Cave Drill at Neibaum/Coppola

Comparing Wine Caves to Warehouses: Caves Come Out on Top

Wine caves offer many advantages economically and environmentally for a winery over a surface warehouse

Long-term Savings

According to Wine Business Monthly, when comparing the cost of wine caves to an above-ground building, "the total cost, including utilities over the useful life of the structure clearly favors a cave, which may be depreciated in seven instead of 39.5 years."

Reduced Energy Costs

The stable temperature in the wine caves eliminates the cost for heating or cooling a building making them a much "greener" operation than a warehouse. Although the temperature outside in Napa might be close to 100 in the summer and near freezing in the winter, the temperature in a wine cave remains between the optimal 55 to 60 degrees for wine storage and aging.

Even greater energy savings can be achieved if the wine caves are connected to an above ground winery. John Shook, blank at Nordby Wine Caves said, "A cave can be a big air conditioner in the summer or a heater in the winter. The wine cave we dug at Brown Estates kept the winery at 55 degrees when it was 32 degrees outside."

Reduced Evaporation Means Savings

According to Scott Lewis of Condor Earth Technologies, "An air-conditioned warehouse constantly dries the air. In a typical warehouse without humidification, about four gallons of wine evaporates from a 60-gallon barrel each year. In the two years that fine red wine is typically aged, that amounts to eight gallons. In a humid cave, that's typically reduced to one gallon per year, a savings of more than 10 percent of its valuable contents."

Shorter Permit Process

"Collectors in Napa and Sonoma counties find the permit process shorter and construction expenses lower…where experienced, efficient cave contractors do most of their business," according to Wine Spectator.

Adds Paul Frommel, former Director of New Product Development for Nordby Wine Caves, speaking about Napa, "The county likes caves. There are no view-shed problems, and they'd rather have you go subterranean than build a new above-ground structure."

Preservation of Agricultural Land In addition to negatively impacting the natural beauty of the landscape, a warehouse structure preempts any other land uses that would contribute to the agricultural heritage of the region. As Wine News reported, "…a minimal footprint left on the land is a huge advantage caves have over above-ground facilities."

As Hank Wetzel, proprietor and general manager of Alexander Valley Vineyards explained, the wine cave constructed by Nordby Wine Caves is an almost invisible presence on the landscape. "We have been able to re-contour the hill over the cave and our plan is to eventually plant grapes or olive trees on the hill."

Marketing Opportunities

Wineries have the opportunity to personify their brand in the design and construction of their wine caves in a way that a warehouse never could. A winery's product can be showcased in a romantic tasting dinner among the barrels, an intimate musical performance, or a lavish banquet in a dramatic candle-lit dining room. And as pointed out in Wine Business Monthly, "just adding a cave can make a winery a more attractive destination. That's a significant advantage in wine country, with its steep competition for business."

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