Author Archive

Custom Cellar: Chino Hills

September 26th, 2013 No comments

Once in a while, the team at Vintage Cellars gets to take part in a unique custom wine cellar project with one of our clients. We always enjoy getting to stretch our creative minds while solving client needs. One of the ways a client with custom cellar needs can find us is through After browsing our previous work for other clients and by seeing the variety of builds we have done in the past, our Chino Hills approached us to help design a custom wine cellar for their home.

Chino Hills Vintique

One of the unique aspects of this custom cellars build was a curved wall that would feature the wine collection. The room is located on the first floor off of the client’s bar area and the walls of the room follow the curve underneath their staircase. The client wanted to make use of the space while having it be an attractive display for their wine collection. To accommodate the uniqueness of the cellar’s location and pre-existing architecture of the space, we utilized the customizable Fontenay Vintique product line in order for this project to be completed. These custom racking systems are hand-crafted from new and reclaimed materials, embedding deep history into every new cellar.

Here is a link to the Chino Hills Final CAD where you can view the plans we drew up for this challenging custom cellar project.

Chino Hills Final CAD Preview

We loved that our client requested that this project take on a more “green” and environmentally friendly approach in design. To satisfy this request, we decided to go forward with this project by using Vintique recycled wine barrels to construct the racks. Even though the materials were recycled, this had no impact on the cellar’s ability to have racking that can hold approximately 450 wine bottles in storage. By turning the horizontal barrel staves inward, we were able to create a natural curve of the wines barrel to follow the curve of the wall. Here you can see the unique design of the lower bins called “spider bins”.

Chino Hills Vintique 3

Enclosed with a beautiful glass door and a large window looking into the space, we are happy to say this custom project was completed successfully and to the clients needs. Now when friends and family walk down the stairs in this Chino Hills home, they can peer through the window to see this gorgeous custom wine cellar design storing the client’s full wine collection.

Chino Hills Vintique 2


Jake’s Corner: Tasting a Spanish Wine for Summer

June 26th, 2013 1 comment

Bodegas O. Fournier Urban Ribera 2009, TempranilloWith the prospect of long, warm summer nights stretching before them, many people automatically reach for a white or rosé, something chilled to counteract the day’s heat lingering in the air. But just because it’s warm outside doesn’t mean that you should give up on red wine for the season.

In fact, summer is a great time to enjoy red wine. Grilled food often calls out for a rich red that can match that deep smoky flavor. And those ruby colors look particularly pretty against the setting sun, too.

For me, the wine hit of the summer so far is the  from Ribera del Duero, Spain. We couldn’t stop opening bottles, so I ordered 4 more cases today.

Here’s what I think: This wine is a deep ruby in color with fantastic aromas of red fruits, cherry, raspberry and freshly-cut flowers. The palate leans to black fruits like black cherry and blackberries, with hints of oak and vanilla. There is a very noticeable minerality, soft silky tannins and a lively juicy finish. It’s also a top value pick at $15 a bottle.

Tempranillo is the most widely-grown grape varietal in Spain. The name “tempranillo” is derived from “temprano,” the Spanish word for “early,” and it’s so called because tempranillo grapes tend to ripen several weeks earlier than other Spanish red grapes. Tempranillo is an ancient varietal; it’s been grown since Phoenician times on the Iberian Peninsula. It is the main grape used to make Rioja, one of Spain’s most popular wines, and can also be used solo as in the Bodegas O. Fournier Urban Ribera. Once considered only fit for jug wine in California, Tempranillo grapes are now planted around the world, and Tempranillo is respected as a fine wine.

Tempranillos are often medium to full-bodied, with bold fruit flavors and mild acidity. Berry flavors such as those seen in the Bodegas O. Fournier Urban Ribera are common, along with plum, cherry, and strawberry. Many Tempranillos can also be described as earthy, and with mineral qualities. Tempranillo is considered a very food-friendly wine, pairing well with all kinds of food. It’s especially good with grilled fare, making it an ideal wine to enjoy with friends and family at your next backyard get-together.

