Thursday, May 24, 2007

Entering the Imperfect World of Wine Fridges

Alas, it has come to this.

I have outgrown my closet, my windowseat, and am tired of moving 4 cases of wine up and down I-5 twice a year along with 2 humans and 2 dogs in an effort to keep my wines cool.

I had no idea that shopping for a wine fridge would be even worse. What a nightmare.

We are a space-challenged household with an uninsulated garage. There is not a wine refrigerator made that holds enough wine to warrant the purchase and will work in an uninsulated garage for under $3000 --and that doesn't include shipping.

Then there are the energy costs. I've seen An Inconvenient Truth. I don't want to contribute any more to the problems of global warming, even if it does make England capable of growing Mediterranean grapes with ease. The only--and I mean only--EnergyStar compliant wine fridge I could find was this Vestfrost from Denmark, which sells at either Costco or Home Depot for under $1000. So it's either this or the Vinotemp 52-bottle job that they sell at Costco for under $600. Either of these items will go into my home office because they are too big to go anywhere else. (Bose noise-canceling headsets to block out the sound of refrigeration are extra, my friends)

The problem is even the Vestfrost only holds 106 bottles. Now, this is not terribly bad, and if I buy said fridge I won't have any money to buy wine for months on end so that will take care of some of the ovecrowding. But I just know that I'm going to need another one before long...

If you have bought a cheaper wine fridge, or taken the plunge on either the Vinotemp or the Vestfrost or some other brand and have a tip for me, please leave a comment and let me know how it all worked out.

19 comments:

Joel said...

Haier - not Energy Star compliant (but I make up for that with two Hybrid vehicles in the family, a 14 SEER central A/C). Inexpensive and does the job. And they make pretty big models (don't know what the biggest is though).

Mine's in the garage so noise wasn't a criteria so thats a problem.http:

Brooklynguy said...

I sopped around and bought a fridge that was not a Eurocave over a year ago, and had to send it back because it was loud and a host of other problems. The I just sucked it up and bought a Eurocave for 1,300 before shipping (a sale on Wine Enthusiast - did you check them online? They do summer sales...). This fridge holds about 100 Burgundy shaped bottles, more Bordeaux shaped. That's not enough, no, but it's reasonable in an apartment, and it forces you to think about which wines are most important to you for aging. You can still use your closet for the "drink soon" wines. I would pony up the dough and go with the best brand - the Eurocave.

Hoff said...

Hey - I got a Eurocave. Not energy star, but it's big - holds around 200 bottles, and it's got both heating & cooling so that it'll work just fine in an uninsulated garage in both summer & winter (where I used to have it at my old place):
http://www.eurocave.co.uk/acatalog/single-temperature-wine-storage.html

The trick is to find one "slightly damaged". I got mine on Wine Enthusiast also, and found a bottom-end model (all black; who cares if it's in the garage?) that had a couple of scratches in the finish. Also - who cares? And it saved me like $500. Am still very happy with it some 4 years later - no problems to report.

OrionSlayer said...

I envy you all, not just that you have a wine fridge, but that you have so much wine! My stock is currently about 13 bottles.

My "cellar" is my clothes closet with three wine boxes and empty milk jugs that I freeze water in. In the morning, I replace the jugs with a set from the refrigerator. When I come home from work in the evening, I replace them again.

My wife thinks I'm crazy, but the wine stays between 60-68 degrees, so far. Sacramento summer's can be hot, so I'm not sure how this set up will work!

JB said...

Try Beverage Factory. They will match ANY price you find elsewhere. We got a Danby 75 bottle fridge from there and it's decent though not big enough...

I think there's an econo-line of Vinotemp that you can upgrade to include a cooling unit that will work just fine in an uninsulated garage, and they start at about 200 bottles and go up to 700. It's very reasonable. Even the 700 bottle unit is under $2500.

Both of these are at Beveragefactory.com...

Douglas said...

I have the big Haier and two ... yes you do out grow them 33 bottle Haier's too. Truth is I like drinking my wine at 55 to 60 degrees. It's far less about aging. The big sits in my basement (surrounded by more bottles on the floor), one in my kitchen upstairs and one in a summer cottage (needed more than the other two due to heat and longer shelf time).

HomeGoods is my tip. HomeGoods carrys the Haier's for much less than anywhere else. Because they only buy when they get a great deal you don't always see them there. I think they have a store locator on homegoods.com

I got my big one on clearance and my two others at their discounted normal price. I've seen smaller ones at Home Depot too, but not bigger.

Dr. Debs said...

Thanks for all the help. I've been wondering about the Danby, so it's nice to have a field report, as well as some on the Haier and the Eurocave. I keep looking at the Eurocaves, and they are beautiful but that extra couple hundred is going to be tough and summer is coming. And OrionSlayer, you win the creativity award--but don't they all drip on the floor? I lived in Davis, and what you are doing is truly a labour of love with those frozen milk containers. Will see if there is a Homegoods near me.

Brooklynguy said...

It was a Danby that I had to return to wine enthusiast...so noisy, so clunky, yet so little room for wine.

Dr. Debs said...

Neil--I wondered if the Danby was the noisy fridge you returned. OK, that rules out Danby, even if it is inexpensive. Sometimes you really do get what you pay for. Currently, I'm stuck between the Vinotemp 52-bottle and the Eurocave 100 you bought and love. Benefit of Vinotemp is it can be built into the kitchen when we remodel, bad news is it only holds 52 bottles. Still thinking this all through, and your input is really helpful.

