Saturday, 7 April 2012

Working in the cellar - being prepared

Most of us probably don't own or lease our own cellar.  I have built two of them now, only to have changed homes and gotten very little value out of them which was a real shame.  Now we live in an apartment and I use a larger and smaller Vintec wine fridge to store about 150 bottles of wine for close access in my apartment.  However, when we are doing a tasting or I just need to replenish my apartment holdings, or more importantly if I just want to 'play' and organize my larger cellar, I sometimes will spend a considerable amount more time there - usually from 1 - 4 hours.  (My wife claims it is my 'man cave'!)

I rent a larger wine cellar from Wine-Ark which does a very nice job of providing cellar space.  They provide either a managed cellar service (where they inventory and store / retrieve your wine on your behalf) or you can rent a private and dedicated cellar space which is what I do.  It is located about 20 minutes from where I live, so I want to make sure I am both safe and productive while visiting my cellar.  The cellar is consistently cooled to 14 degrees Celsius (57 degrees Fahrenheit).  This is necessary for storing and aging the wine properly.  Other safety considerations include that I am mostly over in my cellar by myself.  During the business day and on Saturday morning the office is open and I could have access to the guys who man the operation, but mostly when I am over there working in my cellar it is only me in the location, so I take that into consideration.  For example, my old phone service did not provide strength of coverage being in the basement of the Wine-Ark, so I switched and my current coverage does.

While I do not think of organizing wine as a dangerous activity, it is possible I could fall off a stepladder, drop a case of wine on me, or have some other small accident (fortunately I have not had an accident in 4 years!).  More importantly, I want to be comfortable and productive.  I have seen guys enter their cellar in a T-shirt to retrieve a few bottles, and that is OK if you are only in 14 degrees in a T-shirt for a few minutes, but if you plan on spending 30 or more minutes at that temperature, you should prepare to keep your body warmer.  I always wear a long sleeve shirt and a wool sleeveless (to provide more arm movement when moving things around) vest.  However, once in my excitement to get over to the vault, I forgot my vest and it was uncomfortable.  Therefore, I now have a vest always stored in the cellar for such an event.  While it is not like being stuck in the freezing cold for an extended period, it does sap your energy more quickly and can be uncomfortable to the point of nausea if you stay in for too long a time without proper clothing.

I also keep 3 bottles of water (so as not to get dehydrated) and a flashlight in case the lights go out while I am working.  This should never happen as the electricity system needs to be backed-up to ensure constant temperature is provided for the wines, but the lights are motion sensor-ed or time controlled and can go out if you are not careful.

My basic tool kit comprises:
  • preprinted paper to inventory my wine and making adjustments to inventory as I move wine in and out
  • plain paper (for writing notes)
  • Labels to overlay boxes that have text written on them already or as a mailing label is I am going to ship off some wine
  • 2 pens
  • Large tip black marker for writing on and labeling boxes
  • Small tip black marker for writing on labels
  • A wine review guide (to research specific wines as to when to best drink and mark it as such on the carton)
  • Tape gun and extra roll of packing tape (I use 3M as there is no problem keeping it in the cold) to make up boxes as needed to move wine back and forth
  • Roll and dispenser of regular (Scotch 3M) tape for taping paper or labels onto boxes
  • Several one-bottle and two-bottle shipping containers in case I want to package up a bottle or two to ship off to a friend
  • Extra boxes to store or transfer half dozen or dozen bottles as required
  • Flat-head screwdriver to lift off wooden lids from containers (usually more expensive wines are shipped in wooden boxes)
  • Cutting (Exacto) knife to cut open boxes of wine or to cut up empty cardboard boxes for recycling
I started with most of these items, but added a few as I learned the need for them over time.  All of my supplies and tools fit into a single cardboard box which is used to hold a six pack of wine, so it does not take much room at all.  The pens, markers and tape all work fine at 14 degrees, but I check them every now and then to ensure they are still working.  Wine-Ark provides stepladders and trolleys to provide transfer of your wines from the cellar to your car, so I do not need to keep my own of those.

If you plan on working for longer than 4 hours, you should also consider packing a snack, but I just make it a point to get out of the cellar (and warm up a bit) to grab a bite of lunch.

I get great enjoyment out of 'playing' in my man-cave and want to make sure it is a comfortable and productive environment.  It all adds to the enjoyment of drinking the wine.

1 comment:

  1. I've been in your man cave. Having something warm to wear is a good thing. It's freezing in there.