Jake’s Corner: Wine Spectator Grand Tour

May 2nd, 2013 No comments
Jake Austad at Wine Spectator tasting

Vintage Cellars’ Jake Austad at Wine Spectator Grand Tour

Last Saturday, on a warm Las Vegas evening, representing Vintage Cellars, my wife Lindsay and I were able to attend the Wine Spectator Grand Tour.  Wines were poured from more than 225 producers, representing 15 countries and four states.  If you’re interested in good wine or learning about good wine, this is the place to be.  Though I think it’s impossible to taste 225 different wines in 3 hours, by the end of the night, it looked like some people tried.

As for Lindsay and I, we had a specific tasting plan that started with Champagne/Sparkling wines.  I was pleasantly surprised by the Nicolas Fuillatte Brut Rose.  I wanted to do a true side by side comparison of the Pinot Noir grape.  I selected Louis Latour Chateau Corton Grancey Cote-D’ Or (France), Kosta Brown Russian River Valley (CA) and Domaine Drouhin Dundee Hills (OR).  The Latour was a deep ruby color & showed a great expression of red fruits, raspberry & strawberry.  The silky tannins were exactly what I expected from a Burgundy Grand Cru.  The Domaine Droughin was a vivid red with berries fading into a very floral nose.   I picked up cola and licorice on the palate.  And finally the Kosta Brown had a ruby red color with nose and palate moving to from red to black fruits, strawberry to dark cherry.  I loved the long mineral, spicy finish.  I knew from the start I was destined to return to the Latour for another sip before the evening ended.

At this point, I had to change up my palate.   We were pleasantly surprised by the light buffet provided at the event.  From artisan cheeses, a couple of pasta dishes, a carving station and desert plate, it was enough to satisfy our dinner plans.  Just a quick stop before we were back focused on the next stop.

Next was the face off of California Cabernet and Bordeaux.  Though the list was extensive (and we eventually tasted more), I focused on 2 of each to start.  From France,  I selected Chateau Smith-Haut-Lafitte and Chateau Lynch-Bages.  From CA, I selected a couple of Napa Cabs, Kathryn Hall and Joseph Phelps.  To be completely honest, the Bordeaux’s were young and they need some time to rest.  Sure it would have been nice if there were a Premier Cru there, but I guess when you sell bottles for over $1000, you don’t pour them in Vegas.  I enjoyed the Joseph Phelps but the 2009 Kathryn Hall Napa Valley Cabernet stole the show.  A deep ruby-red. Ripe aromas of dark fruits, baked berries and a hint of chocolate. Sweet , intense but balanced and ends a hint of oak, coffee and black licorice.  This was powerful wine with plenty of ripeness and depth.  In my opinion, buy now or forever hold your peace.  Put a case in your cellar and enjoy today, opening one every year to follow its development.

From this point on, I was done with the “professional” portion of the evening.  Lindsay had been enjoying all along and it was time for me to drink the wines and not spit.  Together we did a tour through Italy, Spain, Portugal and some new world wines (Australia, New Zealand and South Africa).   I found the Sangiovese grape to be a favorite, especially from Brunello di Montalcino.  Riojo might be my favorite region in Spain, especially the Grand Riserva’s which have a minimum of 5 years of aging.  There is so much more “research” to be done in both of these countries.  I enjoyed the Graham’s 20 year Tawny Port, but then again, who doesn’t like the rich toffee notes a good tawny provides?  As for the new world, I found something I don’t like, Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand.  I couldn’t find any fruit notes over the green pepper and jalapeno nose.  The palate had an intense salsa punch.  I like salsa with chips but not in my Sav Blanc.

Of the 225 producers, we did our best.  I took tasting notes on 37 wines (remember, I had to spit for about half of those).  One last highlight, we did finish with the 2005 Chateau Suduiraut Sauternes.  If you have no experience with Sauternes, I highly recommend you take your nose and palate for a ride.   We are looking forward to the event again in the future.  The Grand Tour was classy, with quality wines, good food and surprisingly not crowded (even though the tickets were sold out).  A fantastic experience, as long as you can control yourself in the casino before the 7PM start time.

Jake is Vintage Cellars’ Wine Cellar Specialist.  Each month in Jake’s Corner, he shares his wine insights, reviews, and tips with you! Check out Jake’s last post here.

Jake’s Corner: Three Days in Wine Country

February 12th, 2013 No comments

Our very own Jake Austad, master of custom cellar designs, is an expert at touring wine country, and wants to share his tips and tricks. Jake has insider advice on the best vineyards to visit, the best places to eat, and tourist traps to avoid. So pull up a chair, pour yourself a glass of your favorite vino, and hear how an expert does wine country. Check back, because Jake will be blogging regularly in our new “Jake’s Corner” posts.

Day 1:

I would start the morning up north in Calistoga at Chateau Montelena, known almost more for its historical value than for its wines. The winemakers at Chateau Montelena are part of the group that started the Napa Valley wine boom. Tthe first thing I’d do would be to make a noon reservation at Duckhorn (reservations are required). Reserve the estate tasting and tour for a great experience. To learn something a little extra, do the food and wine pairing.

If you managed to resist the food at Duckhorn, I would travel into St. Helena for a late lunch at Brassica (Now called Cindy Pawlcyn’s Wood Grill and Wine Bar). It’s a Mediterranean place that has received rave reviews, and is a personal favorite of mine to boot.  At this point in time, you probably only have time for one more tasting. I would finish at Hall in St. Helena. Since Hall has no appointment needed and stays open until 5:30 PM, you won’t be tied to a tight schedule.  One of Hall’s new releases, a cab, was in the top 10 wines of 2011.

Since I’m a huge Iron Chef geek, I would eat dinner that night at Morimoto. It’s also in the revitalized river walk area in Napa, so if you’re looking to take a stroll before or after your meal, it’s a great place to do so.

Insider tip:  Don’t fall victim to the lure of the Napa Valley Wine Train. This tourist trap has three main pitfalls: 1. Trains are really not that romantic. 2. Unless they have improved the menu dramatically since 2000, the food is awful. 3. The wine list is not that impressive, and what is impressive is so marked up that you can’t bring yourself to drink it.

Day 2:

I would head up the Silverado Trail, especially if it’s a Saturday. The less inexperienced wine tasters will be driving up the 29, so this is a nice way to avoid them. Start the day with a 10AM appointment at Quintessa. It’s a property and vineyard tour, along with the wine caves and a tasting of three or four vintages. Like Duckhorn, it’s appointment-only, so you have to make a reservation in advance. I know the wine are fabulous. It’s also one of the few places in Napa that does estate-grown only. Quintessa is a Bordeaux-style blend that makes only one blended wine every year, so the vintage tasting will be unique.

After that, start heading back to Napa again, and hit Mumm just to clean the palate with some bubbly. It should be time to grab lunch, so I would cut over on Rutherford Road and hit Rutherford Grill for lunch. I love Rutherford Grill, and never miss an opportunity to go. There is a decision to make at this point. Option 1: One more tour at Chappellet, a unique experience that puts you up in the hills, and has some pretty good wine to boot. After a 90-minute tour and tasting, you should have enough time to hit Miner. If you are “toured out,” do Option 2: hit Miner on the way back towards Napa on the Silverado Trial. Most likely, you’ll make a quick visit, since you don’t want to miss your 2:30 tour reservation at Staggs Leap. Again, I’m a sucker for history, and Staggs Leap is another historic winery that started it all and has been around for over 100 years.

After Staggs, your last stop will be Darioush.  This winery doesn’t close until 5PM, and if you have anything left on the palate, they do some great cabs that are always cracking the top 100 wines of the year in the Wine Spectator. Take a nap after before hitting the French Laundry for dinner.  If super-rich French food is to much to stomach, try Coles Chop House or the Napa Valley Grill.

