How useless is a mini-wine cellar, really?

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How useless is a mini-wine cellar, really?

Postby Robin Garr » Sun Nov 25, 2007 2:50 pm

Okay, I'm looking at all the junk ads that fill my Sunday newspaper here, and I can't help noticing that mini-wine cellars - 9 to 16 bottles - are all the rage for holiday shopping this year.

Target, for example, is offering a "Vinotemp 16-bottle Wine Cellar" for $99, co-branded with Food Network. It's stainless steel with a glass door, made in China, and purportedly will hold from (about) 50 to 60 degrees F with ajustable temperature settings, using about 1.0 kilowatt hour of electricty in 24 hours.

I'm thinking about writing a vicious Wine Advisor warning people off these things (along with wine magnets, clips and crystals), but before I go into full-bore nasty mode, I'd like a reality check: Do any of you see any good reason why people should spend $100 or more for one of these things?

The problem, it seems to me, is size. They're good-size and heavy but hold only about a case of wine. I just don't see using them for serious collectibles - but I also don't see bothering to set up controlled temperature conditions for just one case of wine. It's not enough for any kind of a collection, but for short-term use, they don't seem to offer much advantage over an inexpensive wine rack or the fridge.

Am I missing something here? Can any of you offer a cogent argument in favor of investing in one of these things, for yourself or for a friend?
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Re: How useless is a mini-wine cellar, really?

Postby James Roscoe » Sun Nov 25, 2007 3:01 pm

They look cool? You make your friends think you are a real wine snob? We inherited our daughter's dorm fridge and it does the trick just fine for short-term cooling. It was also a lot cheaper at Robin's FAVORITE store. (Wal-mart, about $50)
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Re: How useless is a mini-wine cellar, really?

Postby Jenise » Sun Nov 25, 2007 3:15 pm

Robin, California is rife with homes built in the 60's, 70's and 80's with built-in wet bars designed for the average beer, mixed drink and whiskey swiller. At that time, wine as a cocktail was nowhere on the horizon, and for those kinds of homes which are now owned by people who also or even exclusively drink wine, and where there isn't room to add a 60 bottle built-in or funds to completely remodel, these small units might be the cheap and easy solution for someone wanting to have a few bottles ready to go in that part of the house.

Other than that, no.
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Re: How useless is a mini-wine cellar, really?

Postby Rahsaan » Sun Nov 25, 2007 3:20 pm

James Roscoe wrote:You make your friends think you are a real wine snob?


Why would that make your friends think you are a real wine snob?
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Re: How useless is a mini-wine cellar, really?

Postby Keith M » Sun Nov 25, 2007 3:30 pm

Robin Garr wrote:Do any of you see any good reason why people should spend $100 or more for one of these things?


Because it is purchases such as these that keep the US economy from teetering into recession?

On the more serious side, I do not own one, but it doesn't seem hard to imagine a situation where buying a unit with large bulk yet small capacity could make sense. For example: someone with a significant collection maintained in optimal conditions for aging and keeping in an off-site location--but they live in a really small place where the kitchen is really the only place to store wine, despite wild temperature swings. If something has been aging in pristine conditions for 20 years, I imagine such a person would be quite hesitant to leave such a wine on a rack above the fridge or in the fridge for the 4-9 months till they get around to drinking it.

Granted, this would be a much smaller slice of the market than the ads are aiming for, but reasonable enough to divide the tradeoffs of such units from those of wine magnets. (In any case, I find wine hypnosis to be much more effective: you will find this wine very fruity...FRUUUUUUITY!)
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Re: How useless is a mini-wine cellar, really?

Postby Jenise » Sun Nov 25, 2007 3:56 pm

Another use, though practically speaking an uncommon one that doesn't justify the manufacture: friends with both a Eurocave and cool passive storage ALL over their house (the key on their inventory is hilarious, with entries like BF for "bedroom fireplace") recently threw a wine tasting dinner featuring all ports and sauternes, six of each. Lacking any other appropriate cooling space, to maintain the Sauternes at the perfect serving temperature during this event they bought one of these little units.
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Re: How useless is a mini-wine cellar, really?

Postby Jenise » Sun Nov 25, 2007 4:12 pm

Further to my other post, though, thinking the usefullness of this kind of appliance to people with small apartments--the same probably applies to my friends above. They don't have a small house, but they have a smallish refrigerator (which Annabelle keeps stuffed to the gills) and such is their environmental philosophy that they don't replace anything until it absolutely dies. With barely room in the kitchen fridge for more than one bottle of white at any one time, the little wine chiller they bought is no doubt already in service keeping a larger variety of whites chilled and ready than they've been able to keep ready before. The same would be useful, like a counter top microwave, to an apartment or small old house dweller.
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Re: How useless is a mini-wine cellar, really?

