Once again, as harvest season in wine country California rolls around, work in the vineyards has accelerated. Vineyard managers have carefully charted their harvest schedules based on each grape variety’s rate of maturation and its vineyard location.
Some white and sparking wine grapes are picked in August, while other varieties will continue to ripen fully during the subsequent weeks.
Harvest season for red grape varieties, including the all-important Cabernet Sauvignon targeted for Napa and Sonoma wineries, may extend well into October and even early November in some years.
But harvest season is not only about a heightened frenzy of work activity. Visitors to Napa Valley and Sonoma County wineries and the residents will participate in a full slate of activities, celebrations, and wine tours that mark this annual milestone.
And whether you are visiting some of the hundreds of wineries and other businesses throughout wine country California or just shopping online, harvest season is the best time to think about restocking a personal wine cellar.
The objective should be to create a balance of wine varietals and blends that are ideal and appropriate for the full range of food pairings, social engagements, and even weather conditions.
And using a wine cellar for aging certain wines to improve their flavors and textures over time can become an enriching and satisfying hobby.
Why a Home Wine Cellar is Beneficial
Having a wine cellar means having the perfect wine on hand for any occasion. While wine cellars are often places to store wine for investment, most people prefer to stock up with wines for personal enjoyment in the not-so-distant future, always having a favorite on hand, so there is no need for a last-minute shopping trip.
And a wine cellar offers the best opportunity to stock up on those wine favorites that the local wine shop may not carry. True wine enthusiasts prefer to buy their favorite vintages in person or online in bulk from their preferred wineries, usually at discounts or offered in limited supply for members only through that producer’s Wine Club.
Finally, since many wines improve with age, a wine cellar offers the perfect temperature-controlled environment to allow the wines to achieve their highest quality without being exposed to temperature variances and other compromising influences.
One of the great joys of wine cellar aging is eventually tasting how the fruit has evolved after several years with proper storage. Rather than seeking out already-aged vintages in wine stores, wine lovers can enjoy aging these in their cellars.
Four Types of Personal Wine Cellars
A 2017 Wine Spectator article breaks down four approaches to wine cellar stocking. These are:
- Balanced Cellars incorporate a mixture of vintages, price levels, and expected drink windows. This grouping should include red and white vintages, young and mature wines, and prestigious as well as everyday labels.
- Instant Gratification Cellars involve wines already at their peak of drinkability and are expected to be consumed within the coming year or two. These may be older vintages that have been aged to their peak levels already or newer wines that will not like improve further.
- Tasting Cellars are made up of inventory that allows the owner to present comparative tastings. These selections may be for vertical tastings that compare different vintages of the same varietal from a specific winery or producer. Or, the tasting may be horizontal with the same vintages from multiple wineries.
- Investment Cellars are for wine lovers who view wines as an appreciating investment and will store them until they increase in value.
Some Basics of Wine Cellar Organization
An in-home wine cellar should maintain a constant temperature of around 55°F, more or less, with little or no fluctuation. Humidity levels should be approximately 60% since too much can create mold, while the labels and glue will begin to degrade. Too little humidity can cause the corks to disintegrate over time.
Corked bottles must be stored horizontally to keep the corks from drying out and cracking, and there should be no environmental vibration that can disturb the contents.
Insulation, moisture barriers, and an airtight seal are essential elements of a wine cellar to maintain the space’s constant temperature and humidity levels.
Some Guidelines for Creating the Right Inventory of Wine Types
What to include in a well-stocked wine cellar can be a matter of debate since wine enjoyment depends largely on personal taste. However, putting aside a few cases of a particular favorite wine varietal or blend for personal consumption is a great starting point.
Here are some other suggestions for stocking a home wine cellar:
Do your research
Before starting, make a list of wines you already like and take the time to sample the ones your winery or wine store friends may suggest. Before investing in several bottles, remember to sample the more expensive vintage wines before buying.
Don’t try to tackle everything
At the outset, wine lovers are better off buying wines from a specific region or winery they already like than to spread out and try to buy from everywhere. With experience and a growing knowledge of wines that will age well, they can confidently expand their portfolio as time passes.
Stock wines for every occasion
Not every visitor will have the same wine preference. And individual tastes can change over time, regardless of the weather or season, so exceptional hosts should have a reasonable range of reds, whites, rosés, sparkling, and specialty wines to offer.
Match your wine mix with what you usually eat
If you rarely dine on heavy red meat dishes, consider limiting the quantity of robust red wines in your stock. A higher concentration of whites and rosés may be the better course for these individuals.
Staging your Wine Cellar
Buying wines that will age and improve should be an objective. White wines like Sauvignon Blanc and Viognier can be consumed within a year or two, while better Chardonnays and Rieslings can be held longer.
Although many reds today are immediately consumable, the better Cabernet Sauvignons, Pinto Noirs, Malbecs, and Bordeaux or Rhone blends tend to improve with age.
If you stock a case or more of each varietal or blend, an excellent suggestion is to sample one bottle every six months to track the aging progress.
Plan for the Holidays
Wine lovers need to stock up for the “peak” seasons. As guests start to arrive for that holiday celebration, no one wants to be caught short when only those expensive vintages intended for another occasion or further aging are available to serve.
Buy a Vintage from Each of Your Children’s Birth Years
If possible, a vintage from each of your offspring’s birth years can be a fun notion. These can be kept aging in the cellar indefinitely or given as gifts to each one as they reach maturity, graduate from college, get married, or experience some other important life event.
Maintain a Tracking Log
An inventory log is essential to avoid keeping a wine past its prime. If the collection is extensive, note each label, vintage, varietal, price, and location within the cellar.
Additional Stocking Suggestions from the Experts at Platypus Wine Tours
Platypus Wines Tours of Napa is the premier wine tour company serving a broad geographic reach throughout Wine Country California with safe, enjoyable, and educational tours of Napa Valley and Sonoma wineries.
Visiting wineries frequently designates the Platypus Wine Tours staff as undisputed “experts” on all issues related to winemaking.
While always available to impart information about wineries and the winemaking process, the Platypus professionals can even offer wine cellar stocking ideas to prepare hosts with the best options for any purpose.
To be prepared for any occasion, planned or spur-of-the-moment, Platypus Wine Tours also suggests the following assortment to round out a well-stocked wine cellar:
- Sparkling Wine: Keep chilled for special occasions and visits with friends
- Apéritifs: Aperol, Lillet, or Vermouth
- Digestif: Sambuca, Chartreuse, or Fernet Branca
- Port and Madiera
- Sauternes: Dolce, Nightingale, or Chateau d’Yquem
- Some Late Harvest Wines
Reserve Your Place for Future Tours of Wineries in Napa or Sonoma with Platypus Wine Tours
Have fun, relax, and enjoy the scenery safely as you leave the driving and commentary to the professionals at Platypus Wine Tours.
Whether your Wine Country Calfornia outing will include wineries in Napa Valley or Sonoma wineries, Platypus Wine Tour offers the best possible experience.
Visit the Platypus Wine Tours website to learn about and reserve your place for a join-in or customized private tour. Their carefully curated wine tours are educational and fun, with fascinating insight and entertaining commentary provided by one of the Platypus guides.
To answer your questions or make your reservations directly, phone Platypus Wine Tours at (707)-253-2723.