Wine cellars continue to move their ways up from homes’ lower levels and onto main floors and into spotlighted sightlines. Over the years, Jeff Hagen has witnessed the change in how wine lovers store and present their collections. “The primary difference has been the advent of the ‘showcase’ cellar, a cellar whose primarily reason for existence is the look, rather than the proper storage of wine,” he says.
Interest in building personal wine cellars has increased over the last two decades. “Twenty years ago, it was exclusively for serious wine collectors, which is a tiny percentage of the population,” says Hagen, owner of VinGrotto, which opened more than 15 years ago.
The Minnetrista business offers a niche service. “I started VinGrotto to build wine cellars and do custom wine racking,” he says. “A person could buy component racks and hire a contractor to build out the room, but no contractor truly knew how to build a proper wine cellar.”
What about just using wine cooling systems? “A wine fridge is for short-term storage,” Hagen says. “A wine cellar is for aging. A person can age wine in a wine fridge, but it is definitely not ideal. You have to be very diligent about keeping the little sponge moist [used to keep the inside of the wine fridge at a higher humidity], and any vibration from the condenser is not going to do your wine any favors.”
Having an expansive or expensive home isn’t a prerequisite for adding a wine cellar. “My first home had one, as did several of my friends at the time,” Hagen says. “They were very modest homes.” There is, however, the other end of the spectrum, and Hagen has worked on wine cellars that cost north—very far north—of $100,000. For that kind of money there must be some unusual or high-end elements. “Depends what you mean by unusual,” he says. “Unusual and wine cellar don’t really go together ... People have introduced some unusual decorative features that can be expensive. And, of course, a true/real wine cellar is literally a cave, and they can be expensive to dig. I know a guy who lived on the side of Camelback Mountain in Arizona. He dug into the side of it for his wine cellar. It was brilliant.”
One can assume that Hagen has toured his fair share of wine cellars. Favorites? “Caves,” he says. “You can’t beat France, but my favorite is Pride Mountain Vineyards in [California’s Napa Valley], where the winery is built into the side of the mountain. You walk through a maze of aisles stacked with barrels and bottles [and] then all of sudden, you come to a big door. It opens to a tasting room/conference room with a big table reaching out to a terrace that looks out over one of their vineyards. Magical.”
VinGrotto, 1015 W. Cove Lane, Minnetrista; 612.501.2193; vingrotto.com