Elton Potts ’86

Vine Vault

By Sara Ann Hutto ’17

When Potts retired from the corporate world, he pursued his passion, collecting fine wine — from there, a new business was born

Elton Potts will never forget the first time he bought a bottle of fine wine, a current vintage of Silver Oak.

“I sweated over it,” he says. “I was thinking, ‘I can’t believe I just spent $100 on a bottle of wine!’”

But to Potts, the bottle’s value was priceless. He bought it in honor of one of his first vintages, which he was gifted by a wine collector: a 1988 Silver Oak cabernet sauvignon, lush with a subtle earthiness and soft finish.

“He gave me a gift that would have been very difficult for me to purchase on my own just because they’re not readily available,” he says. “It was the thoughtfulness of the gift and the impact that it had that helped me say, ‘You know what, I’m going to start collecting wine, not only so I can enjoy it down the road but also so I can give that joy to others.”

Now, Potts is helping others collect wine through his wine storage and transportation business, Vine Vault. The idea for Vine Vault actually came to him during his years in the corporate sector, especially during his time with Recall, a documents and information storage company.

As the COO of Recall, Potts spent a lot of time traveling, which meant he also got to visit many wine-growing regions of the world. A couple of favorites include the Barossa Valley in Australia and Napa, California. At each destination, Potts’ passion for collecting grew but so did his frustrations with the process.

“Getting the wines home from the winery was fraught with risk,” he says. Not only is the bottle fragile, but it is also susceptible to what is known as “cooking,” when the wine gets too hot. If this happens, Potts explains, the chemical properties change, and “it is no longer fine wine.”

Potts knew he couldn’t be the only one who felt this way about collecting. So, when he retired from Recall in 2013, it wasn’t long before he started working on Vine Vault, applying much of his expertise in the storage business.

“My wife jokes that I retired for just an afternoon,” he laughs. “It was at least a week.”

Vine Vault offers clients a variety of services, which include delivering wine in a temperature-
controlled truck from the winery to your home and storing wine in specialized facilities. “We will literally do everything for people except drink the bottle,” Potts says.

After years in the wine industry, Potts has built an impressive collection, but he also understands the importance of enjoying it. A bottle of wine shouldn’t lay on the rack for years after its prime — a lesson for life: “Wine is a living thing. If you let it go beyond its prime, it’s not going to be as good as it would have been, which means don’t keep waiting for a special occasion. Create special occasions.”

Speaking of special occasions, when asked if he still has that life-changing gift, the 1988 bottle of Silver Oak, Potts laughs:

“Oh no, we drank it.”