It’s the kind of question that we can all relate to: “Now that you’ve taken the plunge and dropped that $8,500 on a 2005-vintage bottle of La Tache Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, where do you store it to protect your investment?”
The utility cupboard above the refrigerator is too hot, especially during the sunny summer months when Vancouver really earns its reputation as one of the most beautiful cities on Earth. The storage locker downstairs in your condo’s basement might be dark enough, but you don’t want things getting jostled every time you haul out the golf bag.
For those of us for whom a private estate on Point Grey Road remains out of reach, such a problem becomes worse as your wine collection grows. If you’re springing for a case of Château Lafite Rothschild 2010, the last place it belongs is sitting upright in the bedroom shoe closet of your 450-square foot Yaletown condo.
And the same goes for those bottles that didn’t totally break the bank, but still deserve to mature in the kind of environment where they’re guaranteed to reach their full potential: that bottle of Barbaresco Batasiolo you picked up at the end of your Italian-villa vacation in 2009, or the Château Bellevue La Randée purchased the last time you were in the south of France.
Drew Malcolm realized this when he started thinking that Vancouver might be ready for a place like 13C Wine Storage, a high-tech facility located just off Main Street in East Vancouver.
“Basically I had a wine cellar that was filling up at home,” Malcolm says, interviewed on-site in the tasting room. “I didn’t have a lot of space, so I started looking around. I know from buying wine in the States that there are places there where you can store your wine, but I found there aren’t a lot of options for doing that in Vancouver. I liked the idea of managing my own wine collection, so I saw an opportunity. There was no wine-storage facility in Vancouver that had lockers, so a light bulb went off.”
Malcolm bought the building, gutted it, pumped the walls and ceilings full of insulation (“now it’s like a refrigerator”), and then incorporated ideas from other operations he’d seen in other cities.
“There’s no real plan for how to build one of these,” he says. “I toured facilities in Washington and Portland, and also in Los Angeles and New York and Toronto, and I’d like to think that I took the best feature from each one and then combined them. I had engineers design a climate-control system, telling them that the parameters were no fluctuations in temperature and stable humidity, and they came up with a system to match that.”
Now 13C Wine Storage features individual lockers located in a partially below-grade building. There is no natural light, with temperature and humidity electronically regulated and monitored to 13 degrees Celsius and between 65- to 75-percent relative humidity. Those are, of course, the optimum conditions for storing wine.
“Basically, the holy grail is a stable temperature,” Malcolm says.
Lockers, made out of tongue-and-groove pine and birch and outfitted with high-end deadbolts, come in a variety of sizes. An eight-case locker runs $35 per month, which includes custom racking. From there, 13C Wine Storage is set up to handle everyone from those looking to store 16 all the way up to 96 cases ($55 to $240 per month) to those with collections to rival Francis Ford Coppola’s (a 320-case room runs $700 per month). Clients renting annually get one free month.
Safekeeping is of course the most important consideration for those who are serious about their collections, with 13C Wine Storage featuring what Malcolm calls “six layers of security”, including a fortresslike fingerprint-access system from the street, as well as digital surveillance cameras. That gives patrons 24-hour, 365-days-per-year access to their lockers. The space also has a case-storage room for restaurants.
As for the target audience, Malcolm notes that you don’t have to be on the Forbes 400 list to have a collection that’s worth protecting. Condo dwellers with space issues, however, will be happy they now have a place to store their favourite vintages.
“You don’t have to spend a lot of money to get an age-worthy wine,” he says. “Even in the $20 range, you can find something that will last and improve over 20 years. The lockers are good for people who don’t have room at home for a wine cellar. Wine fridges are good if you’re in a condo, but they can break down, or if the power goes out, that can be disastrous in the summertime. In a commercial space like this, you don’t have to worry about that. What we’re offering here is peace of mind.”