My Wine Fridge’s Lazarus Act

I bought my Vinotemp, 150-bottle wine cabinet secondhand, for the ridiculously low price of US$300. The previous owner warned me that the WineMate refrigeration unit was starting to have some issues, but it was fall 2018 and I figured that the fridge would have no trouble keeping my wine at an acceptable temperature through fall and winter.

In fact, it had no trouble through spring. The weather in California has been so crappy (cold and wet) this year 2018/2019, that my unit was never really tested until late June. That’s when the temps inside the cabinet started climbing into the high 60s and the alarm bells literally started ringing.

I called Vinotemp and they told me that Mr. Appliance was their service provider in Orange County. So I called Mr. Appliance and set up a house call for the following week.

With the “box” gone, my precious wine is warming up…

Their representative arrived on time and got straight to work. He took out the “box” (the refrigeration unit), opened it up and said “Gosh, this looks in really good shape! No sign of Freon leakage, no major corrosion on the pipes, evaporator and condensers look good. Based on that, my guess is that the compressor is the problem.” He ran a quick diagnostic and said “Yup, you’ve got a bad compressor.”

What happened next astounded me. Instead of trying to sell me on: 1) a full “box” replacement, or 2) expensive replacement parts direct from WineMate, he instead told me about other options that would deliver the same performance at a much, much lower price. And then he called around to a few parts suppliers and managed to find exactly what I needed.

For a total cost of <US$700, this man is going to take my “box”, install the new parts this afternoon, test it overnight on a similar wine cabinet and then deliver and install the refurbished “box” at my house. He told me that he was very confident that this would extend the life of my wine fridge by 10+ years.

This means I’m going to have an essentially “new” Vinotemp wine fridge for a total cost of US$1000. If I had to replace the whole thing it would cost >US$3000 new. I am so relieved. I’m so pumped!

WineKnow Tips:

  • Wine fridges are important – especially if you are storing expensive bottles. Heat, light and humidity kill wine.
  • But wine fridges are also ridiculously expensive: the margin these companies are making on them are ludicrous. Think about it: you can buy an actual fridge/freezer (which goes MUCH colder than a wine fridge) for a few hundred dollars.
  • The wine fridge folks get you to spend thousands of dollars by telling you: 1) that you’ll be sorry if you don’t, and 2) that the cost of the fridge over ten years is nothing compared to the cost of your precious bottles.
  • My advice is to look online for secondhand fridges. People are always selling them, either because they’re moving house and can’t be bothered, or because they’ve got so much wine now that they need to buy a bigger wine fridge.