Wine by Design

0506_winebydesignCustom wine cellars add elegance and sophistication to any home

Story by Tara N. Wilfong
Photography by William Wright

In the past, homeowners seeking the newest trends in home design opted for luxury additions such as whirlpool tubs, granite countertops and home theaters. Today, the newest rage among savvy buyers is custom wine cellars. “There have always been avid collectors of wine, but in the past, they have stored their collections in dark, dungeon-like spaces,” says Daniel Wible, principle of En-Lightened. “Today, homeowners are paying more attention to the presentation of their collections while adding a bit of prestige to their investment.”

Whether installing a wine cellar in a new home, or adding one to an older home, you should consider several factors before embarking on the project. Make a list of questions for your architect or builder, and make sure to include the following:

What type/style of cellar should I install?
With styles running the gamut, homeowners can choose rustic, Old World, Baroque, European or even funky, modern looks for a signature cellar. Tod Ban, owner of Home Street Builders Inc. says it’s important to have a theme, however. “Every client truly has their own style that they want to carry into their wine cellar,” he says. “It usually goes along with a hobby or collection they already have in their life.”

Where should I install it?
While any room in the house can accommodate a wine cellar (even a small closet), the ideal location is the basement, because it is the coolest space in the house.

How extensive should it be?
The size of the wine cellar is usually based on the size of the owner’s wine collection. For a few bottles, a wine rack under a cabinet is sufficient, but for collections of several hundred to several thousand bottles, larger cellars are a must.

How much space should I allocate?
Average wine cellars usually range from 4-by-5-foot spaces to 10-by-10-foot rooms. On the other hand, a cavernous cellar, replete with a tasting room, can take up an entire floor and sprawl for several thousand square feet.

What type of racks should I use?
Racking systems come in a variety of styles and are typically made of various woods, such as redwood, mahogany or oak. Because the racks hold a precious commodity, it’s imperative to consider the wood’s finish. “We always leave our woods in their natural state,” says Neil Thomas, branch manager of Apex Sauna & Wine Cellars. “There are no stains or sealers on the wood so there is nothing that can possibly contaminate the wine through the cork.”

Do I want a tasting room?
Tasting rooms are a popular complement to wine cellars, and some homeowners opt to install them inside their cellars. Keith Knupp, president and owner of Wine Designs, Inc., recommends separating the two rooms, however: “Since you are supposed to drink red wine at room temperature, I suggest making the tasting room a separate entity outside the wine cellar.”

What about a budget?
Like most areas of design, price depends on several factors, including the cellar size, type of racking, materials and installation. An average wine cellar can cost $5,000-$7,000 before refrigeration costs, while high-end cellars can cost $40,000-$50,000 or more. As part of the budgeting process, most designers and installers will provide home consultations with detailed drawings at no extra cost.

How should I regulate the temperature of the wine?
Wine must remain at a constant temperature of 55 to 60 degrees to properly age. To ensure a constant temperature, a dedicated temperature-control system, typically a refrigeration system must be installed. Masonry work inside the cellar also helps to maintain the temperature, as does an exterior-grade door with an airtight seal.

What type of lighting should I install?
Because conventional lighting emits an enormous amount of heat, Wible suggests using LED or fiber optic lighting. Both emit minimal heat, are extremely efficient and pose no danger of fire.