Wine Cellar Envy

A European-inspired stone wine cellar housing an enviable collection of vintages inspires the rest of us to start collecting.

No detail was too meticulous for the masterminds behind the Keenans’ showpiece. Artist Ski Loupohovski created backlit stained glass “windows,” and artisan Loren Allread spent nine months placing solid granite pieces in jigsaw-puzzle fashion. Also among the craftsmen are Marisa Smith, Marisa Interior Design Studio, interior designer; Ricky Vickers, Vickers Construction, general contractor; and Lea Verneuille, WAV Architects, project architect. Photo by Ted Miles

Just steps inside Mike and Rhonda Keenan’s Spanish Fort home, visitors are greeted by an unparalleled luxury — a palatial wine cellar, enveloped by  granite and centuries-old Kronos stone. According to interior designer Marisa Smith, “The use of granite and stone helps maintain the humidity levels necessary while creating the ambiance of an old-world wine cellar.” 

The Keenans envisioned a space large and opulent enough to entertain friends, family and business clients, which has come in handy for Mike, president and CEO of Craft and Technical Solutions, LLC, a shipbuilding and repair company. Mike, a red aficionado, started collecting wine in the late ’90s, and his collection has grown to at least 800 bottles. But he admits, “You quit counting when you’re having fun.”

“My favorite wines
come from Napa Valley,
like the Screaming Eagle,
Silver Oak and Scarecrow.”
— Mike Keenan

Randy Williams, owner of Red or White, tells MB how to kick off a collection. Like many endeavors, you probably believe you will never have the budget, space or time to collect wine the way top enthusiasts do. But every one of us can start collecting a few bottles here and there that will mature well, stand out at some future holiday or bring us back to a special moment in time. But where to even begin?

Q. What wines are worth saving and aging?
Big reds with acidity and tannin age the best, while soft reds that are a little “jammy” do not. A lot of white wines don’t actually improve but will age. Quality white Burgundy, chenin blanc and Riesling, however, are quite famous for aging well. Champagnes will age, but it depends on personal taste if you like them older or not.

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Q. What are the best conditions for storing wine?
The classic accepted temperature for storing wine is 55 degrees. What you really don’t want is large fluctuations in temperature, and never higher than 65, if possible. Light will also damage aging bottles. 

Q. What are some good wines to start with?
2014 Vietti Barolo RaveraI have yet to have a Barolo that was over the hill, but I promise you I will keep trying. $157

2015 Jean-Marc Pillot “Les Chenevottes”: Chassagne-Montrachet Great white Burgundy that will age for many years. The best producers from good and great vintages will be phenomenal. $75

2015 Ridge Wines Estate Cabernet SauvignonLegendary California producer whose wines are famous for aging well. Not all California cabernets age well. $60


1. Take your time. Trust me, your cabinet or cellar will fill up! Although many cannot bear the sight of a collection that’s any less than spectacular, try to think long term. Your tastes will change and you don’t want 500 bottles maturing at the same time — unless you throw large and phenomenal dinner parties!

2. Buy wines with personal meaning. A few wines from a great trip to a Spanish producer in Rioja or a pinot noir producer in Santa Barbara will always hold special memories. Wines from your children’s birth years are popular to collect as well, but look for something that has the best chance of being great by their 21st birthday. Keep a case of the wine you poured at your wedding, too. (Here, it is particularly important to be exact if you’ve been married more than one time.)

3. Buy some magnums and even a couple of 3-liters. It is well documented that magnums age the best for a number of scientific reasons. Three-liter bottles will work very well if you trust the cork to be of high quality, and they are fantastic to pull out for dinner parties.

4. Get an insurance rider for the replacement value of all your wine. Great wines increase in value and our area is known to have a few adverse weather-related issues that could cause headaches.

5. Vary your price points. Weekday, weekend, bad mood, good mood, invited guest, uninvited family and special occasion bottles will round out your collection. The price points you choose are relative to your personal situation, but you will want to have appropriate wines for each category and mood.

6. Buy a case. If you find a wine you absolutely love, it’s fun to taste how it evolves over time.

7. Again, take your time. (Unless you buy from Red or White, and then fill your cellar as fast as possible!)


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