Since we completed our wine bar area in the kitchen last year, we find ourselves using the additional storage and counter space for many items beyond simply serving wine. From a place to drop the mail after it's delivered, to a prep area for baked goods, having the additional counter space has been absolutely wonderful. But one of things about our wine bar that we've not really noticed, mostly because of how perfectly it's integrated, is how the wine refrigerator is now a part of the room rather than something in our room that we need to work around.
Prior to our kitchen upgrades, the wine bar sat in the middle or in the corner of our sun porch. It stuck out like a sore thumb.It looked like an afterthought, or even a temporary placement until we found a better spot for it.
Now that we integrated it into our kitchen design, a lot of our home's guests have been taking notice and asking questions, as have several blog readers that have emailed us. The primary question that we've received about our wine fridge has been a bit of a comment and question at the same time. "It looks so good there and looks built-in. What kind of wine fridge is it and how did you choose it?" We've also seen quite a few people here on the blog have been searching for "Wine Fridge", "Refrigerator for Wine", and "Wine Fridge Brand" to determine what brand and model we selected for our kitchen. I figure we should take the hint and write up a little post on our lovely wine fridge and why we chose this brand/model over all of the other options available on the market.
We actually started searching for a wine fridge several years ago. We noticed that with each trip we were taking out to California's Napa Valley, we were bringing back several good quality bottles of wine. Many of these bottles are the type you should store away for a few years before they reach their optimal drinking window. While I'm not nearly sophisticated enough to know when we should or shouldn't drink a wine, there's an app for that, and many of the bottles we have shouldn't be opened up for least another three to ten years. Let me tell you, that's much easier said than done.
As we brought back these nice bottles of wine, we were sticking them in our basement for safe keeping. And while the temperature in the basement is at least somewhat consistent, it gets a little too hot in the middle of the summer, and a little too cold in the middle of the winter to keep the bottles at their best and consistent desired temperature. Besides, if we were keeping all of our wine in the basement, how likely would we be to remember what we have and don't have when it comes time to drink? The last thing I want to be doing is digging through boxes in the basement when friends come over and we want to enjoy a bottle of vino.
When I started looking for the fridge I thought, "Oh, this'll be easy, I'll just buy a nice and cheap fridge and pop our wine in there." It was about ten minutes into researching that I realized it wouldn't be a very simple task to find the wine fridge that would work best for us and work with our budget.
Wendy and I enjoy red wine, white wine, and sparkling wines (aka champagne made in places other than the Champagne region of France) equally. The problem is that each should be stored in a different temperature range.Sparkling should be the coldest, whites are nearby the sparkling temps, and reds in a warmer range. So if we bought a wine fridge that is a simple refrigerator without the ability to control the temperature, we'd end up with some of our wine either too hot or too cold. It's like the Goldilocks of wine storage.
To solve this issue, I narrowed our search to dual zone wine fridges where I can control the temperature of the various zones of storage independently This way we can have a white/sparkling storage zone, and a red zone, without worrying about how one temp would affect the other wines.
Once you get into this point in the research you will find a mix of somewhat inexpensive fridges, and insanely expensive fridges. From all of the various reviews I read and research I conducted (we're talking many nights sitting on the couch with the laptop and scouring websites about wine fridges) I found two consistent opinions:
- Whether they're the top end or the lower end, almost all dual zone wine fridges are essentially created equal.
- Many have issues with long term reliability.
Given these issues, and our likely budget, I was able to throw out any fridge from the competition where the price tag was greater than about $800. This eliminated the very sexy looking (yes, wine fridges can be sexy) Sub-Zero and Viking style dual zone fridges (who were coming to the party at anywhere from $1500-$2500).
Once I narrowed the field significantly based on price and dual zone features, I needed to next define the capacity for which we were looking. Since this fridge was going to be serving as our primary wine storage -- and Wendy's drunken habit of joining of wine clubs while we are on vacation means our bottle supply would continue to grow as time went on -- we were looking for a capacity in the range of more than 36 bottles. But on the flip side, we were looking for a "counter height" version that would sit beneath a kitchen counter top, so the giant 100 plus behemoths were out of the question (both from a size and price standpoint).
