The $5000 Cellar, Part 2

Continuing on with careful selections of Syrah, Cabernet and Nebbiolo


What great wines are you going to find for the cellar this week? If you’re splurging on big buck bottles, you better be sure that they are in fact going to improve in the cellar, and that they’re going to be bangin’ wines.

How can you do that? Trust me! Yeah I know, dubious, but worth a shot. I’m back with another installment of wines I suggest for your cellar, and this time around we’re going to be taking a look at Syrah, Cabernet and finally Nebbiolo! I love these wines and I’m sure you will too, so check out the $5000 Cellar, part two!

Photo courtesy avlxyz via Flickr/CC

A Recap

In case you missed the previous editions of the $5000 Cellar which include the wines first profiled in phase one: the $2500 cellar, let me explain how this works.

In that first phase, I focused on wines under $30. The $5000 cellar doubles down on that. Here I’m recommending wines that will run at about $60 a bottle. Just to be clear, the $5000 figure refers to the wines included in the $2500 cellar and these new selections, with three bottles of each.

It doesn’t take that much money to build a stellar cellar. In fact, in the first $2500 cellar part of these series, we laid out a plan for building a wonderful cellar of ageable wines for only about $50 a week. Double that and you can start adding some amazing wines that will round out your drinking, particularly in the mid-term, seven to 15 years from purchase!

Photo courtesy idovermani via Flickr/CC


I’ve been talking a lot about Syrah lately-, why I love it, why it struggles in the market place, why it shouldn’t and where it’s going. Let’s just mention these wines one last time. I find that Syrah really hits its stride about seven years after the vintage and stays on that plateau for a good seven years or so after that, making it an ideal candidate for inclusion in your cellar. Expect the Syrah to gain elegance and purity of fruit with age, though that fruit will probably express itself with some savory, olivey, herby flavors that are just mouth watering.

Photo courtesy tncountryfan via Flickr/CC


I am almost hesitant to venture over to Australia for this article. Over the past decade and a half, an inordinate amount of Australian Shiraz that was very highly rated has proven to be a bust. Wines that were big and powerful in the blush of youth turned out to be facades, unable to develop nuance in the bottle or overcome prodigious alcohol levels.

So why go there? For one thing, Australia is where d’Arenberg makes wine and it is mighty fine wine, wine that appears to be a solid bet for cellaring. In particular, the Shiraz known as The Dead Arm never fails to deliver the goods. Find a bottle of 12-year-old The Dead Arm and you’re in for a treat. You’ll finally be able to experience classic, aged Shiraz in all its beefy, blackberry, minty glory!

Of course, we’re talking about wine to lay down here. Fortunately, The Dead Arm has been on a hot streak lately. 2006 is a particular favorite of mine and tends to be the best priced of the bunch!

D’Arenberg Dead Arm $55

Recent great vintages include: 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009


Domestic Syrah production has always been a difficult sell, particularly when people are buying for the cellar. I recently went into detail about the difficulties I see when ageing some New World Syrahs in On Aging Syrah Wine, and so I approach this topic gingerly.

There are very few producers out there who have their Syrah chops down. It’s a tricky grape and a tricky region for it, but the point here is to recommend what I see as a wine that would rank among the best of its type. In looking for a New World Syrah I was drawn to Washington, and Betz in particular.

Betz produces a pair of compelling Syrahs at our price points, the La Serenne and the Cote Rousse. I prefer the La Serenne for this mid-term cellaring, though even young, it is packed with appealing fruit and classic licorice and floral accents on the aromatic nose.

Betz la Serenne  $55

Recent great vintages include: 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008


The Rhône is really the place for Syrah in my book. This is where the finest expressions have historically come from: the granite hills of Cornas, Hermitage and the Côte-Rôtie. It is here that you find Syrah both elegant and powerful, blessed with ripe fruit that lacks heaviness yet is packed with a sweetness that allows for flavors of thyme, black olive and lavender to gently accent the fruit.