Postby JoePerry » Sun Nov 25, 2007 6:37 pm

Certainly for looks.

My local sushi restaurant has a 50 bottle wine fridge full of... soda and beer. The fridge is on the coldest setting, well below anything that anyone would use for wine, but still too warm for beer and soda. It's all about looks.

Best,
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Re: How useless is a mini-wine cellar, really?

Postby Bob Ross » Sun Nov 25, 2007 6:52 pm

Two thoughts:

Aesthetics -- they look really cool on the counter and often generate some interesting$75 conversations about wine -- we had one in Glen Rock, and a contractor noticed it and regaled us with wine stories for over an hour.

Convenience -- at an office or a second home where you don't want major storage. I took my unit on a week long driving trip last year, along with some favorite wines.

At $75, a pretty convenient conversation grabber -- pretty cheap entertainment really.
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Re: How useless is a mini-wine cellar, really?

Postby James Roscoe » Sun Nov 25, 2007 7:05 pm

Rahsaan wrote:
James Roscoe wrote:You make your friends think you are a real wine snob?


Why would that make your friends think you are a real wine snob?

What other kind of wine snob should I be?
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Re: How useless is a mini-wine cellar, really?

Postby Gary Barlettano » Sun Nov 25, 2007 7:19 pm

If it really works and doesn't get in the way, then it might be a good place to keep your daily drinking or party wines within reach ... provided you and your wine stash are separated from one another by some inconvenient distance.

In my old place I got rid of the trash compactor and replaced it with a 32-36 bottle Vino Temp. Five or six years ago, they wanted $469 for the unit. They had the folks who needed it by the short hairs because of the "special" 15" wide trash compactor size. Being patient and very cheap, I waited them out and got a floor model at Frye's for $169 during a sale. I was so proud of myself and my new found geek accessory, but then I had to leave the dang thing behind when I moved because it was under the counter and considered a fixture. It contained, however, just about the right number of bottles so that I could have a good selection/ cross section of the stuff I liked on hand in the kitchen. This was especially important for the whites since my fridge didn't like the idea of having 10-12 bottles stored in it. I have yet to get one for this place, but I doubt I would consider anything which couldn't hold at least three cases.

It also made me look cool to my dates.
And now what?
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Re: How useless is a mini-wine cellar, really?

Postby Sam Platt » Sun Nov 25, 2007 10:27 pm

Robin,

We started with a 16 bottle unit. It was filled within two weeks. Then we bought a a 36 bottle unit. It was filled within a couple of months. Next we bought a 92 bottle unit and it was filled within 6 months. Currently we have the 36 and 92 bottle units both filled to excess, plus another 50+ bottles stored at ambient. We are planning to buy another 92 bottle unit for Christmas. The moral of the story is that, in my opinion, every wine storage unit is too small and will quickly be filled to capacity just because it exists.

PS: Since my wife and I instituted a moratorium on buying wine about two months ago, we have purchased more than 30 bottles. God knows what would have happened had we not stopped buying wine. Purchasing wine has really become an unhealthy, obsessive act.
Sam

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Re: How useless is a mini-wine cellar, really?

Postby Brian K Miller » Mon Nov 26, 2007 1:35 am

The moral of the story is that, in my opinion, every wine storage unit is too small and will quickly be filled to capacity just because it exists.


Groan....I'm a lot like Jenise' friends. Luckily, the hot season is over and I don't have to run my AC to at least partly keep my wine cooler. :([/quote]
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Re: How useless is a mini-wine cellar, really?

Postby Cynthia Wenslow » Mon Nov 26, 2007 10:50 am

Sam Platt wrote: God knows what would have happened had we not stopped buying wine.


:lol:
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Re: How useless is a mini-wine cellar, really?

Postby wrcstl » Mon Nov 26, 2007 11:32 am

Robin,
I agree that a 12-16 bottle mini cellar is silly, takes up space and just burns energy. I will say that when you get to 50 it makes sense for me. We are buying a place in Mexico and will be down only 2-3 months per year. My main concern is the lack of wine in Mexico so I will bring down a case+ each trip and hopefully only drink 8-9 bottles. After a while there will be some good wines left that need cellaring. More than 50 may not make sense for a vacation place. I plan on turning everything off except the wine fridge when not on location.
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Re: How useless is a mini-wine cellar, really?

