The $5000 Cellar, Part 1

Building up the cellar with an expanded price range


I’ve been sharing some cellar building tips over the past few weeks.

In three parts, I’ve laid out details to help you start building a small but varied collection of wines for only $50 a week. While this is not a trifling sum, it’s relatively modest as far as cellars go, and it buys you quite a selection of wines.

Today, I’m upping the ante. For those of you who want to take it to the next level, consider this part four of the $2500 cellar, except in this case you’ll end up with half the number of bottles for the next $2500 you invest.

What does that mean? It gives you an entrance to the world’s top wines. All the great B’s are here: Barolo, Brunello, Bordeaux and of course, Burgundy. Plus there is a whole lot more, so check out my suggestions for stocking your $5000 cellar! Five additional types of wine, three labels of each type, three bottles of each, all at less than $60 a bottle!

Photo courtesy Megan Mallen via Flickr/CC

Cellaring Conditions: Keep Your Bottles Cool

Before we get started, I should point out that these are wines that I love and wines I know will develop and appeal to my palate. There are no universal truths in wine so take these suggestions with a grain of salt. They will all improve with age and offer a great experience typical to the region and varietal.

If you do take the plunge and start building out your cellar, make sure to check out the articles about cellaring conditions here on Snooth. It’s imperative that your bottles be stored well, and while I am not as anal about my storage conditions as many wine geeks are, the results I’ve enjoyed from bottles cellared for 20 or almost 30 years in my passive cellar speak for themselves.

The bottom line? Keep your bottles cool, under 65 degrees is pretty much ideal, with good humidity, no light and limited vibration, and you’ll be fine.

Photo courtesy Rioja 1808 via Flickr/CC

Pinot Noir

I’m beginning with Pinot Noir because you’ll most likely end up with Pinot Noir. It seems, with sufficient anecdotal evidence to support the hypothesis, that we tend to end our vinous journeys with a preference for delicacy coupled with complexity. To many that means Pinot Noir, though Nebbiolo takes a close second.

Pinot, and more specifically Burgundy, is many a wine lover’s fantasy, exhibiting the finesse, elegance and intensity of a great wine. While we might think Burgundy is the ultimate expression of Pinot Noir, there is no reason for you to swallow that before experiencing for yourself what Pinot Noir can do in different regions.

Photo courtesy Isbardel via Flickr/CC

Burgundy

Simon Bize Savigny Aux Vergelesses $50

The Côte-d'Or, or Golden Slope, in France really does produce some of the world’s greatest wines. Unfortunately, many of these wines are priced well out of reach of most wine lovers. There is still some room for discovery at relatively affordable prices, you just have to look to the lesser appellations and find the best producers there.

Simon Bize is the star of Savigny. His sappy, vivid wines are priced at the top of the heap here, but they still represent terrific value as they often can compete with wines costing twice the price. Look out for his Aux Vergelesses bottling, though the Les Fourneaux, Les Marconnets and Les Serpentieres crus are all exemplary in their own right and a touch less expensive.

Recent great vintages include 2005, 2009 and 2010. These wines tend to drink well about 10 years after the vintage.

Oregon

Domaine Drouhin Oregon Laurène $55

I’m almost sorry to do this, really I am, but I have to call on Domaine Drouhin to represent Oregon. Yes, I might get some serious flack here, but the only Oregon Pinot I have extensive tasting experience with is Domaine Drouhin’s Laurene and it does a fine job of exhibiting the finesse and delicacy of Pinot Noir as only Oregon can do.

It’s a fine split of Burgundian know-how and Oregon’s clones and climate which produces a unique and distinctive Pinot Noir that seems to combine the best of both worlds. These drink well after only two to tfree years in the bottle, but improve effortlessly past age 15.

Recent great vintages include 2006, 2007, 2008

New Zealand

Felton Road Cornish Point Pinot Noir $60

New Zealand might just be the country whose wines closest resemble the fine wines of Europe. I’m not saying these are just like great Burgundy, but there is something about these wines that makes me think of France.

