There’s still time to nominate local icons for Best of D.C.
Brent Kroll didn’t know he had increased the value of his Eckington two-bedroom condo by $5,000 to $10,000 when he converted a coat closet into a wine cellar until his realtor, Graham Grossman, delivered the good news. Kroll, the wine director for Neighborhood Restaurant Group, completed the project for $1,975, which, though not pocket change, is a far cry from what a freestanding EuroCave of similar capacity would cost ($4,695).
Kroll’s closet holds 107 total bottles—including 34 magnums—in a temperature and humidity controlled environment. While Kroll can’t call his man cave a DIY project because he hired a team of contractors, he does get points for bringing the enviable idea to fruition. He learned some lessons along the way that could benefit copycats—starting with a breakdown of costs:
Shelves: $1,000. Kroll hired a contractor to build custom racks because he wanted to store a variety of sizes. Bordeaux bottles, for example, are short and squat. He also has a crush on magnums, which double the milliliters of a typical wine bottle. He says they both age better and hold carbonation longer. “That being said, Wine Enthusiast sells wine racks, so that’s one option if you don’t need custom racks for Bordeaux bottles or magnums,” Kroll says.
Glass Door: $600. D.C.-based Flash Glass and Mirror built the door because Kroll couldn’t just pick one up at Home Depot. “On one side it’s 69 inches and on the other side it’s 70 inches,” he explains. “My realtor said that all condos in D.C. that are 50-years-old or older have a slight tilt to them, so I couldn’t buy a standard door.”
Air-Conditioning Unit: $150. Kroll’s closet is unique in that it has a window, so a window AC unit was installed to keep the closet cellar at 60 to 64 degrees Fahrenheit. He suggests energy saver mode, and if no window is present, vertical cooling units can be installed.
There is no dual zone temperature control for red and white wine, so whites need a little TLC before they can be sipped because they’re not at drinking temperature. “Let’s say I pull a bottle of Champagne out and there are people here ready to drink it,” he says. “I’ll do a salted ice bath.” He picked up the trick from what he calls “oh shit” moments at restaurants. On rare occasions, he’ll sell a bottle, then realize it never made it into the wine cooler. “I grab a big container from the kitchen, fill it up with ice and then interrupt chefs on the line and say give me cheap salt now,” he says. Minutes later, it’s good to go.
Humidifier: $50. Humidity is necessary to keep corks moist to prevent oxidation. Of his humidifier, Kroll says, “it’s as easy as watering a plant—you just fill it up once a week.”
Blackout curtain: $25. He uses this, plus a beloved Detroit Tigers poster to block out sunlight.
Electrician: $150. It only took a few hours to power-up the closet.
Kroll recommends the project to any wine lover planning to stay in one place for more than five years. If he decides to take things to the next level, he could add a generator to protect some of his most precious bottles—like his 1979 Leth Gruner Veltliner—from spoiling in the event of a power outage, but for now, he says, that’s over the top.