One producer on my radar is the relatively new Franck Balthazar, who has been producing Cornas from old vines since about 2002. These are rather classical wines, with lots of herb and olive, and game complimenting the ripe fruit. The fruit is unusually fresh and the tannins (Cornas is famed for rough tannins) are remarkably well managed without being polished away. I’m partial for the Balthazar Cornas from the Chaillot vineyard as I think it has a bit more tension in the mouth, but the truth is that this is a producer to follow!

Franck Balthazar Cornas Chaillot

Recent great vintages include: 2006, 2009, 2010

Cabernet Sauvignon

I know you’ve all been waiting for this, it is the king of wines in a way. Certainly the king of the marketplace. I probably could have written an article entitled the $5000 Cabernet Cellar and received as much attention as I will with this multi-varietal approach I’m using!

Yes, Cabernet is a incredibly important grape and the wines can be lovely, but beware of the pricing. With so many people chasing these wines, some of the prices, Bordeaux and Napa in particular, have gone through the roof. Of course that is partially due to the quality of those wines, so let’s be sure not to miss them!

Photo courtesy niallkennedy via Flickr/CC


Bordeaux is technically not Cabernet Sauvignon, but most of the wines of Bordeaux are built with a blend that was historically based on Cabernet. Yes, there is Merlot and Cabernet Franc, but when I think of Bordeaux I don’t think of Meritage wines, I think of Cabernet!

This is tougher than you might think. Bordeaux process have skyrocketed over the past decade or so, making it quite the challenge to find a good value around $50 a bottle. Finding one from the heart of the Left Bank, Pauillac is an even bigger challenge, but Chateau Clerc Milon rides to the rescue. Blending a new take on fruit with a rather classic set of structural elements, Clerc Milon has moved from strength to strength over the past few vintages, and it doesn’t appear that the price has truly caught up with the quality here. This is classic modern Pauillac produced by the same team as Mouton Rothschild!

Chateau Clerc Milon $55

Recent great vintages include: 2001, 2005, 2006, 2009

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  • Snooth User: Giacomo Pevere
    Hand of Snooth
    806471 999

    I can just quote your nebbiolo picks! I love that bottles.
    Price for Ar. Pe Pe and Produttori del Barbaresco are pretty high in USA, in Italy they are around 35€ and 25€, pretty good price for Burlotto 40/45€ here.

    Mar 01, 2012 at 1:22 PM

  • What a great Web site!!

    Mar 01, 2012 at 3:29 PM

  • Snooth User: JonDerry
    Hand of Snooth
    680446 3,110

    Great article Greg, have been looking for Nebbiolo in this price range...

    Mar 02, 2012 at 12:49 AM

  • "they’re going to be bangin’ wines."

    Ah, "bangin'".

    Just the description we were seeking for the fine wines we hope to cellar...

    Mar 02, 2012 at 3:58 AM

  • Thank you for using my photo for your article, Arrington Vineyards in Tennessee, which is were this photo was take, is a wonderful place to enjoy a good glass of wine.

    Mar 02, 2012 at 10:22 AM

  • Snooth User: Gregory Dal Piaz
    Hand of Snooth Voice of Snooth
    89065 238,748

    Thanks everyone for your kind words. This series is a whole lot of fun to day as I get to live vicariously through my words. Now I have to figure out how to follow up!

    Mar 04, 2012 at 10:32 AM

  • Snooth User: osca1600
    974102 1

    Dead simple to create a $5K cellar of superb wine, simply buy some sequential years of Penfolds Grange, Bin 707, Henschke Hill of Grace and perhaps some Mt Mary Quintet and there you are. Given that the list price for Grange (say current vintage) normally starts at around $400, with the addition of back vintages and/or the super premium vintages going for between $500-1000 per bottle, Hill of Grace at around the $300 mark, Penfolds 707 and Mt Mary for between $150-200 per bottle, one's $5K will be spent very quickly.

    On the other hand you could moderate the expense by say purchasing some Penfold Bin 389, 407, RWT etc and perhaps some Wynns Michael Shiraz et al for sub $100 per bottle instead of purely the above and one would get a little more variety and a few more into the $5K cellar.

    Mar 15, 2012 at 9:02 PM

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