Felton Road in particular has achieved notable acclaim for their Pinots, wines that combine a tenderness of tannin with a firmness and balance that allows for remarkably harmonious ageing curves. While all of New Zealand’s wine industry is still awfully young and thus without much of a track record for ageing, their progress over the past decades is nothing short of remarkable. You can be assured that the wines most producers bottle today are better than those bottled a decade ago.

In Felton Road’s case, the wines bottled a decade ago are still going strong with lovely fresh fruit, and the one’s bottled most recently already show more depth and complexity than those before. Putting some away in the cellar sounds like a sure bet.

Recent great vintages include 2007, 2009, 2010

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Comments

  • Snooth User: topherg3
    921880 75

    I am currently exploring the earthy, meaty wines of the Northern Rhone. The power of Cornas, and the finesse of Cote Rotie to the top of Hermitage. I am wondering when drinking older Syrah should you decant it for an hour or so or do you risk it dying in the decanter?

    Feb 07, 2012 at 6:03 PM


  • Dear Greg,

    I notice you are skipping white wines on this wine. I really think that the white burgundies and white rhone-grapes deserve a place or honorable mention. For me, Guigal's Condrieu and Condrieu Dorianne represent the best there is for white Rhone grapes, and there are many wonderful Australian and New Zealand chardonnays which are in the $40 to $60 price categories. I don't know how much the Leeuwin Art Series Chardonnay sells for in the States, but surely anyone who is a wine aficionado should try that at least once in their life time!

    Pandarooster

    Feb 07, 2012 at 7:47 PM


  • Sorry for the typo. The first sentence should read "I notice you are skipping white wines on this round".

    Feb 07, 2012 at 7:48 PM


  • Snooth User: Stevern86
    909211 36

    Greg, I won't give you flak over the Oregon thing, but Give Domaine Serene Evenstad Reserve, And Ponzi Pinot Noir a try. They are in the same price range or less, and do a good job of showing what Oregon winemakers can do.

    Feb 08, 2012 at 1:13 AM


  • Snooth User: tonymoir
    415427 41

    I first came across Lungarotti's Rubesco Torgiano in 1975, when we drunk the 1968 vintage! It was excellent and cost £1.20 (that's about $1.90 in USA!) a bottle!! It was a long time ago!

    Feb 08, 2012 at 5:01 AM


  • Snooth User: dmcker
    Hand of Snooth
    125836 6,373

    I was intending to point to whites before I got down here, but see that pandarooster beat me to it. Nonetheless, I think it's foolish not to lay down some good:
    --chardonnays, whether from Oz or Napa/Sonoma or Chablis and south into Burgundy (and even over in Jura),
    --chenin blanc from the Loire
    --dessert whites, whether riesling or semillon or tokaji or banyuls,
    --sparklers, especially champagne,
    --vintage port and madeira (and maybe even marsala and vin santo), then back to reds with
    --tempranillo
    --etc.
    These all seem commonsensical, with proven trackrecords in others' and my own experience, leading to epiphany-level drinking experiences, all within your budget.

    And topherg, what do you mean by old? If only 15 years or so, and stored properly all the while, by all means let them breath for a couple of hours or more, though I don't decant in most cases. If they're 25-30 years old maybe less than an hour. Had an '89 Jaboulet La Chapelle about a year ago that was going very, very strong.

    Feb 08, 2012 at 6:58 AM


  • Snooth User: Gregory Dal Piaz
    Hand of Snooth Voice of Snooth
    89065 184,965

    This was only part one folks, and while I appreciate your suggestions, how about keeping in mind that the budget here is $2500. It's easy to say all these great wines should be included in one's cellar. It's a lot harder, A LOT harder trying to whittle down a list to fit the budget. And after all this article is really aimed at the beginning collector. ( I hate that word and should use cellarer but that just sounds wonky.)

