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The Perfect Wines for Your Thanksgiving Feast

November 14th, 2013 No comments

Photo credit: riptheskull, Flickr

There’s no way around it: choosing wine to accompany the Thanksgiving meal is a tough task. First off, you have to choose a wine that goes with a wide variety of dishes: something that can stand up to Aunt Mabel’s marshmallow-topped sweet potato casserole, but that also doesn’t overwhelm the simple flavors of Grandma’s cornbread stuffing. It also has to be a wine that will keep your palate interested throughout the long meal, without making  you long for something different after half a glass. Not to mention: it has to be a crowdpleaser. But don’t panic: our experts here at Vintage Cellars have shared their favorite Turkey Day wine picks. And for that, we give thanks.

Sparklers

Sparkling wine’s acidity and effervescence cuts through fats (of which there are many on the Thanksgiving menu). This refreshes the palate, keeping your taste buds enlivened through the meal (and even a second helping).

You may not want to serve sparkling wines at dinner, but consider starting off your celebration with a glass of wine for everyone. Be sure to choose a Brut (the driest type), and pick something with a clean and light finish.

Whites

When choosing white wines for Thanksgiving, go for a bright, lively wine rather than a heavy one like a buttery Chardonnay. If you like fruity wines, choose wines with sharper, tarter flavors like pear and apple, or citrus flavors like grapefruit and lemon, rather than luscious, sweet ones like peach and honeydew.

Wines with highly mineral notes are great for this meal too: Sauvignon blanc is a crisp and pleasantly non-fruity varietal that will taste great from appetizer to pumpkin pie.

Reds

It may seem rule-breaking to serve red with turkey breast, but hear us out: the rest of the dishes are so rich that they call for a red to stand up to them. Just don’t go too far: a heavy, rich red can overpower the meal. Instead, choose something with bright fruitiness.

Pinot noir is a great choice for Thanksgiving: look for younger wines (which will be bright rather than smokey), with flavors like strawberry or raspberry. Beaujolais is another winner: light, dry and fresh. Slightly chilled is the proper way to serve it, and also helps further helps enliven those butter-laden mashed potatoes.

Of course, one of the most wonderful things about wine is that you can (and should) drink what you like. If our advice to choose something light and lively rather than heavy and intense sounds, well, boring, trust your gut. If a super-buttery chardonnay or a dark, fruity Cabernet is going to make your guests swoon, then choose that wine to stock your table. After all, Thanksgiving is nothing if not a day of indulgence.

 

 

 

Converting a Closet into a Wine Cellar

October 30th, 2013 No comments

You’d love to build a wine cellar in your house to accommodate your growing collection in style. But the only place it could possibly go is a small closet. Can this tiny space be converted to a wine cellar?

If done properly, many small spaces, even closets, can be converted into wine cellars. Check out this wine cellar for proof — it started out as a closet smaller than 4×4 feet! Wine closets can be a great way to add a space for wine storage seamlessly into a house, without the need for ripping out a wall or adding on to the existing structure.

However, converting a closet to a wine cellar isn’t easy. This is because a closet and a wine cellar are built for entirely different purposes. While a closet merely has to provide storage, a wine cellar must also provide a completely climate-controlled environment separate from the rest of the house. The inner walls of a wine closet must be sealed and insulated. A wine cellar cooling system must be installed to keep your bottles at the correct temperature and humidity. The door and any windows must be perfectly sealed to keep those conditions stable. And all of the wood and other materials used must not degrade with the high humidity.

Creating a wine closet can present other problems, too. Oftentimes, the closet in question is in the center of the house. This can mean that certain types of cooling systems will not work correctly, and those that do will have to be specifically installed. And closets near the center of the house are usually also not located close to an outside door, garage or exterior wall. Removing the drywall is a must, but it’s virtually impossible to do without creating dust and debris. Construction dust can be hazardous to human health, potentially causing reactions to people with asthma or other lung conditions who are living in the house during construction.

Do all these potential problems mean you should give up on your dream of turning that hall closet into the perfect cellar? Not at all! Instead, they mean that if you’re converting a closet to a wine cellar, it’s imperative that you choose a construction company that’s highly experienced in the process. Vintage Cellars has the experience necessary to advise customers about whether a specific space can be successfully converted, and what type of cooling system and materials will be needed in order to create a cellar that will protect the customer’s wine investment.