We established a good range of bottle storage between 40 and 50. If we could fit 40-50 bottles in our wine fridge, we figured we'd be more or less sitting pretty.
All of these criteria narrowed our candidates to just a handful, five or six to be exact. The price range of these candidates were all between about $400 and $800. All were in the 42 to 52 bottle storage range, all were dual zone, and all were counter top height. Since this wasn't a casual "go to the store and pick up a $100 fridge" type of purchase but rather a more significant investment, we decided to give this fridge to each other as our eighth wedding anniversary present. In our world, this is the epitome of romance.
The next major factor in all of our research came down to reliability. As I mentioned, reliability is a major factor with wine refrigerators, especially dual zone units. The dual zone units have twice the number of units that can go bad or fail. If you doubt me on the reliability issues, just read a handful of user reviews on Amazon or similar online retailers.
I spent days upon days poring over the various reviews. As soon as I'd feel I had one selected for possible purchase, I'd uncover a repository of people crying out about how they had their unit working for three days then it crapped out. The worst story I read was about a guy who went on vacation and the fridge started cooling and wouldn't shut off. He came back to a disaster where all of the wine had frozen and the bottles broken all over the place. Wine was everywhere and all were ruined. Talk about worst case scenario.
After reviewing all of the various possible brands, we opted for an EdgeStar brand refrigerator. We went this way for several reasons. Primarily, I saw the fewest number of poor reviews for this brand and I saw no "catastrophic" issues. Any of the bad items were simply "the pump stopped running and I had to get it repaired." Secondly, the time we were in Napa prior to this purchase we noticed that a lot of the smaller wine shops in the area were using EdgeStar fridges in their stores. That's the vote of confidence I like to see. And the third item we really liked about it was the style. Wood front shelves, stainless surround, and a handle that looks good and doesn't stand out too much. There's even a few blue LEDs that light the interior and a digital thermostat for each zone with a readout.
I found an online retailer that's now defunct that I was able to order through. Luckily, I was able to get free shipping and a nice discount, bringing the total on the purchase to just about $600. Today, you can order this brand and model on Amazon or through other various online retailers, but the deals aren't as quite as good as what we found.
Now that we've been using the wine fridge for a little over two years, we're very pleased with it overall. It's not particularly loud, and is now even quieter once we installed it with a counter top above and cabinets on either side. It looks great in our kitchen, and it's worked really well at keeping our wines at an optimal temperature.
There are really only three small complaints/issues we've had.
- The shelves are only tall enough for a very standard sized bottle of wine. As more vineyards use more odd shaped bottles, the bottles often get stuck and are not as easy to take out as they should be. When this happens, the shelves can't slide out without a little jimmying. It's not horrible, but worth mentioning. I assume it's like this to max out the amount of space in the fridge for more bottles.
- The thermostat settings do not have a battery or memory. This means if you lose power it resets the temps in the two zones and you have to set it back at your desired temps.
- The guard on the kick plate arrived slightly damaged (crinkled).
Though I contacted the company about a replacement part, and was even told one had been shipped on several occasions, now 2+ years later we still don't have the replacement part. I did my best to roll out the dents, and it's not horribly noticeable, but I know it's there.
Beyond those issues, we've been more than happy. One alteration we made to the unit was the removal of the "EdgeStar" logo on the glass front area. I always hate when logos or brand names are on things, I don't know why. After I complained about it for several years, Wendy took care of it while we were moving it into the kitchen from the sun porch. She used a razor and zipped the stick-on letters right off.
With the letters a distant memory, we may get more questions about what brand we chose, but we'd rather answer that simple question rather than have it proudly displayed on the front of the unit.
Eventually, we'll probably move the fridge to the basement many years down the road when we finish it (and maybe make a hidden wine cellar room), but for now it looks great in its new home in our wine bar area. It took a lot of research but I'm very happy with our decision, and I think we got a pretty good dual zone wine cooler as a result of our efforts.
Do you have a wine fridge? If so, what kind? Did you do as much research as we did when purchasing it, or did you just pick the one you first saw? Or are you a person who has been wanting a wine cooler and simply hasn't pulled the trigger yet (like we were for several years)? Let us know and maybe our experiences can help you in your search.