Want to store your vintages in style? These days there are options aplenty, from custom-designed wine rooms to top-of-the-line storage devices.
Two years ago, while consulting on the building of a 15,000- square-foot French-style château for a golf-course developer and his wife, interior designer Leo Dowell of Leo Dowell Interiors (leodowellinteriors.com
) proposed a somewhat unconventional idea for housing the homeowner’s impressive wine collection. Rather than create a traditional underground cellar, Dowell, who recalled seeing an 18th-century wine shop in Paris about to be demolished, suggested that the shop’s charming exterior, including the decorative display windows on either side of a fancy, etched-glass door, could be completely re-created inside the lavish Raleigh, North Carolina, residence.
To accomplish the task, the Charlotte, North Carolina -based designer photographed the shop prior to demolition and had it re-created, right down to the parquet wood paneling and French script etched on the glass. Later, he designed custom armoires and storage compartments to house the cellar’s 5,000-bottle reserve and finished off the space with French bistro tables and chairs inside and out (shown above).
Although not everyone has the inclination, nor the space, to re-create a French wine shop in their home, wine cellars — a prerequisite in most luxury residences and a growing trend among smaller-home builders as well — offer the perfect opportunity to indulge in a little design whimsy. A Tuscan- inspired cellar under the stairs or in a closet? Why not? A Napa Valley wine bistro re-created in the basement? If you can dream it, it can be done. Builders caution, however, that no matter how fertile your imagination, a cellar is intentionally built for storing wines that will improve and evolve with age, not for dining and entertaining.
“It’s done in movies and books, but it’s not realistic,” explains Dennis de la Mata, president of Chicago-based Master Cellars, which specializes in residential wine-cellar construction. Because these spaces are designed to keep bottles at a constant temperature, generally around 55 degrees, “the moment you have six or eight people in there to eat, you’re introducing body heat that’s not good for the wine. Also, it’s designed to be cool in there, [which means that] your food (and you) get cold pretty quickly,” he says.
Thankfully, the options for properly storing your wine — either the collectible kind or that which you plan to drink right away — are as varied nowadays as the number of varietals available on the market. While family-owned companies such as Master Cellars; The Wine Outfitters in Portland, Oregon; and Cincinnati-based Wine Cellar Innovations specialize in creating one-of-a-kind, room-size cellars built with proper cooling and ventilation to store thousands of bottles for years, top appliance brands like Viking, GE Monogram, Sub-Zero, Le Cache, Caso Germany, Avanti, Vinotheque, Vinotemp International, and others offer all sorts of wine storage and cooling units, from single-bottle chillers and stainless steel drawers to custom wood cabinetry of every shape and size.
Some companies, such as Sub-Zero, even differentiate between wine cooling and wine storage; cooling units are designed merely to chill bottles, while wine-storage units are built to defend against the four hazards — heat, humidity, light, and vibration — that can adversely impact the wine. Sub-Zero’s wine-storage units also incorporate smart technology, including built-in devices programmed to set off your home’s security system if there is a drastic change in cooling temperature. Another company, California -based Vinotemp International, equips many of its storage devices with temperature alarms that ring your cell phone during power surges so you can take proper steps to safeguard valuable vintages. The same supplier also offers a new biometric lock that is fingerprint-activated to keep your wine out of the reach of children.
One relatively new alternative to the conventional cellar is a walk-in wine vault. They come ready-made in a variety of sizes to fit in most homes. Industry innovator Vinotemp even offers pre-fab wine-vault kits that, for a nominal charge, can be custom-built to your exact room specifications. “They ship broken down as interlocking panels, and you put them together to the exact dimensions of your wall,” explains Vinotemp president India Hynes, whose company produces everything from under-the-counter wine refrigerators and custom-built wood wine cabinets to bespoke cellars. “Building a cellar can be a whole ordeal if you have to green-board the walls, insulate, ventilate, and add the cooling and racking systems,” adds Hynes, noting that a custom cellar can easily reach five figures. “With this system, you can create your own wine cellar in any room for as little as $3,000,” she says.