Vintage Cellars also goes to great lengths to control construction dust by tenting the area with a construction dust barrier, protecting the floors and pulling dust through a filtered exhaust fan. We do this to protect the health of the homeowner, children and pets. We also do this to protect the customer’s furniture, floors and surrounding area from layers of construction dust. Though there is no way to remove 100 percent of construction dust, a conscientious company like Vintage Cellars can come pretty close.

Do you have questions about transforming your closet into a wine cellar? Get in touch with an expert at Vintage Cellars here.

 

How do I know if my wine’s gone bad?

October 22nd, 2013 No comments

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You’re out to dinner at a restaurant and are served a bottle of wine you’ve never had before. The waiter arrives and pours you a taste. You take a sip. The flavor is…strange. Is the wine just new and unfamiliar, or is something wrong with it? Unsure of what to do, you tell the waiter it’s fine, then spend the rest of the dinner wondering if you did the right thing.

We’ve all tasted wine that’s gone unmistakably bad. But it isn’t always easy to tell. Here are our most frequently asked questions about wine faults, so that you never wonder again.

1. What is “corked” wine?

Corked wine is wine that has been contaminated with a chemical compound called TCA, commonly referred to as “cork taint.” TCA is formed when fungi (which often occur naturally in wine) come in contact with certain chemicals in wine sterilization products. Infected corks will taint the wine. You’ll know a wine is tainted if it has the smell and taste of damp, soggy, or even rotten cardboard. Cork taint also dampens the fruity taste of wine. Neither pieces of cork floating in the wine nor mold on the top of the cork means that the wine has been tainted.

2. My wine has crystals in it — what does that mean?

Sometimes, you’ll get a bottle of wine with what looks like sugar crystals in the bottom. They are called tartaric acid crystals or “tartrates.” Tartaric acid is naturally occurring in grapes. When wine becomes very cold, or old, it can crystallize. Tartrates are not harmful to the drinker or the wine. In fact, they can be a sign that the wine is high-quality and has not been over-treated while it was being made.

3. My wine is cloudy — is that bad?

Cloudy wine usually indicates that yeast or another kind of bacteria is growing in the wine. Fizziness in wine can signal the same thing. While cloudy or fizzy wine likely won’t hurt you, it probably won’t taste very good.

4. I know it’s bad if wine tastes like vinegar, but what does it mean?

Vinegar-tasting wine means that the wine has been infiltrated by a bacteria called Acetobacter. It usually happens when a bottle has been left open for too long, or can also be a fault of the wine-making process. The reaction of Acetobacter with oxygen creates vinegar, and is actually how vinegar is produced.

5. Can a wine be too old?

Aging wine isn’t always a good thing. Over time, wine undergoes oxidation (this process can happen faster than it should if the cork doesn’t fit correctly or the wine is stored improperly). Wines that have been spoiled by oxidation taste dull and flat, and often turn brownish in color.

6. My wine tastes like struck matches. What happened?

Nearly all wines are made using sulfur dioxide, which helps prevent oxidation. But too much sulfur dioxide causes unpleasant aromas in wine, which smell like struck matches, or sometimes, rotten eggs. Occasionally, the smell is accompanied by an unpleasant tingling sensation in the nose.

Wine Cellar FAQs

October 8th, 2013 No comments
Traditional Wine Cellar in Memphis, TN

Thinking about building a wine cellar, but find yourself bogged down by questions? Never fear. Below, we’ve compiled the questions we are asked most frequently about building wine cellars. Find the answers you’ve been searching for below. Have a question that’s not on this list? Contact us and we’ll answer it for you!

Q: Do I have to have  to store wine in a wine cellar?

A: If you’re a casual wine drinker who consumes bottles soon after you buy them, you probably don’t need a wine cellar. But if you’re a collector (or aspiring collector) or wine, you should protect your investment by storing it in the correct conditions. Wine stored in too-hot or too-cold conditions, at the wrong humidity, or in an environment in which temperature and humidity fluctuate, can mold, evaporate away, turn rancid, or undergo chemical changes that can make it taste unpleasant.

Q: Does a wine cellar require special construction?

A: Yes. Wine requires a unique environment different from that of your home. Wine cellars must maintain a temperature of between 55 and 78° Fahrenheit and humidity between 55 and 75 percent. This is far colder and more humid than your average house. A wine cellar has to be specially constructed to maintain and control this unique environment. The most important part of this construction is a vapor barrier, which keeps the high humidity in your wine cellar from migrating to the low humidity environment in the rest of the house. Vapor barriers are often overlooked by inexperienced wine cellar builders, leading to ruined wine and high repair costs for the owners later on.

