Snooth Blog

Snooth User: Gregory Dal Piaz

The cellar renovation begins.

Posted by Gregory Dal Piaz, Jan 5, 2009.

Well I finally got around to starting work on the cellar reconditioning I had been talking about for a few years. The weekend before New Years I spent two entire days fighting the flu while working away in the cold confines of my cellar.

This cellar had done very well for me for years, even though the original racking was built by a carpenter more interested in making his life easy rather than following directions. A large portion of the cellar has bins that while designed to hold 4 or 6 bottles, only hold 3 or 5. I had been able to live with that limitation for quite some time. At first not worrying that one aisle of the cellar was getting cluttered, and then not worrying when the second aisle become cluttered. Earlier this year I came to the horrifying realization that the entire cellar, this wonderful little piece of heaven, had in fact turned into a dungeon!

So I began to make preparations. I sold several cases of wine so that I could buy some new units. The old IKEA shelving units had been fine for a decade and a half but they were neither the most space efficient nor the best solution. They were, quite simply, the cheapest, and cheap has always been good.

Well this year, of all years, cheap was no longer good enough. Bad timing, or should I say Greg timing. With the mess in the cellar I had decided that I would splurge on appropriate racking with the proviso that what did not fit on the new racking was headed out for sale. A proviso with a rather flexible horizon, fortunately, so that I can see exactly when a sale seems reasonable. Fortunately there is plenty of wine in the cellar that I will not miss but that part of the story will be left for the third chapter.

My first problem was finding the right racking. The Aisle racking kits from Grotto Cellars was exactly what I was looking for. Well not exactly. Exactly would have been pre-assembled, in teak, for free. But this was as close as I was going to get. I was able to assemble a fine selection of units from Grotto's extensive catalog and put together an order that included

5 - Aisle 260 racks

4 - Magnum 30 racks

1- bin rack

1 7-column rack

1- diamond bin rack

All but the bin rack were kits. Kits with lots of parts as it turned out, but I'm jumping ahead.

So I head out to the house above the cellar and I find all my racks boxed up and waiting for me. All 780 pounds of them!

Before I could even think of dragging the boxes down to the cellar I needed to get the cellar ready to receive said racks. No small feat as it were for if you recall the cellar is fairly bursting at the seams. Down I go into the bowels of the house, open the door and am struck by this familiar sight:

Stepping into the cellar and looking around the full scope of this introductory phase of the operation hits home. All the boxes in the aisles need to be moved out! And that is only the beginning!

In addition the only way to properly move the new racking in is to remove the heavily laden old racks, and where in the world are all these bottles, long held in place by these bare-bones IKEA units,  supposed to go?

Well step one would be to clear out the cases and cases of wine that currently blocked my working space in the center of the cellar so off to the side room went the cases, half to the left and half to the right. One half was scary enough:

This Back breaking bit of work left me with a beautiful, broom clean staging area for further work.

And this allowed me to start working on my planned high density tower that included the open 20 bottle bins ( destined to hold 1999 and 2001 Barolo bought in multiple cases quantities), as well as the 10 bottles bins of the diamond rack ( for the remnants of  cases of 1989 and 1996 Barolo cases) as well as the 7 column individual racking for even more Barolo. The open Bins came assembled and the diamond rack was a breeze to screw together while the 7-column rack gave me an idea of what was to come. It doesn't look imposing, now does it?

And truth be told it took only about 40 minutes to turn it into this.You can see the pre-assembled open bin rack in the background, leaning on the pole that is to anchor the high-density tower.

Once all three elements of the tower were completed, screwed together, and anchored to the pole I was able to off-load the first IKEA rack right into the tower, which is to the left here:

The high-density tower in all it's glory:

With the tower done I was able to move the empty IKEA unit up against the wall and then off-loaded the second unit back onto the first unit. Once the second unit was empty I dragged it out to the main part of the basement for it's ignominious future reuse as storage for crap!

I then proceeded with phase 2 of the attack. The assembly of the aisle units. Now while the 7-column rack required about 40 minutes to complete these units took two and a half hours each! So many screws, so many nails, so much bending, sitting on the frigid floor, so many muscle aches, but finally I had gotten somewhere. The units were built in halves and then assembled into a coherent whole. Of course by building these as halves some whole ended up being more coherent than others and it took me 3 units to perfect my system but I can'treally complain about the results.

Here the first units in place as the second unit is completed.  Notice the empty IKEA rack in the foreground.

Once the second unit was in place more Barolo began to be placed in the vast openess of the Aisle 260's. I am loving the look of these units. Notice how cases of wine have already began to migrate back into the cellar!

Once i had the IKEA units empty and removed from the cellar I was able to complete the third aisle unit, here you can see the two halves before they are joined:

Once the unit was completed this end unit began accepting my Burgundy collection. I do have to say I was a bit disappointed in how the Burgundy bottles were held. It's really not the fault of Grotto though. They have made the bins wide enough to accept almost any "normal" bottle and the bins are gently inclined to prevent bottles from sliding out but some Burgundy bottles are just unwilling to cooperate. They will have to be relegated to the bottom units. One of the reasons I chose these units from Grotto was because the  case high bins are actually 3 4-bottle bins with a 13th bottle displayed at the top. These 4 bottle bins allow for very flexible storage solutions and are perfect for this part of my collection.

