When your father’s wine cellar just won’t do

Food & Drink

Like many rooms in the house that need an occasional tweak, your wine storage is an area that should be renewed for a number of reasons: better access to your bottles, to accommodate a growing inventory or update with new technology.

But there’s another reason: giving your wine collection a place in your everyday life by integrating it into your living space.

“What we’re seeing now—especially in new developments—are all these incredible wine rooms and cellars that are not only practical spaces for storage but the aesthetic center of the house,” says Christian Navarro, president of Wally’s Wine & Spirits, the retail and auction firm in Los Angeles.

Evan Goldenberg, an architect based in Greenwich, Conn., who specializes in cellar design, agrees. He said even in stand-alone homes with basements, he’s seeing more wine rooms built on first floors so they “become more of a showpiece and integrated with living and entertaining spaces so [collectors] can show off their treasures.

“It boils down to how passionate they are about their collection, where they have the best space in their home and how they want to live with their wine,” he said.

If you’re thinking of a redo, just know that the fusty old basement wine cellar has gone the way of chintz and prints. In its place: sleek, designed “wine rooms” that keep bottles cool and also show off cool collections.

While traditional wine cellars made use of redwood—a humidity-resistant wood that’s both handsome and versatile—what’s trending now, below and above ground are materials like glass and metal integrated with elaborate LED lighting systems that create a feeling of high design.

“It depends on [a collector’s] age and genre of wine,” says Marshall Tilden, DWS, and vice president of sales at Wine Enthusiast catalog, an online merchandising company. “Some still want a traditional look and feel, but what’s more and more prevalent are modern, almost high-tech materials with a focus on display.”

Throughout the Los Angeles and Santa Monica areas, where Ron Barillas of Legacy Cellars does much of his work, those materials trend toward the dramatic: darkened wood, aluminum, acrylic, mesh or anodized metals with dark patinas. Barillas said racks made of acrylic pegs are a hot trend, with the bottles looking like “they’re floating on the wall.”

Houses are not the only homes to feature customized wine centers. In many apartments, stand-alone “caves” such as those Tilden’s company sells, are integrated into a wine bar with wall racking or enclosed behind a dedicated, temperature-controlled glass-enclosed room adjacent to a living space.

With the design evolution of the cellar comes advances in technology, too—everything from apps that integrate with existing smart-home technology to control temperature and humidity, to thumbprint-reader security systems. Many collectors rely on online inventory management tools like the free CellarTracker, which includes user-generated reviews and tasting notes (additional features available with a paid membership). The $4,000 eSommelier system uses a proprietary system consisting of touch-screen terminal, bar code scanner and a wine barcode printer that enables collectors to locate their bottles and control the inventory at the tap of a key. It also integrates with tasting notes and reviews of wine publications to which a collector subscribes (Wine Spectator or Wine Advocate, for example).

“Either you want to go all out or not,” says Tilden, noting most clients balance their needs and investments between display and storage.

Navarro says his teams at Wally’s are practiced in helping clients suss out their needs, including cellar-design and collection services.

“We try to pay attention to the client and discover what they need,” he said. “Sometimes they don’t even know that themselves and we help them along. We have the 19th century ideals of what a wine merchant was—to find clients what they need at any cost.”

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