In-home wine cellar can satisfy any connoisseur

Jessica Young

Just off of his dining room, wine buff Rusty Sproat has a 4-by-4-foot nook. Sick of cramming it with nothing but junk, the Westmont resident recently turned the space into a wine cellar that holds about 19 cases.

“There’s a glass door with a twisted metal wrought-iron handle leading into the room, I’ve got distressed hardwood floors and then floor-to-ceiling, stained Ponderosa pine display racks,” said Sproat, a builder. “I’ve also got a chillR, which is a unit made for little storage areas, set at 57 degrees to preserve the wine.”

Visqueen, a polyethylene material, lines the walls, which are covered with thin veneer strips of birch stained a walnut color. Additionally, Sproat had requested that employees at deVine, a Westmont wine shop, save a bunch of bottle corks from tastings so he could decorate his vino haven.

“I took a hot glue gun and made a brick pattern on one of the walls with the cork,” he said. “It’s a really cool effect. And it just makes it more fun for guests, who go ‘ooo’ and ‘ahh’ when they peek inside.”

As wine connoisseurs consider devoting space in their home to a bottle collection — however sparse or extensive — a few storage and design tips with some must-have items can help channel a rustic Tuscan pantry or picturesque chateau a la French vineyard.

Conditions

Don’t store wine in the kitchen because of the temperature fluctuation near the oven, said Denise Walsh, owner of deVine. Instead, opt for a closet or basement. That being said, the space doesn’t necessarily need to be subterranean.

“Temperature, humidity and light are important considerations. The ideal temp is 50 to 55 degrees, and you can go up to 60. But something that reaches 86 is going to really do some damage to the wine,” she said. “You also need moderate dampness so the corks stay moist. Light streaming in is also bad for the wine and changes how it ages.”

Racks

Variety abounds in wine racks. There is everything from small $10 island containers to larger wall installations costing several hundred dollars all the way to custom pieces ranging from $5,000 to six-digit figures.

Nothing evokes an old-world, vintage atmosphere like the latticed patterns of diamond-shaped, mahogany cubbyholes.

“We have a wine cabinet for $160 that has a table and countertop so that it functions like a serving cart. There’s space for a cheese spread or stemware,” Walsh said. “It’s very versatile.”

A smaller alternative rack hangs on the wall and holds eight to 10 bottles. It’s $30. Other options include a 12-bottle rack, a 23-bottle wrought-iron unit and book ends with wine bottle compartments. The racks come in wood and wrought iron.

Equipment

Cooling apparatus such as Breezaire, Whisperkool or Koolspace chillR wine refrigeration units offer entry-level, self-contained, wine cellars that regulate and maintain temperature and humidity (55 to 75 percent) and are vibration-free. They cost between $450 to $3,000.

Fred Koehler, owner of Lynfred Winery in Roselle, recommends a SubZero cooler that holds 36 to 60 bottles.

“You can set the dual temperature zones to accommodate red and white, which require different conditions,” he said. “Fruit should be 45 degrees, white 55 and red 65.”

Finishing touches

“You want an earthy, rural cottage look. Many people recreate that bistro ambiance,” said Brigitte Biliskis, manager at Mary Vincent Fine Art Gallery in LaGrange. “With these wine cellars, often they’re on a lower level and removed from the rest of the house, so that space is a good place to transport yourself through the decor. We’ve even commissioned wall murals of vineyard scenery before.”

“Barrels are great accent pieces that make the space feel authentic. If they’ve been used, they lend a great aroma to the room, too,” Walsh said. “Many people also save the wine boxes and use them for drawers to hold stuff like corkscrews.”

Accessories

A Drop Stop non-drip wine pourer, about $10, is a must-have accessory.

“It’s this Mylar circle that you make into a cone shape,” said Nancy Rench, ordering and receiving coordinator at Wine Expressions in Lisle. “It protrudes about an inch above the top of the rim, and with it inserted, the wine never drips down the side of the bottle and stains the tablecloth.”

Custom work

For deVine customers who envision something more elaborate than a do-it-yourself project, Walsh directs them to Wine Cellar Innovations, a custom cellar/rack designer and manufacturer. While the company offers some modular kits, it specializes in sophisticated designs.

“We’ve done everything from a 5-by-5, one-wall structure to a two-story cellar for thousands upon thousands of dollars,” said Erin Chamberlain, marketing director at the cellar powerhouse. “We’re really the industry leader in this. A total one-stop destination.”

A design consultant meets with the client to conceptualize the feel of the space and presents blueprints incorporating any upgrades that have been chosen.

“We come back with 2D or 3D plans that show the height of the racks, the molding detail, any glass enclosings, the cooling system, humidification, the wall coverings, the flooring, lighting, a tasting station, ladders,” Chamberlain said. “You name it.”

Lighting options include recessed, fluorescent SlimLites, gallery and LED systems that can spotlight prized wine bottles. The company has done decorative ceilings like a raised-panel, tongue, groove paneling and etched light boxes. Flooring choices are painted tile featuring grape motifs, vintage wine barrel, inlaid hardwood, cork and mosaic. Wine Cellar Innovations also contracts with artists to commission fresco tiles, tumbled stone art, stained glass, mosaics, etched mirrors and wood carvings. Likewise, the sky’s the limit when it comes to tabletops and doors.

“Wine storage rooms and cellars can be anything you dream them up to be,” Chamberlain added. “Each homeowner really can make it their own.”

Suburban Life