Melissa L. Smith
New Year, New Cellar Goals! 🍷
Updated: May 13, 2020
2018, a new year, a new vintage, and new resolutions. The top ones for most wine lovers? Drink better wine, travel to new wine regions, hone your knowledge, and organize the wine cellar!
It’s a bit lengthy, but within this newsletter you’ll be getting an insider’s idea of what you should be looking for in your collection that will save, or make, you thousands if not tens of thousands of dollars. Also...
Private Cellar filled with single vineyard bottlings from William Selyem, Rochioli, Du Mol, and more. If you are interested in acquiring these stunning wines, that have been stored perfectly after being shipped directly from the winery, for your personal collection reach out here
If you have a charity that you are looking for donations of goods or services for an auction located in the Bay Area, Enotrias annually donates to five hand picked organizations. To be considered reach out here
If you are interested in learning the basics of wine, or looking to learn more about a specific varietal or region, we will be doing pop up classes starting in March in the Oakland area. You can be on the exclusive insiders list by signing up here. Spaces will be limited to 12 students per class.
I remember getting the initial phone calls at K&L. “Help, I've got a wine cellar at home, and I have no idea what's in it or when to drink it!” Or, “I'm sending my nanny down to inventory my husband's wine collection.” And then there were calls from attorneys and insurance brokers needing a valuation on a collection for their client.
It was around this time when I started realizing that there was another side to organizing and inventorying wine collections. The more that I got involved, the more that I realized that there is so much that goes into performing a thorough inventory, and my exposure to tens of thousands of bottles at K&L gave me a massive advantage beyond the consumption side. For instance, what if someone writes down 2010 Silver Oak Cabernet. Is it Napa Valley or Alexander Valley? Today the average price in the US for Alexander is $80, Napa is $125, or $960/case vs $1500/case. Do you know how many Pinot Noir Patz and Hall makes on an average vintage? TWENTY (including their ‘Salon Society bottlings’), and they are in a 4 point font. The prices range from $48 - $90/bottle, and are nearly indistinguishable. Do you know about Domaine versus Maison Leroy distinction? One minor detail obvious once you know it, and hundreds of dollars per bottle. OTP vs OWC? Those can add 10-20% in value over the life of the wine.
I've had some amazing and extraordinary experiences over the years in private wine cellars. Arguing the valuation (or lack of) certain bottles to the opposing team’s divorce attorney; Discovering historic bottles in a wine cellar in a Berkeley estate that hadn't been touched since the 1960s (and subsequently paid for a significant portion of the remodel which lead to the discovery); being given bottles of Veuve Grande Dame and Dom Perignon from the 1990s because we couldn't verify the provenance and the client didn't want to risk having her kids improperly open the old bottles (the corks don't mushroom, which could result in a more surprising release that may or may not result in the bottle unexpectedly firing backwards, hitting the floor, and showering a dining room in vintage champagne…). I never know what I'm going to find, and I relish every second of the hours spent donning Uggs in the 56 degree cellars.
And then of course there is the maintenance of a collection. Once you know exactly what you have, and discover where you want to take the collection, the possibilities are endless. In September, I was doing the first quarterly inventory for clients that were just settling into their brand new home. Not only do they have their main cellar, they have wine refrigerators in four other locations on the property. Working with the estate manager and the clients, I inventoried and relocated the wines, updated their online database, and developed a sleek and straightforward visual map of their cellar so that any of the wines can easily be located, and any new wines end up in the right locations. Because the collection is constantly being managed remotely as part of their sommelier service subscription, the inventory and valuation can be accessed at any time.
Why is it imperative to have your wine collection inventoried properly?
Besides spreadsheets being super fun to look at, wine, like art, is one of the only appreciative assets that you can own, and the value is constantly fluctuating based on retail and auction house prices. And you need to have a record of this for insurance and legal purposes. I've heard about, and read, way too many stories where someone invested hundreds of thousands of dollars in prized wines, only to have lost it in a fire, flood, earthquake, and most recently, landslides. Typically homeowners insurance will only cover about $2500 no matter the size of the collection, whereas specialty insurance and riders can cover the entire amount if a thorough and professional inventory and/or audit is performed and presented before disaster strikes.
Having your wine cellar inventoried definitely has multiple benefits, from protecting your assets, to knowing which wines you should drink when, to making room by moving out wines past their prime, or selling those in which your tastes have shifted away from. Plus having round the clock access to your wine collection via cloud software, is way more fun than keeping an eye on your bitcoin investment. But the reality is, you have the opportunity to fully protect your investment by investing in a professionally performed inventory of your collection. And from personal experience, do it before it is nothing more than broken glass and disintegrating wine labels (and tears, lots of tears). Step one to achieving your wine resolutions, open one of those special occasion bottles and make an incredible meal with locally sourced and sustainable ingredients to pair with it (or make reservations); sign up for a class or read a book (with glass in hand); contact us for a cellar consultation; and pay for a vacation to Northern Italy or the Oregon Coast with profits from wines you broker from your freshly organized cellar! All the best in wine and life, Melissa L. Smith, CS Founder Enotrias