by Kia McInerny
A Very Cool
“You’ll find some of the best
cellars in Scotland,” Montecito
collector John Tilson says. “Cellars
should be very cold and dark, with
ohn, founder and publisher of www.
undergroundwineletter.com, has been collecting and
drinking wine for over 40 years. Early wine acquisitions
were stored under a cool, dark staircase in his former residence. He
now has three underground rooms he designed for his collection.
While some experts suggest the ideal wine-storing temperature is
50-55 degrees, John prefers a range of 47-52 degrees. Refrigeration
seemed challenging at first. Noise and vibration from an air-cooled unit
proved unacceptable. John’s contractor then adapted simple equipment
to cool the rooms using re-circulating pool water.
Humidity is 60-70%. “You can lose wine through evaporation,” John
says. “High humidity is the best protection to maintain corks. That’s
why wine found in an ocean or lake sometimes has near perfect
storage and can still be drinkable even after very long periods of
John chose alderwood racking in lieu of old-growth redwood,
commonly used for its softness and patina. The lighter wood
complements the pale stone floors and alabaster sconces John
and his wife acquired in Italy.
The first room contains rare and unusual
vintages. On display are such gems as 1926
Chateau Latour, Grand Cru Burgundies from
1929, and a 1966 Petrus. A smaller
champagne room houses legendary
champagnes, rosés and
Alderwood, rather than
traditional old-growth redwood,
graces wine collector John Tilson’s
Montecito wine cellar.
Photo: Thomas Warner Wine Cellars