Q: I don’t have underground space. Can I still have a wine cellar?

A: Absolutely. Long ago, people used to store wine underground because conditions were usually more optimal there than above ground. But with today’s technologies, we can create a wine cellar with perfect conditions in many different locations in a home. However, wine does need to be protected from light, heat and vibration, so picking a cool spot away from windows and excessive noise will save you on construction and energy costs.

Q: I don’t have a lot of extra room in my house. Can I use a closet?

A: You can! Small space should never limit your wine cellar aspirations. It is possible to convert a small space like a closet into a fully-functional and beautiful wine cellar. For proof, check out this 800-bottle cellar Vintage Cellars wine cellar constructed in a San Diego home.

Q: Do the wine racks have to be custom-built for my space? That sounds expensive.

A: No. While custom racks are certainly an option, there are many other kinds of racking systems available on the market today. A modular system like Vintner wine racks can give you the gorgeous custom feel without the high price tag. Vintner offers a variety of wine rack sizes and styles, such as columns, bins, and diamond racks, that can all be fitted together to perfectly suit your space.

Q: I love wine but I don’t have an eye for design. Can you help?

We’d be honored! Most of our clients know that they want a unique and beautiful space, but they don’t know exactly how to achieve that. We specialize in listening to what our clients want, then working with them to create a beautiful design that suits them and fits seamlessly into the rest of their home’s design. Contact us today to see what kind of wine cellar we can make for you!

 

Custom Wine Storage Design Ideas

September 24th, 2013 1 comment

Thinking of having custom wine storage built, but overwhelmed by design options? You’re not alone. With dozens of materials and styles available for everything from flooring to wine racks, finding a place to start can be overwhelming. To get your creativity jump-started, here are five of our favorite custom wine storage design ideas:

We’re crazy for this wine cellar’s incredible cascading shelves. As well as adding tons of storage space, the shelves give the room a focal point and an opulent feel.

 

This wine cellar is gorgeous in every way, but what inspires us most design-wise is the contrast between the floor’s chunky stone flooring and the ceilings more elegant brickwork. The unique mix brings tons of texture and interest to the space.

 

We love this super-modern take on a wine cellar. Glass doors highlight the beautiful bottles rather than hiding them away, and the clean lines of the design make the cellar fit effortlessly into the room.

 

If you have big wine cellar dreams but a small amount of space to work with, take inspiration from this photo. Builders transformed a small breakfast nook in a beach house into a spacious wine cellar. Those beautiful glass-and-wrought-iron doors add a unique touch.

 

We love the lower drawers in this cellar designed to hold wine crates. Besides adding interest by visually breaking up the rows of racks, this design idea offers a great place to store those cases you picked up from your last Napa trip, giving your wine cellar a personal touch.

Tips for Hosting the Perfect Wine-Tasting Party

September 12th, 2013 No comments

 

Drinking good wine with good friends is one of life’s greatest pleasures. If you love to entertain, but hesitate at the work and expense of hosting a dinner party, try a wine-tasting party for your next get-together. With just a few glasses, some bottles of wine, and perhaps a snack or two, you’ve got the makings of a memorable night. Here are our favorite tips for hosting a successful wine-tasting party:

  • Start by choosing a theme. Try tasting all wines from Tuscany, or comparing Cabernet Sauvignons from different parts of the world.
  • When shopping for the wines you’ll taste, look for a wine merchant that displays staff tasting notes, or hosts tastings itself–both good indications that the employees are knowledgeable wine enthusiasts who can make good recommendations.
  • Limit your tasting to five or six wines. More will overwhelm the palate.
  • Keep it simple by providing one Bordeaux glass for each guest to use for the whole tasting.
  • Cover the table with white tablecloth–it’s the best background against which to judge the wine color.
  • Traditionally, a tasting pour is two ounces. A standard-size bottle will provide a taste for eight to 10 guests.
  • Make sure to provide a bucket into which guests can to dump unwanted wine.
  • A good rule of thumb: put reds in the refrigerator 15 to 30 minutes before guests arrive. Take whites out of the refrigerator a few minutes before you pour them to take the chill off.
  • To help your guests cleanse their palate between tastings, set out bread and water. In case they want a little something more to nibble on, serve a few snacks, too. A few ideas: a plate of olives, a charcuterie board, a few cheeses, a selection of crostini.
  • Work from dry to sweet white wines, and from light to heavy reds. It’s also best to start with younger wines and progress to more mature ones.
  • Make a tasting card (or print out this one from Epicurious.com) that lists the type of wine, the year, the vineyard that made it, and a brief description of the wine’s attributes. Or keep the cards blank and put each wine in a bag (or cover it with foil) to create a blind wine tasting.
  • Serve a popular wine from the tasting to guests who want to linger afterwards.

