Behind the Cellar Door

Step inside three exceptional private wine cellars.



Thinking about building a new home or remodeling your current abode? Media rooms are passe – it’s all about the custom wine cellar. Peek inside three unique cellars and find out what local wine collectors are pouring at parties. Our wine columnist, Tom Pitts, comments on the selection inside each cellar; you might be surprised what the other half are drinking these days. And speaking of vino, make sure you mark your calendars for Sept. 27 and 28 when Sedona Winefest returns to Airport Mesa. Cheers!

Egon and Deotila Hagemann’s Family Affair

Egon and Deotila Hagemann sit around the alder farmhouse table that is the centerpiece of their wine cellar’s tasting room. With thick German accents, they tell stories from days past, like the time Deotila got locked in the wine cellar during a party and had to bang on the door with her shoe. Or the story of how the couple first met at a friend’s house in New Jersey in 1959 – they argue playfully as to whether or not the meeting had been a setup. Both Egon and Deotila emigrated from Germany in the 1950s in order to learn English, but after they married in 1960, they decided to stay in their adopted country – first in California and finally in Sedona where they relocated in 1999.

Egon, who owned a fabrication business before he retired, says he grew up around wine. His family opened a bottle with dinner every evening, a practice Egon and Deotila still adhere to. It wasn’t until the couple expanded their Sedona home in 2000 that they were able to realize their wine cellar dreams. They converted a crawl space into a cozy tasting room and 1,200-bottle cellar. (Egon currently has about 800 bottles.) The space was designed to resemble a red rock cave with faux rock walls and ceiling. The farmhouse table had to be assembled inside the tasting room, which also features a small bar with a poured-concrete countertop, flat-screen television, microwave, refrigerator and a 6-liter bottle of Grand Marnier that Egon jokes was smuggled in from Mexico. Near the bar, a tastevin, a shallow cup used by sommeliers for sampling wine, hangs on a ribbon. At the back of the tasting room, a door opens onto a small patio with red rock views. A naked bulb lights the table, and furniture from Sedona’s own Mexidona showcases German beer steins and pewter dinnerware. “All of our friends want to sit in the wine cellar,” says Deotila. “We used to host happy hour for our neighbors every day at 5 p.m. We were famous with our neighbors.”

Egon keeps the cellar, which features a window that looks out on the tasting room, at 60 degrees because he prefers his wines a little warmer than average. The couple drinks mostly red wine from California and France. Egon says he buys wine that he can “drink today.” The cellar door is secured with old-fashioned icebox locks, and the floors in the room are made out of repurposed wood from the home’s former deck. Egon saves empty bottles of wine that were particularly memorable and displays the bottles in the cellar, like the one he and Deotila enjoyed while riding the Orient Express from London to Venice.

The Hagemanns’ sense of whimsy is perhaps most apparent in the way guests enter the tasting room and cellar. First they have to wander down to the Hagemanns’ office, which is lined with built-in bookcases. When you press one of the shelves just so, one bookcase swings open to reveal the tasting room, a sort of secret passageway to wine. It’s no wonder Deotila got trapped in the cellar.

Egon and Deotila have passed their love of wine on to their only child, Diana Hagemann-Milenkovitch, who also lives in Sedona and is as familiar with Egon’s collection as Egon. Diana says that when family comes to visit, you’ll find everyone gathered around the candlelit table in the tasting room. “I think it’s safe to say a love of wine is in my genes,” says Diana.

The Hagemanns return to Germany every year to visit family, and when it’s time to get together with Egon’s brothers, you can be sure bottles of wine are involved. (Egon’s oldest brother is a major wine collector.) But when they are home in Sedona, Egon and Deotila drink very few wines from Germany. “It’s great to visit Europe, but I’m an American boy,” says Egon.

Tom Pitts says…

This is a wine cellar designed for everyday drinking and enjoying by and for people who have very wide-ranging tastes. Many familiar California names are on display, both for aging and for immediate consumption, from Opus One and Quintessa to Charles Shaw. Beringer, Robert Mondavi, Concannon, Chalone, Ferrari-Carano, Trinchero and Ravenswood are all well represented, along with Wild Horse. Rosemont, Black Opal and Penfolds from Australia; Barbaresco and Jumara from Italy; Rioja from Spain, and many more are included in the selection. Cabernet, merlot, sangiovese, malbec, zinfandel, chardonnay, Riesling – they’re all here. A celebration? Perhaps the Dom Perignon or Veuve Cliquot Champagne would be appropriate. For that truly special occasion, there is a 1978 Château Lafite Rothschild or a 1929 Tesseron cognac. As the Hagemanns find new favorites through friends or restaurant visits, they add a few bottles to the cellar. This is a cellar designed for daily use.

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