Day 3:

At this point, I’d pack the bags and drive over the mountain to Healdsburg and the Dry Creek Valley. Make a reservation at Charlie Palmer’s place, Hotel Healdsburg. Start at Zichichi and then drive south down West Dry Creek Road (eventually turning into Westside Rd). It’s a small, twisty, windy road but a offers a unique change from the large-cellar, big tour, big tasting rooms in Napa with little cottages and family-owned wineries. I’d go all the way down to Porter Creek Winery a few miles down. You taste their wines in a little cottage, and often, the winemaker is the guy pouring the wines. Porter Creek is also a fully organic place, tends to bottle a lot of grapes that are normally blended (like cab franc).

From there, start making the venture back towards Healdsburg.  Another great stops on the way is Williams Seleym (always a top 100 producer). It’s not a bad idea at this time to go park back at the hotel and walk around the square in Healdsburg. There is Stephen & Walker, which has a fabulous port, and several other places to check out. And if you need to switch to beer, there is a brewing company in the square. This way, you can take a day without reservations or a schedule, and just do whatever you want,  from a simple sandwich lunch to a pastry at the downtown bakery, to Charlie Palmer’s Dry Creek Kitchen for dinner.

Vintage Cellars Wins Customer Satisfaction Award

February 6th, 2013 No comments

Every year, the design website selects from its long list of contractors and designers to award professionals for outstanding customer service. This year, that award went to Vintage Cellars!

Houzz selected Vintage Cellars for its “Best Of Houzz” 2013 award based on our excellent customer reviews given by their users, which number more than 11 million each month. Users rates their experience working with design professionals in 12 categories. The award is meant to honor Houzz professionals who have demonstrated a commitment to excellence in customer satisfaction. Fewer than 3% of Houzz professionals received this award.

We at Vintage Cellars put customer satisfaction at the top of our priority list. We take pleasure in bringing your design ideas to life in your custom wine cellar. We believe that we should be the experts in everything from the mechanics of the cooling system to the best type of wine racks out there, so that you can concentrate on the final product. We’re proud of every wine cellar we design, and we’re glad our reviews on Houzz reflect that.

Houzz connects potential customers to designers and contractors in the home design industry. They publish “Ideabooks” that help inspire clients’ visions for great home design projects, in categories like decorating, gardening, color, bathrooms, and iconic homes. Houzz also curates lists of products chosen by experts. Perhaps most importantly, Houzz helps puts potential customers in tough with local pros, facilitating the process of choosing the right person for your project with customer reviews. Contractors and designers can show off their work, join in discussions, and connect directly with home owners.

On Houzz, homeowners can find professionals like Vintage Cellars in the top of their fields. They can choose a professional whose design aesthetic matches their own, and learn more about them by contacting them directly on Houzz to ask questions about their experiences, and evaluate their responses to other questions asked by Houzz community members.

We’re thrilled to have been selected for this honor by Houzz, and we pledge to continue to provide our clients with stellar customer service.

Check us out on Houzz!

Why We Store Wine

December 1st, 2009 No comments

Recently after a long day shooting wine cabinet education videos, selling cooling units and putting the finishing touches on some wine cellar designs, we needed a refresher course on why we are in this crazy business. In an after hours discussion of the business, new cooling units on the market and recent wine trends, we broke out 3 wines from the Vintage Cellars wine room.

We started with a 1999 Altagracia Araujo Estate Napa Valley Red. It was amazing that after 10 years in our wine cellar, it could still use a few more. We tasted and discussed the elegance of this wine. Plump, sweet, pure black currant fruit and black cherry are a few terms we threw around. A long complex finished followed with a hint of licorice.

