It was suggested to me by a friend that I write an article about my personal cellar. He thought it would be interesting to my readers. I mused over the idea and thought… why not. I often go to my cellar and look over my stock, considering what should come out for consumption. I don’t admire my collection, because it is a functional cellar. I’m a wine drinker, not a collector. One thing I do quite often is purchase wines that are not expensive to see if they will improve with age. I’ve been quite successful with this and have fun doing it. Of course, I don’t make blind purchases. Before buying wine to tuck away for a few years. I try it first. I have a horror story to share regarding this.

A few years ago, I developed a friendship with a regular customer who also happened to be a doctor. Needless to say, he had a lot of discretionary income. He also loved wine. One day, we were discussing the subject of aging wine. I was talking about a certain wine that I felt would age well over ten years. I told him I always suggest to people who want to experiment with aging wine, to buy at least four bottles of the said wine after they have tried it and are reasonably sure it will age well. After two years, open one up and see how it is progressing. If you are satisfied with how it is developing, wait another four years and open another. You get the point. My friend the doctor totally agreed with this approach. He then shared an experience he had with a very expensive Bordeaux.

A famous wine critic had given this Bordeaux a very high score (I think close to 100 points). The said critic suggested waiting ten years before opening a bottle. The doctor bought a case of this Bordeaux without trying it and put it away in his temperature-controlled cellar for exactly ten years. He was very excited to dive into the case, expecting to be rewarded for his patience. Before I share what happened, he said he paid four thousand dollars for the case. This was in the nineties before the price of first-growth Bordeaux went through the roof. This was top-notch juice. Anyway, he opened one bottle and as you probably already deduced, it was bad. Not corked, just not drinkable, or at least not anywhere close to what he expected. Devastated, he opened another with the same result. Now, he was not only devastated, but he was also starting to get nervous. He thought to himself…Should I open another? He told me that he ended up opening the entire case over the course of a couple of months and they were all the same. A very expensive lesson, even for a wealthy gentleman.

That story was a game-changer for me. I was convinced, I would never buy a bottle of wine to put away without trying it first, whether it is ten dollars or a hundred dollars. This brings me to my personal cellar. What do I put in there that is for immediate consumption or to age? I will now give you a guided tour of the spot in the studio where I put my wine. Before doing that, I would like to share with you, my approach to wine purchasing. This won’t take long, but I feel it is important.

Because my job is wine-centric, I get to try different wines all the time. I would venture to guess, that I taste on average, twenty-four wines a week more or less. That’s close to one hundred a month. Of course, I am in search of wines that will do well in my department. I have a “Pick Of The Month” that I am seeking out, as well as floor stacks and shelf placements. However, as I taste, I am also looking for wines that have aging potential. I am especially excited when I run across a wine that is under twenty bucks and has all the elements to improve with time. What are the elements that make me think a wine will age? Wine has to have three key ingredients that are in harmony in order to be ageable. They are tannins, acidity and fruit. If these three things are there, in balance, that wine has aging potential. It’s really that simple. Now, let’s take a peek at my wine cellar.

As you can see, my wine storage area doubles as a root cellar. The temperature is consistent at around 55 to 60 degrees which is close to perfect. The main concern is to make sure the cellar never gets warm.


Here is my rack of wines from Italy, France and Spain. I move my wines from the bottom to the top as they age. This rack contains most of the wines that I consider ageable. France and Italy have amazing wines that are inexpensive. I have had the most success with them when it comes to aging. I especially like to go to Bordeaux when they have experienced a good vintage. Needless to say, there are a lot of Bordeauxes in this rack that are under thirty bucks, which I think will age well. With Italian wines, I tend to spend a bit more. Classic varietals like Barolo, Barbaresco and Amarone are good wines to age, but they cost more money. I have a few of those stored away. I do like Tuscany for value wines that could age and this rack has a few of those as well. What many refer to as “Baby Tuscans” are some of my favorites. They are not as expensive as “Super Tuscans”, but if you find a good one, grab it. Unlike Chianti, which is primarily Sangiovese, Baby or Super Tuscans contain different varietals such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, sometimes not containing Sangiovese at all. On the top of the rack in this picture are dessert wines and Riesling. I love to age Riesling, especially from Germany or Alsace.

Opposite the last rack, this area contains wines from Portugal, Oregon and some overflow from Washington State. Portuguese wines are underrated in my opinion and believe it or not have some of the best values you can find in the wine world. I think a lot of folks shy away from them, because they don’t understand the grape varietals. Grapes like Tinta Roriz, Touriga Nacional, Jaen and Alicante Bouschet are names that are unfamiliar to a lot of people. However, many of the wines from Portugal are well-made, value-priced and ageable.

When it comes to Oregon, Pinot Noir is dominant. Compared to Burgandy, they are value wines. However, it’s hard to find good Pinot from here without spending a few more dollars. I have a couple tucked away to see how they do with a few years on them. My Washington wine rack, which I will show next is stuffed. Therefore I have to use this area to store more Washington wines. You can also see that I have a few bottles of bubbles waiting to be opened.

I love wines from Washington State. Most of the wines you see here are for immediate consumption. I have a few that I am experimenting with as far as aging, but most will need to be drunk over the next three years. Don’t get me wrong, there are many wines from our state that have great aging potential. I just can’t afford most of them. I will give a quick shout-out to Savage Grace. Michael Savage makes some great wines that do have aging potential and don’t bust the budget. I also go to Cor Cellars, Syncline Cellars and Idiots Grace for wines to store away at a reasonable price. They would be considered value wines under fifty bucks.

I have to admit that the smallest collection I have in my cellar is wines from California. I love Zinfandel from there, but they never seem to make it to my cellar, because I buy and drink them within a month of purchasing. In this rack, you will find wines from the only wine club I belong to. It is a small winery located in Paso Robles…Kukkula Winery. Fantastic wines that are drinkable now, but have aging potential. The problem is, I don’t have the patience to wait. I will wait on some of them, but it is difficult. Since I don’t have many wines from California (again, not because I don’t like them), I use the rest of the space for my overflow of Italian and French wines.

There you have it, my personal wine cellar. Not mentioned, are a few bottles from Chile and Argentina that share some of the space. This article is not intended to tell you what to do with your collection. Everyone’s palate is different and you may have a cellar filled with your favorites. I wrote this to show you what I do personally. It may help you, it may not. I do encourage aging wines, especially experimenting with wines under twenty bucks. It’s not a huge investment and the results can be quite exciting (that is if wine excites you). A quick shout-out to Leonard, who suggested I write this piece. Thanks for the inspiration. I hope you enjoyed this tour of my modest collection.


Stan The Wine Man

About Stan The Wine Man

I am a blue collar wine guy who has been in the biz for over twenty years. I work at a store in a tourist destination stop. I work hard at finding the best wine for the money. I love the challenge of learning my customer's palate so I can find the best wine for them, whether it is Petrus or white zinfandel. Cheers!
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