Ray Kurz remembers when he fell in love with wine. It was 1984, and he and wife Debbie were in a Wine 101 class. A glass of Burgundy “tasted like red velvet,” recalls the retired attorney. He bought six bottles and stored them in the basement.
As Kurz’s knowledge expanded, so did his collection—and his storage methods. “I’ve had just about every type of wine cabinet there is,” says Kurz, who now leads wine education classes and organizes dinners as “Cuvée Ray.”
The couple sold a home with a wine cellar that holds 1,000 bottles when they relocated to Bethany Beach, but they managed to maintain an impressive collection with a little creativity and some excellent storage options.
A dedicated appliance is ideal for those who don’t have a basement or who lack room in the fridge, which is too cold for long-term storage anyway. Just ask Jody Beth Jaeger and partner Travis Cook, who reside in a condo overlooking the Brandywine River. They have two wine fridges.
On top are wines for social occasions. Exceptional wines are in the center. “At the bottom are the ‘laydowns.’ They are the ‘touch-this-bottle-at risk-of-death’ category,” Jaeger says, noting the 2005 Axios and 2007 McGregor Black Russian Red. “If I want to get Travis’ goat, I’ll casually mention that I opened one of them. I didn’t, of course.” The short wine fridge is for bubbly and rosé, which Travis describes with a wrinkled nose and the damning word “pink.”
Kurz stores more than 500 bottles in temperature-controlled cabinets, which have a more furniture-like aesthetic than fridges. Everyday wines are on racks in a closet.
The choice of device depends on size and budget. Home Depot offers a six-bottle wine cooler for $132.96 and an LG Signature 65-bottle free-standing wine cellar for $6,999.
There are myriad ways to create wine storage, including luxe cellars and custom cabinetry. At the home of Mike and Missi Postles in Rehoboth Beach, a climate-controlled space—showcasing more than 200 bottles of wine—was built seamlessly into the design.
Hockessin residents Barry Roseman and Laurie Jacobs took a novel approach to wine storage in their second home near Scottsdale, Arizona. A glass-front built-in holds 300 bottles at the proper temperature. They also have a wine fridge in the kitchen.
Missi and Mike Postles also showed ingenuity when they built their Rehoboth Beach home. “We didn’t have a basement, but I said, ‘I’m going to figure out how to have a wine cellar,’” says Missi, owner of Egg in Rehoboth, who previously worked for Southern Glazer’s Wine & Spirits. (Mike is still a sales rep.)
She found the solution on Pinterest, and her contractor tucked a climate-controlled space under the stairs. From a window in the dining room, you can see the 200-plus bottles.
Admittedly, a basement is a boon. Roseman started with racks in a cool corner. When he and Jacobs moved to Hockessin, they built a basement wine cellar, which they’ve expanded three times. The insulated space has cabinetry, flooring, a tasting area, a computer, a software system to track inventory and aging, and specialty lighting.
Darren Wright literally “dug out’ space in his mid-19th-century New Castle home. Before building the basement cellar, he removed 4 inches of dirt. Today, he has 2,200 bottles tucked in about 250 square feet.
The IT whiz attached a CoolBot controller to an air conditioner to maintain the climate. To track the inventory, he uses the CellarTracker app.
Kurz, who has aged wines for up to 30 years, once tried a bar code system, but felt it was too labor-intensive. For bells and whistles, he recommends a Coravin wine preserver system that maintains open bottles for weeks.
Roseman also has one. “But I very rarely use it,” he acknowledges. “When I open a bottle, I usually finish it.”
Although Kurz has no shortage of fancy corkscrews, his favorite is a Durand, a manual opener designed to accommodate older corks. Though low-tech, it’s $125.
“It looks like it costs $10,” Kurz admits. “But it works 100 percent of the time.”
No matter where you keep your wine, remember:
Temperatures higher than 70 degrees affect flavor and fragrance. Many consider 55 degrees ideal, depending on the varietal. Aim for between 45 and 65 degrees. Most regular fridges are too cold.
Along with heat, sunlight is an enemy.
Horizontal storage keeps corks moist and is a space-saver.