Do you have any tips for hosting a great wine-tasting that we forgot to mention? Let us know in the comments!

Wine Review: 2008 Creō Clajeux Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon

August 30th, 2013 No comments

For many years, experts thought that the only worthwhile wines in the world came from Bordeaux, France. All that changed in 1976, at a wine competition in Paris known as the “Judgement of Paris.” There, French judges did a blind taste-test that pitted Bordeaux wines from France against Cabernet Sauvignons from California. Much to everyone’s surprise, the California wines blew away the competition.

Since the Judgement of Paris, California has been recognized as one of the world’s best wine regions. One grape California is especially known for is Cabernet Sauvignon. Different California regions produce different kinds of Cabernet Sauvignon. The hillside vineyards in areas like Howell Mountain and Mt. Veeder have thin, less rich soils, producing intense wines that, very like the wines of Bordeaux, need to be aged for years to come to maturity. In contrast, wines from the more mountainous vineyards are often big, bold, and fruity, with deep, dark colors and intense berry characteristics.

In Healdsburg, California, above the Russian River Valley, below the hills of the Mayacamas Mountains, and east of the ocean, sits Clajeux Vineyards. Well-drained, rocky, volcanic soils and cooling breezes late in the day make this area a fantastic producer of Cabernet Sauvignon.

One wine that truly showcases this area is the 2008 Creō Clajeux Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon. This wine has aromas of red licorice and black fruits that are sweet like jam or preserves. There is a hint of flowers: violets and roses. On the palate, the 2008 Creō Clajeux Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon is loaded with blackberry and black cherry. The finish is long and complex, with solid but soft tannins.

The 2008 Creō Clajeux Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon is a rare wine that is suited to both be drunk while young, and also being aged for several years. If you want powerful fruit, drink it now. However, this is also an age-worthy Cab from the Mayacamas, and is likely to benefit from six to eight years in the cellar. For maximum enjoyment, purchase a case: drink one now, and open another every couple of years to experience how this wine changes with age and judge when it has matured to perfection.

 

Creative Wine Storage

August 13th, 2013 1 comment

A cellar customized with Vintner wine racks

Lately, your wine collection has grown too ambitious for your storage space. You have bottles in the refrigerator, in the panty, and grouped on every countertop. Clearly, you need a better system.

Your ultimate dream is to own a state-of-the-art wine cellar. It will showcase an eclectic collection from all corners of the world, and be perfectly organized so that you can always find the bottle to pair with tonight’s menu.

When creating the ideal wine cellar, one of the most important considerations is: What kind of racks will hold your precious collection? Since your cellar will be mostly made up of racks, the style you chose will make a big impact. But what options are out there, and what differentiates one from another? Here are six of the most popular types of wine cellar racks:

Vintner Series:

Many wine collectors love Vintner wine racks. Vintner wine racks are a modular system. The racks are available in a variety of heights and styles, so that you can mix and match them to get that high-end custom look at a much lower price. Crafted from premium redwood, Vintner wine racks are meant to last a lifetime. The racks can be constructed in unstained wood, which shows off the natural beauty of the material, or it can be stained in a variety of colors to perfectly match your decor.

WineMaker Series:

If you envision a cellar that is floor-to-ceiling bottles, WineMaker racks might be for you. These wine racks are available in three-foot and four-foot heights and are designed to stack on top of each other, so that you can create a seamless wall of racks, no matter the height of your ceilings.

Vintage View:

Vintage View racks are a great fit for wine collectors drawn to versatility. These metal wine racks are available in a variety of modern, innovative styles, all designed to display bottles with the labels out, making finding what you’re looking for a breeze. The new Evolution series incorporates acrylic panels and chrome-plated metal rods to give a unique, eye-catching look to your wine collection.

Designer Wine Racking:

If you crave that custom, designer look, with a variety of racks in interesting shapes and sizes that perfectly fill your space, look no further than designer wine racks. The best part? Though these racks look custom, they’re actually a modular system, with so many sizes, shapes and storage styles available that no one will ever guess they weren’t build just for your space by a master woodworker.