RougeAndBlanc said...

I have a small wine fridge from Haier that use thermo electric technology (very small compressor)

http://www.haieramerica.com/en/product/HVTF48DPABS

It is fairly encomical on energy consumption but I am sure it is not big enough for your need. Maybe 2 of these?

Andrew

JB said...

I say you go for the econo-line Vinotemp 200 bottle fridge, upgrade the compressor so that it can be in your uninsulated garage, and that way you'll be able to grow into it (it has to be less than the Eurocave). No way 50 bottles will be enough. And with a space-challenged house (as I have in LA), every square inch counts, and your kitchen remodel will be served well by utilizing that extra space for something other than a wine fridge.

FYI, the Danby I have is fine, it isn't loud at all and the warranty is pretty good (though note, I have HAD to use the warranty for a minor repair). However, on the major downside it took me about 2 months to outgrow it, and it holds 75 bottles. Definitely go for a larger fridge -- I wish I had paid more than I did and got one that would serve me for my inevitable alcoholism, errrrr, I mean wine collecting addiction.

Jonathan said...

I'm kind of a wine novice, so I got the smallest Vinotemp last year. I'm not sure how many bottles it's supposed to hold, but I fit about 100 in there. I've mostly been pleased with it. It's quiet, compact, and pretty snazzy. My only complaint is that the racks don't hold the bottles real well. They kind of slide around when you try to put other bottles in. Great site, btw.

puncturelumbar said...

Some may sniff, but I got the Magic Chef units from Home Depot for around $150 each. They hold around 40-45 bottles each, for about $4 per bottle (I used the per bottle cost to compare wine storage units). They are compact little fridges that I suppose have their temperature control units set higher than normal. You can adjust them at will.

Some caveats; the top rack is about 5-8 degrees warmer than the bottom. The units have glass fronts which allow light in, so I got some black construction paper and blocked out the light. I also purchased a thermometer for each one to check on frequently.

The important thing is consistency, and I find these units quite able in that regard. The temperatures are usually within a degree of each other every day. They do not have humidity control, of course. I have only seen ultra-high end models with this feature, however.

As far as the carbon footprint the units are in the house and are only keeping the wine about 10-15 degrees cooler than the house, so I don't think it's too much.

Anyways, they have performed well for me, and the price can't be beat. If you buy it and it doesn't work out for you, well, you're out less than the price of a case of wine.

FYI, I have seen these exact units at wineenthusiast.com, item #272 04 50 for $499 with $139 shipping! The picture is a dead ringer for the units I have.

Anonymous said...

Vinotemp's manufacturing facility is in SoCal...I bought a 100 bottle fridge there, scratch and dent variety, for half the price it retails for...www.vinotemp.com

el jefe said...

Where I used to live I had a closet that was only a little bigger than 3 feet wide by 2 feet deep. I built wine racks on each side facing each other (I am NOT handy and these racks were NOT pretty, but they're in the closet so who cares?) Made getting bottles in and out a little less convenient but I was able to utilize 2/3 of the volume and I got a lot of storage as a result. I had intended to put in a cooling unit that vented into the garage but by the time I got done I found it stayed pretty cool without help.

The previous owners of my current house converted 2 of 3 large builtin cabinets in the laundry room into wine storage with a cooling unit that sticks out of one side. Their shelving was horrble so I had to pay someone to replace it but it still ended up cheaper than a "real" unit.

Hope this helps! - j

Dr. Debs said...

Keep the great comments coming, folks. All I know right now is I don't know enough to buy a wine fridge--nor do I have the money to buy one that will probably fit all my needs. Of course, if I don't stop buying wine I never will have the money. El Jefe, I too store wine in a cool closet and I think it's ok but I worry about it in high summer since I'm too cheap to turn on the AC. PunctureLumbar, I can't find the MagicChef at Home Depot anymore, maybe it's discontinued? And thanks, Anonymous, for the Vinotemp tip. They've mostly got big units in the scratch and dent section, but maybe if I can upgrade the cooling unit as JB suggests, one of those would work. Much rsearch still to do, I fear!

puncturelumbar said...

I think it may be discontinued. Here's a link to Fatwallet which has a conversation about it with relevant part numbers:

http://www.fatwallet.com/forums/arctextthread.php?catid=18&threadid=570826&print=1

If you can find them (I see one on ebay when I search by part number) they are an unbeatable deal.

Thomas said...

My family bought a 28-bottle VinoTemp for my b-day about a month ago and I like it so much I bought another. They both fit nicely in my spare closet (I don't think the best wine fridge in the world could handle garage temperatures in Las Vegas). They were purchased at Target for only $179/each. Upside: affordable, quiet, vibration free. Downside: they put out some heat (especially when first started), which means a small area needs to vent, and the racks don't provide many options for accomodating various bottle sizes--eg Au Bon Climate Pinot bottles (chubby lil suckers) are a real squeaze. Overall, I'm pleased with the value and performance.

Dr. Debs said...

Thanks for the link, PunctureLumbar. And Thomas, even if I don't get one of those Vinotemps you've sorted my brother-in-laws' Christmas present! Thanks for the tip!