Wine Talk

Snooth User: Degrandcru

Building my underground wine cellar

Posted by Degrandcru, Nov 18, 2009.

Well... Recently bought a house which now has to be rennovated. After a few glases of Rioja I decided that the house needs a wine cellar. Obviously the best place would be underground, only problem is the house does not have a basement. A new bottle of Rioja was opened and the decission was made, one has to dig a whole in the kitchen.

Kitchen before the rennovation started:




As the floor has to be removed anyway, one might as well dig a cellar:



A small problem is that there are no plans to the house, so one will see what one will find. Seems like a waterpipe is in the way and has to be replaced:



So far I am at about 1.90 meters. I am still not quite sure where I´ll go with this, but the cellar should hold about 1,000+ bottles. I´ll keep you updated as the project advances. Of course I welcome all suggestions.

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Replies

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Reply by kylewolf, Nov 18, 2009.

Just out of curiosity, did you have to get a permit to dig under your house?

Also, are you making it so you enter the cellar from the kitchen? as in you have a door in the floor? I blue print or something would be very helpful in looking at how it is going to finished eventually.

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Reply by Degrandcru, Nov 18, 2009.

Kylewolf, in theory I guess I would need a permit, but as the work is inside I hope nobody notices...

Yes, plan is a trap-door with a staircase underneath. I am working with an architect who will work on a drawing. But first we have to dig some more to see how far we can go.

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Reply by dmcker, Nov 18, 2009.

This is hilarious, Degrandcru, and I applaud your fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants get-up-and-go. I really do, since I've had several arguments with my sister, who is a city planner in the San Francisco Bay Area, regarding attempts by a number of people to do far less ambitious things. She, and many others in her milieu, seem to think you need a permit to do anything to your property beyond breathing in it, in this day and age.

Obviously you want to avoid having to dig through too many water pipes or any other utility conduits. No plans available at all? Also, I would try to dig away from the kitchen, since there is usually so much traffic, heat, etc. there. Here's hoping you don't have a stony soil underneath, don't end up cracking your foundation, etc. And that you don't need lots more good red for inspiration and other motivation, since I find it hard to do physical labor with too much alcohol on board. ;-)

Salud!

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Reply by Degrandcru, Nov 18, 2009.

Thank you Dmcker. I share your opinion about permits... As long as what you do does not affect anybody else, why should one need a permit...

So far the soil is easy to remove and we stay away from the foundation. And don´t worry about the wine in my blood. As labor is cheap down here in Mexico I don´t do the physical labor myself... besides opening up the bottles of course. I was thinking about the kitchen as well, especially the oven... but then I don´t use it that often and hot air goes up, so I don´t know how much this would affect the temperature below...lets see

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Reply by sactogeek, Nov 18, 2009.

You might be interested in what I did when I remodeled my kitchen. I already had a cellar but I had to move the stairwell. I created a new hall closet and put a trap door in the floor. I then created a automated lift system using a garage door opener which enables me to open the trap door with the press of a button.


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Reply by Degrandcru, Nov 18, 2009.

Sactogeek: That actually looks pretty similar to what I have in mind. The opening system is a great idea. Could you post or send me a picture of the stairwell going down and of the cellar itself?
What dimensions does your cellar have? What temperature do you have in it, do you cool it or does it maintain a good temperature by itself? And what about the humidity? Do you have any ventilation or openings beside the trap door?

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Reply by Mark Angelillo, Nov 18, 2009.

Sactogeek -- that's awesome. Thanks for sharing!

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Reply by sactogeek, Nov 18, 2009.

Degrandcru - My cellar was built with my house in 1927. It is 12 by 12 and originally contained a large coal-powered central heating system. It is located in the middle of the house and is opened to the 30 inch high and ventilated craw space that is under the rest of the house. I don't cool the cellar except for a fan system I created to pump cool morning air in the summers. (Where I live it can be over 100 in the afternoon but sweater weather at night. Where are you located?) The cellar temperature remains relative constant slowly warming in the summers and cooling in the winter. The humidity stays around 65 to 70%. Judging from how well my three cases of 1994 Dehlinger Pinot Noir has aged, it seems to work well enough.