Rustic Pine Racking:

Crave a simple look for your racking system? Rustic pine racks are the perfect solution. Though there are many wood wine racks out there, some of them are coated in finishes and lacquers that may negatively affect the taste of your wine over time. Rustic pine racks are constructed in real, quality wood and left free of potentially-damaging finishes.

Traditional Redwood:

Redwood is one of the most beautiful unfinished wood choices out there. It’s not right for every environment, but luckily, the cool, dry conditions of a wine cellar are ideal for redwood, and will keep it looking pristine for years. Traditional redwood racks come in a kit system, so you can mix and match different rack heights and styles to give your space a custom look.

Custom Cellar: Poppa’s Wine and Spirits

August 6th, 2013 No comments

Poppa’s Wine & Spirits in Oxford, Mississippi had a business plan: to become the most high-end wine shop in the state. Poppa’s owners set off on an extensive search to find the perfect company to bring their vision to life.

Finally, Poppa’s owners found Vintage Cellars online, and saw that we offer commercial wine racking, and also free designs. They contacted us to come up with the perfect layout for their store.

When we visited, we were immediately struck by the size we were working with: the space was enormous! We immediately got down to the business of working out a design that utilized that huge space in a way that was both beautiful and functional. The room had to flow, with comfortable aisle width between the display racks, yet the wine had to be the main focus of the visit. In addition, wine is not the only thing Poppa’s offers. High end spirits is the second focus of the store. We had to make sure to work those bottles into the design in a fluid way.

Using the concepts we’d discussed and the space provided, we worked together to lay out a store that would allow for the maximum number of bottles possible to be on display, while also being comfortable and easy to navigate for the customer.The final design surpassed all of our goals. The racks hold more than 4,500 bottles. Unique circular racks catch the customers’ eyes and invite them to move farther into the store. Well-designed island racks make the wine easy to access, inviting customers to read the labels and pick up the bottles. We also designed a “high end” wine section using Vintage View racks that is temperature and humidity controlled, keeping the store’s (and customer’s) investment safe.

Not forgetting that wine wasn’t the store’s only focus, we created an area along one of the walls to showcase the store’s liquor collection. Poppa’s topped off the new space with an eclectic mix of art hung from the walls and displayed around the store. The final effect is at once both upscale and inviting. It’s a space we’d love to pop into for a few bottles and chat with the friendly staff, and we’re sure their customers feel the same way.Poppa's wine & spirits wine racking project

Wine Cellars for Small Spaces

June 14th, 2013 No comments

You’re a wine lover who’s dying to start a collection. You drool over photos of others peoples’ expansive wine cellars, with their rows upon rows of bottles just waiting for the perfect day to be opened. But you don’t have a handy underground space, or an extra room that can be converted into the wine cellar you covet. You might live in a small house or even an apartment. But just because you have a small living space doesn’t mean you have to give up your big wine cellar dreams.

 

Vintage Cellars is no stranger to the challenges of building a fully-functioning, temperature- and humidity-controlled wine cellar in a small space. For homeowners in San Diego, CA, Vintage Cellars had just 80 square feet to work with, but managed to build the perfect space to neatly house 750 bottles.

 

Of course, no space, no matter the size, can be a successful wine cellar without the proper sealing, vapor barriers, and installation. Vintage Cellars experts took the care to outfit this small space just like they would a more traditionally-sized wine cellar. And just because the cellar is small doesn’t mean it’s lacking in the looks department. Clean-lined glass doors both show off the wine and open up the relatively small space. Vintage Cellars also installed adjustable shelving to house the homeowners’ special collection of large-format bottles. The shelving allows the clients to showcase this unique aspect of their collection, giving it a personal touch.

 

But what if you don’t have the ability to knock out a wall to build the small-scale wine cellar of your dreams? Even if you’re renting a small apartment, you still have options. One great space-conscious choice is a wine refrigerator. This wine cabinet by Vinotheque holds 448 bottles, and can be housed in an out-of-the-way corner or even a garage. Still too large? This credenza-style wine cabinet holds 216 bottles, and can double as a buffet in a dining room, or even act as a console table in a hallway. Still don’t have room? This small-scale wine refrigerator from Marvel slides right underneath a kitchen counter, and takes up just 15 inches of space, while holding an impressive 23 bottles.

It may seem like you need an enormous mansion to house a wine collection. But that isn’t true. With a little imagination, you can store your bottles no matter what your living situation, whether by building a small-scale cellar into your house, or by simply sliding a tiny refrigerator underneath an existing counter.