Postby Carrie L. » Mon Nov 26, 2007 12:26 pm

Our place in California has two built-in Marvel units that collectively hold about 120 bottles. (Of course it is bursting at the seams and I am considering some off-site storage for our "long term" holds.)
In NC, our lifestyle is much different. We don't do nearly the amount of entertaining that we do in CA, so we figured we'd get a "smallish" furniture-type of unit that would look pretty in a small recess in our great room. It holds 42 bottles. (See link below.) Well, after a "maximum" order from MacPhail, some selections from Wally's and a few impulse buys, it was completely full in less than a month. Should have gotten the larger unit. Walt keep that in mind when you get a unit for Mexico. We are only in NC five months of the year.

Harriman Wine Unit
One comment about this unit. Many of the wine bottles will not fit side by side due to their inconsistent shape, so I had to get creative in their placement. One plus? The unit is extremely quiet. You can't even hear it running.
Last edited by Carrie L. on Tue Nov 27, 2007 12:19 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: How useless is a mini-wine cellar, really?

Postby Bob Ross » Mon Nov 26, 2007 1:04 pm

Robin, one other thought.

We used it for show and to keep gifts and a few bottles for friends before we started drinking wine seriously.

For a year or so after we started drinking wine seriously, I used it to take advantage of case discounts -- 3 or 4 bottles in the fridge, the rest in the mini.

Then we moved to our new house with a real wine cellar.

regards, Bob
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Re: How useless is a mini-wine cellar, really?

Postby OW Holmes » Mon Nov 26, 2007 2:10 pm

Robin Garr wrote:
Am I missing something here? Can any of you offer a cogent argument in favor of investing in one of these things, for yourself or for a friend?


Maybe not a 12-16 bottle unit, but here's the case for a small unit: Florida.
Or anyplace south for snowbirds.
If I could safely keep a dozen bottles from one spring to the next fall in our Florida condo - not the daily drinkers but the good stuff - it might be worth it. We usually drink the $10-20 drink-now stuff down there, which I pick up at the local store on discount day, and it is gone in two weeks. But when we came north for Thanksgiving and Christmas, I had a couple of bottles of special occasion Chateauneuf du Pape and Bordeaux sitting on the kitchen counter. I popped them in the refrigerator for the six weeks, where they joined a few other bottles that were left over from last spring.

Now, 12 bottles is too small for us, as is 20-24 that will fit into a 15 inch space, but for some that might be enough for this very limited purpose - holding special occasion wines at a seasonal home.

In our remodelling this year, we will be replacing a corner cabinet in the kitchen with a built in that holds 40-50 bottles. And I will feel better about taking a couple of cases south with me when we drive down in the fall.
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Re: How useless is a mini-wine cellar, really?

Postby James Dietz » Mon Nov 26, 2007 4:40 pm

I have an 8 bottle `cellar' under my desk at work.... I don't think a 100 bottle one would fit!!! :cry:

We also built in a 32 bottle unit in the kitchen.. to hold the wine next up in the drinking queue.. and to have some stuff ready at had (the 500 bottle VinoTemp is in the garage)... it is stainless steel with glass.. and frankly looks really cool.
Cheers, Jim
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Re: How useless is a mini-wine cellar, really?

Postby Sam Platt » Mon Nov 26, 2007 11:05 pm

James Dietz wrote:I have an 8 bottle `cellar' under my desk at work....


James,

Are you taking applications? :)
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Re: How useless is a mini-wine cellar, really?

Postby James Dietz » Tue Nov 27, 2007 1:01 am

Actually, we are....really.... economists....
Cheers, Jim
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Re: How useless is a mini-wine cellar, really?

Postby Sam Platt » Tue Nov 27, 2007 10:10 am

James Dietz wrote:Actually, we are....really.... economists....


Wine loving engineers?
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Re: How useless is a mini-wine cellar, really?

Postby Jackson Brooke » Tue Nov 27, 2007 12:33 pm

A mini wine cellar is probably about as useless as a very large, mostly underground cellar my Dad and I dug (and built) under the woodshed recently. After 3 inches over night it did turn into a very good little pond though!

ps - If you dig a cellar yourself check it's water capacity before filling it with treasure.
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Re: How useless is a mini-wine cellar, really?

Postby Jon Peterson » Thu Nov 29, 2007 6:37 pm

Robin, while no one who posts here would buy a mini-wine cellar, I'm for almost anything that opens up the world of wine to someone.
I just wanted to inform you that I find you to be very attractive. Thank you and have a nice day.
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