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Phenol55

Off-site wine storage in Seattle introduces an iPad app to make collecting more convenient

by Kelly O'Reilly in Food + Drink on 25 January 2013

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For the wine enthusiast looking to get serious about keeping bottles, but lacking the space at home to do so, off-site storage can provide a handy, well-managed solution. Even those with the square footage and disposable income to install a temperature-controlled catacomb in their own home might still miss the expertise and seamless organization offered by the newly opened Seattle cellar, Phenol55. Like other, similar services in San Francisco and wine country vicinity, as well as in New York City, Phenol55 provides the conditions for proper wine storage but with a new, invaluable convenience—their freshly-launched iPad app allows collectors to access their stock with just a few taps, keeping bottles organized with a personal library of sharp, in-house photographs alongside sections for details and professional notes.

While traditionally, public cellars have operated on the basis of collectors dropping their cases off to warehouse-like setups, with access easily granted with a simple phone call, Phenol55 updates the process by offering the extensive online database for each member, and web-based communication tools to arrange for on-site pick-up or courier delivery on-demand.

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Phenol55 is helmed by founder Chris Abbott, who moved to Seattle with his wife after receiving his MBA from Dartmouth's Tuck School of Business. Leaving school and his former life in NYC where he managed small cap stocks behind, once reaching the Emerald City Abbott began looking for storage options for a few cases of wine he had collected and brought with him. "I was overwhelmed by how much wine was in the facility and yet how basic the service was," he remembers. "There was millions of dollars of wine being stored behind particle board doors secured with a master lock. It seemed to me that there had to be a better way."

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According to Abbott, even the most sophisticated facilities he came across still seemed to lack the organizational chops that such special possessions command. He "rented a locker and began to dream," meeting with tech-savvy friends to conceive of Phenol55's meticulously catalogued and elegantly executed premise. "Right from the start I wanted our service to have a heavy reliance on photography and a clean and modern look that highlighted the artistry of wine bottles and labels," says Abbott. "Everyone likes to see their bottles, but no one wants the headache of moving them around and keeping accurate inventory. With our iPad app, our members can see beautiful high resolution photos of their wine, read and write tasting notes and when they are ready to drink, they can order up the exact bottles they want for delivery to their doorstep or ready for pick-up at the cellar."

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While the standards for storage are scrupulous, Phenol55 isn't about an exclusively high barrier of entry for collectors. In its early stages, Abbott says, collectors' quantities can vary from a single case to hundreds of bottles, with a simple, two-tier, flat-rate pricing structure starting at just $3.45 per case, per month, plus delivery fees starting at $20. For Abbott, who got into wine as a consummate knowledge seeker, collecting shouldn't be an elite world of wine mastery, but rather a constant source of learning through clear channels like those offered by Phenol55. "Wine is one of those things in life that you can study until the end of your days and still only understand a fraction of what there is to know about it," he says. "Wine has the intellectual depth of stocks, and you can drink it!"

For more information on Phenol55 membership, visit the website. The iPad app is available for members as a free download in the iTunes store.

Images courtesy of Phenol55

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