The $2500 Wine Cellar

Part 1: Getting started with Rioja and Beaujolais


With these fateful words, I begin what may prove to be a most vexing and trying adventure: to build a complete and representative wine cellar with options at many price points and the ability to meet most people’s needs.

By needs, I really mean wants. We want to drink better, we want wines that are representative, we want wines that work with the foods we eat, we want our friends to enjoy our wines, and we want to know something about the wines we share so that we can share information as well as assuage thirst.

This is already turning out to be a much more adventurous project than I had intended just four minutes ago! So let’s quickly move on and try to establish a few guidelines for these early selections. Today, we’ll start with our first two types of wine.

Photo courtesy Bart Heird via Flickr/CC

Finding Wines $30 and Under

What I am trying to do with this first installment about cellarable wines is find the great values out there, the real wow wines under $30 that will reward up to about a decade of cellaring, though sometimes a bit less, with beautiful wines. Easy right? You better believe it!

Will you like or agree with every suggestion? Doubtful at best. But that is not my point. In fact, I would go so far as to say that it is specifically not my point for at least two reasons. The first is that we all should be constantly re-examining our prejudices and biases, while the second is a lesson learned over and over by nearly every wine lover who cellars wines: those prejudices and biases will change over time!

If you cellar wine, don’t be afraid of taking a few risks now and again. A cellar full of your favorite wines is a fantastic treat, a cellar full of your favorite wines and wines you had no idea were to be your favorites is even better!

Photo courtesy Another Pint Please via Flickr/CC

Rioja Reserva

If you’ve been reading some of my recent coverage of Rioja, you should not be surprised to find these wines featured so prominently here. Not only are the wines delicious on release, they are ready to improve in the bottle for years to come. As such, they are ideal wines to begin a cellar with.

One of the issues with more expensive wines for the cellar is they often taste like hell warmed over when young. These Rioja Reservas all exhibit rich ripe fruit and the classic tell-tale oak that is one of the signature elements of the Rioja taste profile.

Photo courtesy RobWinton via Flickr/CC

Three wines I added to my cellar this past year are

2001 La Rioja Alta Vina Ardanza Reserva Especial @ $30

2004 Bodegas Riojanas Monte Real Reserva @ $20

2001 CVNE Vina Real Gran Reserva @ $40

Okay, so I’ve already cheated a bit, sort of, by exceeding the $30 per bottle price, but the net result here is an average of $30 per bottle for a solid selection of cellarable Rioja. Total cost for nine bottles is about $300, with tax and delivery included.


Like Rioja, Beaujolais may be off many people’s radar, but the truth is that the top of the line Cru Beaujolais are getting more attention than ever, and for good reason. Not only are these wines improving, showing lovely nuance, structure and an increasing effort on the part of winemakers to highlight the grapes’ and terroirs’ unique expression, but they are also proving to be one of the great values in the world of wine, for a little while longer at least.

While we think of Beaujolais as an early drinking wine, and most are, the best are considered on par with some minor Burgundy appellations as to their ability to improve with age, becoming complex, layered and wonderfully expressive. Ideal food wines and ones with which to impress your wine geek friends!

Photo courtesy Renaud Camus via Flickr/CC

Three that I added to my cellar this past year are:

2010 Clos de Roilette Fleurie @ $20

2010 Chanrion Cotes du Brouilly @ $17

2009 J P Brun Terres Dorees Morgon @ $ 18

As you can see, these wines, all clocking in at under $20 a bottle, are real value. Buying three of each gets us to about $200, with tax and delivery.

'Til Next Time...

Two wines selected, six to go, bringing us to a total of about $500 so far.

I’ll be back next week with more great selections, but if you have your own favorites, I would love to hear from you before then!

Photo courtesy lowjumpingfrog via Flickr/CC

Want to Learn More?

Join Levi Dalton as he catches up with John Slover, wine director of Ciano

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Mentioned in this article


  • Snooth User: SPLOG2
    69081 199

    Penfolds Bin389

    Jan 05, 2012 at 1:56 PM

  • Snooth User: Gregory Dal Piaz
    Hand of Snooth Voice of Snooth
    89065 238,749

    Love it!
    Great call.

    Jan 05, 2012 at 3:00 PM

  • Quinta do vale meao meandro 2008 $22-25

    Jan 05, 2012 at 7:48 PM

  • Snooth User: JC YYC
    1008523 25

    I like almost all penfolds. I have 01's to 06's of various bin 28, bin 389, bin 2, bin 128, and 05 st Henri

    Jan 06, 2012 at 1:38 AM

  • Should I serve this wine or keep it ?
    Sinatra Merlot 2001?

    Jan 14, 2012 at 1:26 PM

  • Snooth User: Gregory Dal Piaz
    Hand of Snooth Voice of Snooth
    89065 238,749

    that's a wine that would be best consumed sooner rather than later. It's from a good vintage but was meant to be approachable on release.

    Jan 16, 2012 at 10:49 AM

  • Have only found this first part...where can i find the rest, as i am quite interested in the complete article? Thks

    Jan 06, 2013 at 7:33 PM

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