The second bottle had 10 more years of proper aging, 1989 Château Pichon-Longueville Baron. Intense dark fruit forward aromas from the moment it was poured into the decanter. This vintage had a fantastic nose of plum, raspberry and tobacco. The final grade: this wine is full of Bordeaux magic and this is why you age and store wine properly.

The last was a palate turner to a Spanish dessert wine, Alvear Solera 1927 Pedro Ximenez. The dark amber color almost maple syrup appearance stands out upon first pour. We discussed different ways to use this wine including poured over fresh berries and vanilla ice cream. It’s like crème brulee in a bottle topped with candied Bavarian nuts.

Yes, this is why the Vintage Cellars crew spends hours everyday talking wine and wine storage. If you store wine properly, great wine experiences will follow. Wine Tasting Wine Tasting

Is the Wine Cellar Thanksgiving Ready?

November 19th, 2009 No comments

Thanksgiving Day is the ultimate challenge.  In my family, the Thanksgiving meal is served by passing the bowl and scooping up mass amounts of side dishes, followed by the massive serving dish of turkey and the vat of gravy to cover it all. Mashed potatoes & gravy, cranberries, fresh biscuits, green bean casserole, sweet potatoes, wild rice–good luck pairing a wine with this plate full of turkey day goodness. Many families scattered across the country will have a bottle of pinkish liquid in a gallon jug; that won’t due for me.  Simply put, the purpose of pairing food with wine is to enhance your dining experience. The wine should enhance the food and the food should enhance the wine, creating a symbiotic relationship that improves both.

I’m a fan of Zinfandel with ripe flavor and dark color.  That just won’t work here; neither will a Cabernet or a very acidic Sauvignon Blanc.  A better choice is a balanced, lower alcohol wine with a level acidity.  No big tannins, too green or ripe.  Try these new options for pairing a wine with Thanksgiving dinner:

  1. Champagne and sparkling wine!  This is a fantastic option to go with this huge meal! The higher acidity in the wine lets it pair with heavier, starchier foods like potatoes and turkey with dressing. The low alcohol doesn’t over-exert itself and mask the flavors of the food.   The best benefit, the bubbles themselves are a nice palate cleanser when you decide to change side dishes.
  2. Pinot Noir is another nice choice.  Pinot is so versatile and most will not overpower the food with sharp dark flavors.  There are some bigger Pinots out there with higher alcohol levels; you might want to avoid those.
  3. Rosé:  Now don’t call me a soulless human being.  Think pink…  Rosés can make a great wine pairing for Thanksgiving.  Most quality Rosés have a nice non-tannic, fresh fruitiness to them.   Rosé wines are not all sweet!  I’m not talking about white Zin!   Many well-known wineries are producing bone-dry rosés made from different red grapes, creating a wonderful dry fruitiness.

Now head to the wine cellar and see what you have…  Don’t feel limited with these selections if they don’t blend with your palate, they are just some suggestions to help you with pairing a wine with your Thanksgiving.  You can always fall back on the usual drier Rieslings’ or Gewurtsminier.  When in doubt, hit your local quality wine shop and start asking questions…

The Almost-Custom Wine Cellar

November 13th, 2009 No comments

Vintner Series 3 ft. Open Diamond Bin Wine RackThe wine and wine storage industries are not immune to tough economic times. I read a statistic not long ago that showed the consumption of wine is up (by volume) while revenue is down roughly 25%. Basically that means we are all drinking more wine–that’s a plus. The bad news for the wine industry: the market has moved to less expensive, lower quality wines. The even worse news for the wine storage industry: those wines are consumed and not moved to long term storage.

People still needs wine racks to store their wine.  The average wine collector still wants a quality place to store their wine. But in many cases, the luxury of a custom cellar is no longer attainable.  How can you get a custom-looking wine cellar at a kit price? The answer: Vintner Wine Racking Kits. The kit side of the wine storage has always been plagued by the lack of adaptability.   If a kit is 72 inches high, it’s 72 inches high.   There is no real design, spirit or imagination that accompanies a kit design.

