Elly’s Cellar Series, Part 1: Why Start A Cellar?

“I’m starting a wine cellar,” I told my roommate the other night.
“A what?” she said.
“A wine cellar. You know, to age wine.”
She paused and glanced around our Oakland rental.
“Where?” she said.

My roommate has a point. I’m not the most likely cellar-owner. I’m 27-years-old and our house doesn’t even have a garage (let alone a cave). I have four bottles of wine on hand with vintages ranging from 2007 to 2009. Shucks. Even I’m surprised that I’m embarking on this project.

However, working at Kermit Lynch Wine Merchant has opened my mind to a myriad of wine-aging possibilities and has shattered many of the myths of cellar ownership I thought were true. It’s a fallacy to think that only an expensive premier cru from a famous domaine and a perfect vintage is worth aging. In 1978 Kermit wrote in his monthly flyer, “You don’t have to be rich to cellar a great wine.” His concise statement still holds true. Sometimes a simple Mâcon blanc is more appropriate and even more enjoyable than an expensive Meursault; it all depends on the setting, the food, the company, and, I suppose, the number of glasses you plan to have.

This is not my cellar

In our microwave-ready, wireless world, sometimes it’s hard to remember that not everything is just a mouse click away. During an Introduction to French Wine class I recently taught with my co-worker Sam, a UC Berkeley student raised his hand and asked, “Why should I learn about French wine when they make it so difficult to know the varietal?” I found myself enthusiastically pontificating about French geography and the merits of terroir… for ten minutes. The next time someone asks me, “Why should I bother?”  my answer will be far more simple: because it’s fun, it’s intellectually stimulating, and it tastes good.

It’s hard to deny that a properly aged wine is very different from a young wine. The tannins mellow and integrate and layers of complexity emerge. Many French wines are well suited for aging—even value wines—which is uncommon in the New World. Given all the benefits, I think a more appropriate question is, “Why wouldn’t I bother?”

This is my cellar

So welcome to my Cellar Series! I hope you are inspired to join me and age some wine. Here are the guiding principles I plan to follow throughout:

1- Budget: The average price per bottle will be under $30, at least for the first two mixed cases. This will allow me to continue buying food to eat with the wine I drink! It will also force me to be more creative.
2- Variety: What if all the wine in my cellar needed ten years to start drinking well? This series would have decade-long gaps between posts and I would have an empty glass. What a shame! I want wines that will be ready to drink at many different rates, and wines that come from a variety of regions.
3- Terroir: The great thing about shopping at KLWM is that the philosophy and quality are already there. Kermit did the hard work for us years ago. With that said, I want to focus on unique wines that truly reflect the regions from which they came.

It’s exciting to embark on a wine journey here in Berkeley; especially since I know that a modest  investment today will pay dividends in the future. Soon I will have wonderful, unique, aged wine to enjoy and share! C’est fantastique!


  1. Julie h says:

    Very informative and inspiring! I look forward to reading along with you!

  2. Monroe says:

    If you don’t have enough room, you can also buy wines from Lopez de Heredia. They do the cellaring for you! Tasty.

  3. Joon S. says:

    Bravo, Elly! This is quite the noble undertaking (both the cellaring itself and the writing of the cellaring) and I look forward to your future posts.

  4. Jake78 says:

    Inspiring words, especially after I just bought a wine fridge. I live in an NYC apartment and it’s the closest thing I could get to a cellar.

  5. Very excellent and Practical advice! Almost ALL wine benefits from a little extra bottle time. You can turn a $10 bottle of wine into something that drinks more like a $40 just by setting it aside for a couple years. The fun thing about setting aside cheap wine is that you have very little to lose. And if you don’t have a cave, you probably have a closet, and unless you let your house get really hot in summer, it will still serve to age wine – just a little quicker than a real cave might do.

    One interesting endeavor is to buy a case of wine, and only take out a bottle every 6 months. This will force you to age that wine for 6 years, and you will get a real insight into how that varietal ages.

    So, keep us informed of what you set aside, and how long you can manage to make yourself hold off! Looking forward to reading more.

  6. Elly says:

    Thanks for the feedback everyone! Check out the blog this coming week for my next post on choosing some wines to cellar.

  7. Scott says:

    As an amateur “cellar-er” as well, I’m looking forward to reading more about your experience. Thanks for sharing!

  8. Jen says:

    I manage a wine storage facility. I very much like the concept of this series. I have a new generation of wine drinkers here unsure how to go about this journey, including myself, and this will be a good reference for us. I was hoping to see some info on HOW you are cellaring your wine, the options you considered, the pluses and minuses of those options, and how your choice might affect the overall process, if it matters at all. Just curious.

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