Properly storing large amounts of wine can be tricky for a restaurant with limited space. This was the problem facing Levent Bozkurt, co-proprietor of the Stonehedge Inn in Tyngsboro, Mass., whose restaurant, Silks, boasts a wine inventory of more than 60,000 bottles.
So Bozkurt decided that the best way for him to age wine -- which requires a cool, damp area with little light -- was to build a cave. In doing so, he followed a practice that dates back to the deep chalk cellars dug out by Romans in the Champagne region of France about 2,000 years ago.
Silks at Stonehedge Inn, about 40 miles north of Boston, holds Wine Spectator's Grand Award for its wine list, which shows good depth in Bordeaux and California Cabernet, along with well-chosen selections from Italy, Spain and Australia.
"We don't like to serve young red wines," said Bozkurt. "We age them further in the bottle. So, of course, we need good space. A cave is much more stable and less accessible. It's better not to touch and tamper with the area."
The man-made wine cave, which is 62 feet deep and 17 feet wide, is a testament to natural storage. Built into a grassy slope 100 yards from the inn, the cave lies near the Merrimack River, which keeps the temperature at about 50 degrees F and the humidity at 90 percent.
Bozkurt, who did research on caves used by wineries in France and Napa Valley, chose to keep his cave on the chilly side of the typical 50 F to 65 F range suggested for wine storage. "A little cooler slows the aging process," he said. "It takes longer for the wine to mature, but the result is a richer and bolder wine."
Guests of the Stonehedge Inn can tour the wine cave on request. The inn's telephone number is (978) 649-4400.
Read more about the wine list of Silks at Stonehedge Inn: