Cellar Ideas

Originally published in Lake & Sumter Style, February 2014

Storing wine properly is important whether you are simply keeping a few bottles on hand to share with friends or aging wines in a long-term collection.

Getting bitten by the wine-collecting bug happens quickly. It starts with two or three bottles of your favorite varietal, but before you can say Gewürztraminer three times, the pantry door will not shut because several cases of wine are in the way.

Living in Florida presents special challenges for wine storage. Most obvious is the warm climate followed by the inability to have a true underground cellar. In addition, closet space always seems limited in homes designed for downsizing, and it goes without saying that garages are a big no-no unless you are trying to make vinegar from Chardonnay. Wine lovers, however, are finding cool and clever ways to store their wines, often in some unexpected locations.

Clients visiting the Tavares office of certified financial planner Thomas H. Ruggie don’t always see the climate-controlled wine “closet” next to his conference room. Creating the 12-by-4-foot space became a necessity when he outgrew his 125-bottle wine unit at home.

Tom Ruggie. Photo by Fred Lopez

Tom Ruggie.
Photo by Fred Lopez

“About the time space was running out at home, I purchased my current office building and there was a fairly large closet in the conference room,” Ruggie says. “Though I was concerned with it being ‘over the top’ for a financial adviser to have a wine cellar in his conference room, I overcame this issue.”

Many are surprised to learn that Ruggie’s collection is not an investment. “I enjoy purchasing older wines, but they generally do not last too long as I buy for enjoyment,” he says. “There is nothing like sharing a great bottle of wine with some friends.”

Bill Biebesheimer. Photo by Mary Ann DeSantis

Bill Biebesheimer.
Photo by Mary Ann DeSantis

In addition to opening favorite wines with his friends, Villager Bill Biebesheimer coordinates the monthly purchases for several wine clubs. He is always scouting for interesting wines and good values, which often means buying and storing several cases before the clubs actually need them.

“Having a storage area, even just a wine frig, let’s you take advantage of case discounts,” says Biebesheimer. “And by keeping several bottles of the same vintage, you can see how the wine changes with each year or how it tastes with different foods.”

About eight years ago, Biebesheimer enclosed part of the front porch on his Village of Palo Alto home to create a climate-controlled wine room. A contractor raised the slab and poured the foundation, but Biebesheimer and his son framed the room and created an interior door from the window space. After a small air conditioner was vented into the garage, his personally designed wine closet was ready to hold up to 2,000 bottles of wine.

“I usually only have a couple of hundred, including about 100 bottles of Cabernet Sauvignon, which I like to keep two years before I drink,” Biebesheimer says. “It’s not unusual, though, to find a bag of onions or potatoes stored in there, too.”

Both Ruggie and Biebesheimer advise the best wine purchases are the ones you like to drink.

“Prices and ratings can provide some indication about the quality, but it ultimately boils down to personal preference,” says Ruggie.

Biebesheimer adds, “Wines are always changing. If you find one you like, grab it because the taste could be totally different with the next vintage.”


Build your storage area or buy a wine refrigerator larger than you think you will need. Collections grow faster than you expect.

If possible, locate the storage area close to your kitchen and dining area. Wine should be part of the food experience.

If you plan to keep wines for awhile, look for high acidity and tannins. If you start with low acidity, the wines will taste flat when you hold them too long. Tannins diminish with age and the wines become smoother; however, if you begin with low tannins the wine loses its complexity and is not the taste the winemaker intended.

Maintain a stable and consistent temperature in wine storage areas. Wine Spectator recommends 45 to 65 degrees Fahrenheit, with 55 degrees being the optimal. More importantly, avoid extreme or frequent temperature fluctuations.

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