    Let's face it, most people with cellars ( I'll go with that phrase for now) aren't into aged Champagne, Chenin, or even dessert wines. And seriously, ageing Port is a suckers bet. You really want to pay $60 or more for an infant port that needs 30 years in the cellar to mature when you can go out and buy something at peak for a few dollars more. I've learned my lesson on cellaring port and it's not a winning proposition. Same for Madeira, there's just no point in cellaring it, it barely budges in one's lifetime, better to buy older examples when you want them.

    Feb 08, 2012 at 11:32 AM


  • Snooth User: dmcker
    Hand of Snooth
    125836 6,373

    Greg, I believe the title of this article is the $5,000 cellar? Everything I describe above is what I did the first few years of my 'collecting' life, and I was happy I did. And rather than go just with the standard reds only, I thought it might be good for people to expand their views or minds or whatever about other wines worth laying down beyond them.

    Point taken about slow price appreciation for ports and madeiras except you can't always get every house's version in that marketplace. Forget about older vinsantos and even madeiras. Plus I never have viewed my cellar as for flipping purposes, anyway, even though later that became possible, especially with the ridiculous appreciation over the past decade or two in Bordeaux classified wines. Instead it's been for supplying wines that are a) at their optimum point for drinking, and b) that are otherwise very difficult/virtually impossible to find at that state from commercial sources, either for reasons of price or just plain availability.

    I was also happy I laid a bunch of Schramsberg bubbly down. I certainly didn't start with Grand Dames or Winston Churchills, much less Krug or Salon champagnes. Aged sparkling is a real pleasure, as great for some people as any aged reds. Ditto for good ageable chardonnays that are 10 or 15 years old, not that popular California styles will do well over that timeframe. Spatlese and Auslese rieslings and even selectively chosen beerenausleses and trockenbeerenausleses will fit in that budget and payoff in spades. You'll have real difficulty finding them on secondary markets later on. And if people haven't tried good chenin blanc, new or aged, they are missing out.

    Still not sure why I didn't see any mention of Spanish tempranillos there, or in your list of upcoming varietals.

    All that being said, I totally understand and agree about the importance of whittling and culling lists of the possible. You are very right to point out that just buying cult wines, or others that Robert Parker et al. rate highly, is the wrong way to go, and that looking for relative values, and wines made oldskool that either have a proven trackrecord, or from their structure and tasting profile give every indication of having the stuffing to age well, is the right way. Personally, I just like having more options to choose from rather than less, and assumed some others might feel that way, too.

    Feb 08, 2012 at 5:52 PM


  • Snooth User: dmcker
    Hand of Snooth
    125836 6,373

    Apologies. Meant to say 'forget about older vinsantso and even marsalas', not madeiras, which I'd already mentioned. Pressed that 'submit' button before proofreading. Bad habit... ;-)

    Feb 08, 2012 at 5:55 PM


  • Snooth User: Gregory Dal Piaz
    Hand of Snooth Voice of Snooth
    89065 184,965

    No problem, it happens to the best of us. Regularly!

    Feb 08, 2012 at 10:45 PM


  • Snooth User: Gregory Dal Piaz
    Hand of Snooth Voice of Snooth
    89065 184,965

    Oh, and I think you missed this line: Today, I’m upping the ante. For those of you who want to take it to the next level, consider this part four of the $2500 cellar, except in this case you’ll end up with half the number of bottles for the next $2500 you invest.

    You'll notice that Rioja was featured in one of the previous installments, but one of the fun parts of the exercise, for me, was doing the whittling. Trying to think of the wines that people really should try to cellar. Wines that will, for many people, form the core of their cellars.

    I might follow up this series with a set of articles on all the wines we might want to cellar. But in the end, I just don't think a lot of people are going to be interested in cellaring Muscadet, Mourvedre, or Mavrotragano!

    Feb 09, 2012 at 2:58 PM


  • Snooth User: steve666
    392767 150

    Had a great Mourvedre from Opolo (Paso Robles) several years back, present released wines all seem to have become flabby/soft .... their Sangiovese from early 2000s was great-- better than most Italians as it had more varietal characteristics, the fruit, and was full bodied... but that is now soft also.
    steve

    Apr 04, 2012 at 2:37 PM


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