Rack and Stack ‘Em

Even though I’m about to start construction on our new wine cellar (stay tuned for posts about that in the not so far future), Kelly and I required additional, inexpensive, but eye-pleasing storage for the wine we’ve been amassing from our favorite Virginia wineries.  There is some built-in storage for wine in our house, but come on…what kind of people would we be with only enough rations for a week 🙂

I didn’t want to purchase an expensive wine rack until I got further along with the construction of the wine cellar as there’s still some debate on the color scheme, which for some reason, Kelly is winning.  So, with that said, here’s what I bought.

Smartxchoices Stackable Modular Wine Rack with 72 Bottle Capacity

I looked around on Amazon for the best bang-for-the-buck (aka the cheapest that didn’t look cheap).  There are many that look similar to this one, but if you look closely, some are constructed with 2x4s and others 1x4s.  I opted for the 1x4s.  It’s a bit easier on the eyes and the 2x4s looked a bit chunky.  Additionally, the prices ranged from the low $40s to close to $100.

On the day of my purchase, I paid $43 for this unit and then about another $9 for shipping.  That’s $51 for those of you already a bottle in for the day. 🙂  This rack fluctuates in price a lot though and I checked it the other today and it was listed at $61 with free shipping.  Looks like timing is key to getting the best deal.

The packaged arrived at my door a few days later.  I opened up the box to take a look at it and from the initial glance, I was pleased with what I received.  Shocker though…it was just a box of wood.  I did notice that the instructions had the brand “Zeny” labeled on it.

My interpretation, this is a generic rack sold to many companies who label it their own way.  It’s quite possible that many of the 1×4 wine racks on Amazon are made by the same company, but sold under different names.  My reason for being pleased though, the wood looked relatively nice, straight, and unwarped.  Having worked with pine on a number of projects in the past, I know that inspection of the wood is important when purchasing to ensure they are straight.

The next part of my inspection was to look at the boards in comparison to one another.  Let’s talk about the short pieces.  The first thing I noticed, there’s an extra notch in each piece.  The instructions and online photos do not have this notch.  Through deductive reasoning, I think it’s safe to assume that not only does this company make wine racks, but they drink on the job too!  Regardless, I’m okay with the extra notches as it doesn’t distract from the overall design.

Still talking about the short pieces, I lined them up to look at their consistency.  The notches all lined up, which is the most important part, but the ends of each board did not.  Some are longer than others.  Further evidence of drinking on the job!



Is this a big deal?  Not really, but for someone like me who likes symmetry and wants things perfect, I made a trip to my basement and used my miter saw to make sure they all matched.  For the most part, the boards are straight with little to no warping.  Only one board had an ever so slight bend to it.

Next came inspection of the cross-pieces.  Being longer, I expected a little more variance in their straightness and as you see in the picture, that is the case.  Regardless, none of the boards are significantly warped and measured the same.

My next step; put it together for a quick look.  Assembling the rack takes less than 5 minutes, by far the simplest part of the project.  Some people may choose to finish here, put the rack in its final destination, and start filling it up. For me, I decided to take it a few steps further.

Although happy with the wood quality, I was not pleased with the smoothness of the surface.  As a result, I pulled out the power sander and spent 30 minutes sanding the pieces.  I first used a coarser grit and then finished up with 220.  When completed, the wood felt smooth to the touch and looked much nicer, but noooo I’m not done yet.  I wanted to add some color and shine to it, so I decided to purchase a polyurethane and stain combination to add that final touch.

Let me start by saying, I question the worth of the final step.  It took me over 2 hours to stain/poly this piece.  It’s not easy to work with due to all the different edges, corners, notches, etc. I may have also been lazy and impatient by buying the poly/stain combination.  Looking back, I think it would have been easier to stain it, let it dry, and then coat it with poly as I found myself fighting consistency, brush strokes, and the quickness that it dried.  I also had stain up to my elbows, on my face, and even a drop or two in my hair.  Don’t ask.

I also could have used a spray stain or my paint sprayer, but cleaning it is a pain and I didn’t want to bother getting it out. Yes, this rack serves as a temporary rack for us, but I still wanted it to look nice, but realizing its expected life and the time required to stain/poly it, it would have been best to simply trim and sand the wood and let it exist in its natural color.  Lesson learned.

UPDATE:  I ordered a 2nd one of these.  Came from a different vendor and under a different name, but this one cost me $60.  Now comes the test of my wills.  Do I follow my own conclusion and sand/trim it and skip the staining, but now have two mismatched color racks?  Or do I suck it up and stain/poly it like the other?  I hate to leave you all with this John Snow-like mutiny cliffhanger, but a decision has yet to be made.

In conclusion, I’ll rate this a 3.5 out of 5.  Would I buy this again or recommend it to someone else?  Yes.  The ad states that it doesn’t wobble.  Unlike me, empty of wine, it wobbled, but with each bottle added, the more solid it became as the pieces locked into place a bit more.  Another thing I didn’t like, I think one notch in a small piece may have been cut ever so slightly deeper than the others and in one specific slot for a bottle, the fit was tight and smudged a nice label.

One last thing to note, the rack does work with bottles like Pinot Noir and Viognier.  Living here in VA, I’m a fan of Viognier and frequently pick up a bottle or two from my favorite wineries.  The only catch to these bottles, they can only enter the slots in the same column, and not side by side on the same row.  Additionally, Champagne/Sparkling bottles are not a fit for this rack.  Here are my likes and dislikes:


●      Good price
●      Easy to assemble
●      Nice pieces of wood
●      Relatively attractive
●      Fits Pinot Noir/Viognier bottles


●      Inconsistent cuts in the wood
●      Requires sanding
●      Difficult to add finishing touches (stain/poly)
●      One bad notch making for a tight fit
●      Can’t store Champagne/Sparkling bottles

Well, that’s about it.  I hope this review met your expectations and if you have comments, please add them below.