Vintner Wine Racking Kits have solved that problem.   They come in 4 foot and 3 foot high sections to adapt to different ceiling heights. An individual or designer (like myself) can add some wine racking imagination with stackable kits. There are also different base heights, molding options and a center trim molding to create a custom wine cellar feel.  Recently, to help Vintage Cellars customers fit into a specific budget, I have designed a specific wine cellar using Vintner Kits. I’ve been impressed with the results. If your budget does not allow a complete high quality custom design, semi-custom wine racking kits are your next best option. It’s flexible, design-friendly and high quality. Sound like the solution for you? Call me and let’s discuss your new almost-custom wine cellar design.


The Wine Lifestyle Meets the Yachting Lifestyle:

November 4th, 2009 No comments

Vintage Cellars - Yachting Lifestyle Boat ShowWine is not just an alcoholic drink poured into a glass, it’s a lifestyle.  Yachting is also a lifestyle that often runs parallel with the wine lifestyle.  One can only assume that people who own 100 foot yachts may have custom wine cellars in their home.  I wanted to bring them together…

After engineering a seaworthy wine cellar at the beginning of 2009 (on a 124 foot yacht), I wanted to see if there was a marketplace to design and build wine cellars on “mega” yachts.  It took some education on my part, but I believe the term “mega” yacht or “super” yacht means the vessel is over 68 feet in length.  So I headed to the biggest boat show in the United States.

I attended the Ft. Lauderdale Boat and Yacht show down in sunny Florida.  I wanted to educate myself on the industry and discuss the idea of designing wine cellars on really big boats.  I suspected that most yachts had wine cabinets and after discussing the idea with builders, designers and naval architects, I was right.  To my surprise, many industry experts have never even considered putting a wine room, or wine cellar, on a yacht.  Sure, it is commonplace for a nice high end Eurocave or Sub Zero to be located in the galley or entertainment room.

I think the future is bright bringing the wine cellar industry and the yacht industry together…  I’ll keep you posted.

– Jake

A Wine and Sushi Experience

October 22nd, 2009 No comments

As you know, Vintage Cellars is located in sunny Southern California.  Sushi and Asian fusion has spread across the country, but it’s been a staple here as long as I can remember.    To bring my sushi experience to another level, I was longing to find a great red wine.  Wine and sushi? That should be interesting… Batman would say “to the Bat Cave”, but here at Vintage we say, “to the wine cellar.”  Our wine cellar here is a collection of wines Gene (the boss) has been collecting for about 30 years and me for only 3.  The challenge again: I needed a red wine to complement the complexity of tuna, salmon, mackerel or eel.  Okay, I’ll admit it: to impress a girl.  California Cab, Pinot, Bordeaux from 83, 89, 2000 & 2005 were all willing participants.  With sushi, we figured light supple tannins would not over power the fish.  And the selection was made.

I brought along 2 bottles of 1983 Chateau Ducru-Beaucaillou to enjoy with friends.  After a lengthy discussion with the owner (who couldn’t understand why I would bring a bottle of wine and not order off a tiny wine list) we agreed on a corkage fee and it was time to enjoy.

Before I released the cork, I ordered some fatty tuna sashimi, spicy tuna hand rolls and fresh water eel.  Upon pouring the wine, I noticed the lighter color; however, the dark ripe fruit on the nose was a real treat.  A soft velvet mouthfeel with hints of licorice & mushroom to go with fully resolved tannins.  We were all impressed with the wine and it really started to shine after about 30 minutes.

When the sushi came, it did not disappoint.   The tartness and acidity balanced well with the fatty tuna and cut right though the spice on the tuna hand roll.  The spice from the roll added extra fruit flavors of cherry and blueberry.  Next time I’ll skip the eel as the sweetness from the eel sauce downgraded the fruitiness of the wine.

My advice: don’t be afraid to experiment when it comes to pairing wine and sushi.  As the Asian fusion continues to sweep the country, you could get a leg up on pairing wine and Asian cuisine.