Exquisite design details create perfect space for wine lovers
Brenda and Mike Schultz were doing a walk-through of the home they eventually purchased at The Cliffs at Keowee Vineyards when they noticed the locked door. “[The sellers] said it was a wine cellar,” Brenda recalls, “but when we bought the house and unlocked the door, it was more like a little safe room with cement walls and some half-made wine racks nailed in there. And it wasn’t humidity- or temperature-controlled.”
It was far from the couple’s idea of a wine cellar in which they could safely store their collection, which at the time comprised some 800 bottles. They considered just adding temperature and humidity control to the small space, then realized they had a big tool room downstairs next to the garage. “We talked about converting part of that, but then we said, ‘Let’s just do the whole room,’” Mike reports. “So, we took that entire tool room and built a custom wine cellar. We decided that since this is going to be our retirement home, we wanted to do it right.”
It was 2018 when they moved from Kennesaw, Georgia, to The Cliffs. Brenda lives there full-time, while Mike, who is Senior VP of Supply Chain for Floor & Décor in Atlanta, commutes on weekends—except for the past year during the pandemic, when he’s been working from Keowee Vineyards. “That’s why we built the wine cellar,” Brenda quips.
Completed last fall, the Schultz’s 250-square-foot cellar is a work of art, with racking for 2,400 bottles (their wine collection now stands at about half that number). It’s fitted with dark cabinetry for displaying glassware and a beamed shiplap ceiling, all made of exotic African sapele wood. Four lounge chairs surround a small table, where the couple can sip a glass of wine with friends. Overhead, a two-tier wrought-iron chandelier lends the room an old-world feel. The floor is travertine—from Mike’s company—and Brenda designated the placement of each 2-foot-by-3-foot piece of stone. Other highlights include a marble-lined tasting nook and a backlit infinity wall that shows off some of their foreign wines. A library ladder provides access to the topmost shelves.
The pair began to grow their wine collection in the early 2000s, educated by tastings and dinners at a wine shop and tapas restaurant owned by friends in Kennesaw. Journeys to the Napa Valley followed, which partly explains why Napa cabs from wineries including Italics, Joseph Phelps, Caymus, Silver Oak, Shafer, and Alpha Omega take up much of their cellar. These days, they also purchase wine through The Cliffs Wine Consortium, a program that allows members to purchase hard-to-find wines at exclusive prices.“It’s a collection of love,” says Mike. “It’s mostly wine we have connections with. Either we went to a tasting [for a particular wine] or visited the vineyard.”
Meeting the winemakers drives that connection home. “On our bucket list is to go visit Italian, French, and Australian vineyards, because wine is so much better when you experience it at the winery . . . and relate to the people,” Mike believes. Some of their most prized wines are signed bottles of M by Michael Mondavi, a “40th Anniversary” (2012) Caymus cabernet sauvignon, and a 3-liter bottle of Joseph Phelps Insignia that Mike is saving for his retirement. “We also have several vertical vintages—one from 2001 to the present. We love to see how the wines change year over year.”
They’re in the process of converting the existing kitchenette just outside the cellar into a full kitchen to blend Brenda’s love of cooking with easy access to their wines. In the meantime, Mike and Brenda continue to ferment their passion for wine in a stunning cellar where they can curate their collection for decades to come.
Since Mike was only at The Cliffs on weekends when the couple first moved to their house on the cove, Brenda’s unofficial job was to make friends. Now it’s a rare day that the self-proclaimed “instigator of fun” isn’t running off to some activity, be it jet skiing with the ladies’ group she organized (who call themselves the “Aquaholics”), playing golf or pickleball, or serving on the CRO committee for the Vineyards. On weekends, when they’re not hosting wine dinners or tasting wine in their new cellar, you can often find the couple floating somewhere in their 28-foot Sea Ray, which they christened “Doesn’t Suck.”
This story was featured in Cliffs Living magazine. To read more stories like this one and learn more about The Cliffs, subscribe here.