I designed my system to lift the trap door using the closet rod as the lifting mechanism. When I press the button, the rod with the clothes retreat to the back of the closet as the trap door opens. Here is a picture of my specially built rod and bracket, and the rail they travel on.

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Reply by dmcker, Nov 18, 2009.

Sactogeek, very nifty remodelling work. Are you in California? Sounds like that type of architecture...

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Reply by sactogeek, Nov 18, 2009.

dmcker - Yes, I live in an early 20th Century "suburb" of Sacramento.

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Reply by dmcker, Nov 18, 2009.

Yeah, I'd guessed Sacramento from your handle and the humidity. I grew up in the Santa Barbara/Ojai area. Similar architecture, but nowhere near that humidity...

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Reply by Degrandcru, Nov 19, 2009.

Sactogeek, seems like you have the ideal conditions for a cellar. The door system you developed is awesome.
I live in Mexico City and the year round conditions are not bad for an underground cellar. Very seldemly we get above 85 F and it almost never gets below freezing point. As there is no direct sunlight into my kitchen (where the cellar will be located), I should be fine temperature wise (the kitchen is alway cool by itself).
The humidity should work as well, as the ground is very humid (Mexico City was built on lakes). Foundation, walls and ceiling of the cellar will be of cement, which is breathing, the humidity should be high enough. If not I just place a few bowls with water in the cellar. I am pretty confident that the conditions will work out just fine.

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Reply by dmcker, Nov 19, 2009.

Considering the marshiness of the soil in some parts of Mexico City, Degrandcru, you might want to monitor humidity over time once your cellar is completed. When the humidity is too high for too long, the labels can mold and even rot away. Not what you want I'm sure. Early this past summer I had the 'horrible' task of helping a local collector drink a huge batch of his Rhein and Mosel ausleses, beerenausleses and trockenbeerenausleses from the late '60s through the early '90s that he'd stored way too long in too damp a cellar. Theysuffered really nasty devastation to their labels and in several cases it took real detective work to figure out what the bottles were. Can't say they tasted all that bad, though... ;-)

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Reply by Degrandcru, Nov 19, 2009.

Will certainly do. In my current storage I have a nice tool that measures actual temperature/humidity and the extremes (lows and highs). I am not too concerned about the labels as I am not collecting for resell... and as you mentioned, even with a rotten label they still taste fine...

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Reply by Degrandcru, Nov 30, 2009.

Well, here an update about my cellar project. We found a foundation beam (don´t know the exact word in english) at the original place where we were digging. So we had to fill the hole again and dig a new one on the other side of the beam, right under the original kitchen. We were able to dig about 2 m deep (3 m x 1.5 m inside dimensions - 10 feet x 5 feet):



the cement floor is already poured in:




Plan is to have the cellar ready by next week.

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Reply by dmcker, Nov 30, 2009.

Probably late to say this, but my rec is to always make any cellar larger than you think you need. You'll be surprised at how fast just about any size fills up....

So did you make a new kitchen, too?

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Reply by Degrandcru, Nov 30, 2009.

Well, I know... but thats the max. size we could build at this location, it will hold about 1,000 single bottles and a few boxes. When this cellar gets too small I will have to look for a new house.

The new kitchen will be located above the cellar.

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Reply by dmcker, Nov 30, 2009.

Nice excuse for trading up homes... ;-)

Hope your new wine cellar works out as well as it looks like it will. What are your main targets for stocking it?

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Reply by gregt, Nov 30, 2009.

degrandcru - you are my new hero!

Just remember, those of us who grew up in the USA have a little perspective because we watched Bugs Bunny cartoons as kids. So we know to be careful when sawing a branch that we're sitting on because we've seen what happens when you saw on the side between you and the tree. And we're careful when digging under our house, lest the house fall in on us.

But best of luck in this endeavor. I love your style!

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Reply by Degrandcru, Dec 1, 2009.

@dmcker: At the moment I only have a collection of about 80 bottles, so lots of place to grow. About 50 bottles are Spanish (Riojas, Ribera del Duero), the rest Argentinians, Italians, a few Mexicans and German Rieslings. Following my taste and availibility in Mexico the future collection will focus mostly on Spain.

@ GregT: But if I remember right Bugs Bunny always got out of it alive, right? My real fear is to fall down the stairs when I enter for the 3rd bottle. As I have an Architect involved I hope the house will be fine...

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