.  If you are “newbie” to wine collecting and you may aspire to become a full blown collector one day, start small.  Purchase a wine cabinet or wine refrigerator to protect that next shipment from the wine club.  I just received 6 bottles of Chateau Guiraud Sauternes 2005, believe me, I can’t wait to see what it becomes years down the road (properly stored).