Well that was pretty much phase one. I filled the Burgundy end of the rack as well as possible, considering the time I hed left and the fact that since Burgundy had no space previously, the vast majority of Burgundy was still in boxes scattered about! I got not quite as far as I had hoped during this weekend. While a lot of assemly was completed virtually no inventorying was done and virtually every bottle on the new racking was in the wrong place! But at least I had started. Before leaving for the weeks until my next visit I had to drag back all the boxes I had previously remoived, and will have to remove again for phase three! Uhg!

So even as I sit here my back aches for what will have to be done. The next visit to the cellar will consist of removing all those boxes and assembling an additional 2 aisle 260's, then re-organizing ALL the wine on the racks while taking inventory, and finally redoing one of the wall rack areas so I can assemble and install my magnum racks. As I close the dorr I am reminded why. Why this is ultimately worth it. Good night cellar.

Gregory Dal Piaz is the Community Manager at Snooth , an avid Wine Geek with a passion for things Italian, and a long suffering Mets fan.


Reply by Adam Levin, Jan 5, 2009.

I really hope you had the music from Tetris playing in the background during all of the moving.

Reply by oceank8, Jan 5, 2009.

WOW, I am simply amazed by this entire post! Do I begin with the size of your cellar, the amount of wine in it, or the unbelievable amount of work you are doing? It is going to be beautiful when it is done! Thanks for sharing this process, I love all the pics!

Reply by John E Morris, Jan 5, 2009.

Hmm. I see a lot of tell-tale pink DOCG ribbons.....

Reply by Gregory Dal Piaz, Jan 5, 2009.

No music Adam. This is a temple and I was communing with my friends!

Thanks Ocean. You inspired me with your early x-mass gift! Give yourself 25 years of buying and cellaring wine and this is what happens!

So John are you telling me there are too many or too few? Perhaps it's just right!

Reply by John E Morris, Jan 5, 2009.

No complaints. Just the indicia of your palate leanings. Which I share.

Reply by John Andrews, Jan 5, 2009.

Initially I was jealous of seeing Oceank8's early Christmas present ... now, I'm I don't even care about it. Greg, that cellar is something from my dreams. I want your wine cellar (and a few of the bottles in there).

Reply by MReff, Jan 5, 2009.

cheers Greg, when is the first tasting to christen the new cellar storage units?

Reply by RachelNYC, Jan 5, 2009.

Very impressive.. tell me the day you think we can go viking on it! :)

I had plans on turning a portion of my Mother's basement into a long term cellar in Boston... you make my plans feel completely inadequate. I wonder if she will give me the entire basement. :)

Reply by Eric Guido, Jan 5, 2009.

Jesus Greg. You're a mad man. What a great Cellar. Looks like you're all set, even if wine vanished from the earth, you're set.

Reply by Mark Angelillo, Jan 6, 2009.

Greg, all of my hats are off to you. I am not likely to wear them again.

Reply by Gregory Dal Piaz, Jan 6, 2009.

Hey Mike, In February. I intend to liberate something special for a Snooth dinner - stay tuned.
Rachel - divide and conquer, start small. the vikings will be coming to the City in Feb!
Eric, more like I'm set if I vanish...
Mark, thanks for the hats

Reply by Rodolphe Boulanger, Jan 6, 2009.

Very, very impressive.
I can't wait for some pics of the completed temple.

Reply by ttutony, Jan 8, 2009.

Wow. Nice cellar! I can't wait to see the final results!

Reply by Gregory Dal Piaz, Jan 8, 2009.

thanks TT

Neither can I, 20 more hours of work this weekend. photos om Monday.

By then I expect all the building to be complete and some 45-55% of inventorying done as well.

this is a labor of love!

Love your reviews by the way!

Reply by gr, Jan 9, 2009.

I echo the prior impressions, but I have a question about the aisle racks: do you actually intend to use that top display slot at home? Isn't the bottle tipped a bit too close to vertical for proper storage that way? (I guess you could just fill those with screw tops or rubber corks, but that's not what you want to *display*... ;^>)

Reply by fibo86, Jan 9, 2009.

WOW you.

Reply by Gregory Dal Piaz, Jan 9, 2009.


The racks work fine for bordeaux bottles, the air is trapped in the shoulder at that angle, keeping the cork in contact with the wine. For the majority of bottles in my cellar, Rhone, Barolo, Burgundy it's a bigger issue. It's not a big deal though. I'll just drink the bottles on top first, maybe over the next 3-4 years they will all be rotated off the top shelf. I've had bottles standing in the cellar for longer than that without suffering any ill consequences. I like to go down there and fondle the bottles so having easy access is helpful!

Reply by GregT, Jan 12, 2009.

Is this in Manhattan where real estate is priced by the square inch? Massive amount of space.

I was also looking at those pink labels. Got me wondering if you had anything that was actually GOOD to drink.

But congrats. It's a great new year project.

Reply by Gregory Dal Piaz, Jan 12, 2009.


It's out east on LI. I finished the construction this weekend and will post the results soon.

I do have a bottle or two of some spanish wine in one of the corners. I'll make sure we drink those when we get together!


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