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Stellar cellars
Don't let budget or space limit your dreams of a wine room


December 2010

Wine cellars add aesthetic value to any home, such as this one designed by Pam Kopp.

The size of one’s wine cellar isn’t necessarily indicative of one’s passion for wine. "(A wine cellar) can be as simple as a converted walk-in closet in the basement to more elaborate spaces like building a whole new room," says Jim Hackbarth owner of Sonoma Wine Galleries in Menomonee Falls.

Spaces without cooling systems are considered "natural" wine cellars. They are often located in the basements of older homes and are isolated from anything that could drastically change the temperature like a furnace or windows. Because temperature and humidity should be regulated and maintained (temperature between 55 and 65 degrees and a humidity level of 60 to 70 percent), insulation and cooling systems can be installed in most custom cellars.

Pam Kopp, a designer for Chicago’s Wine Cellar Innovations, has installed numerous cellars in the Milwaukee area. "If you are an informal collector, wine can be stored in your pantry or basement. However, once the bottles grow in number and there is no longer extra room for storage, a wine cellar will keep them intact. Custom cellars not only provide storage for your wine bottles, but also give aesthetic value to your home," Kopp says.

Both Hackbarth and Kopp recommend redwood or mahogany for racking. "These woods are very durable. Raised in the cool, damp forests of California, redwood is naturally resistant to the cool, humid atmosphere desired for long-term wine storage," Kopp says. "It resists rot and mildew, shrinking and warping. Mahogany also resists warping, swelling, moisture and decay and can be stained to keep it from mildew and deterioration due to temperature changes," she says.

The most economical choice of racking wood is pine. It can be stained to match any décor. However, because it is soft, it cannot be used for temperature-controlled cellars. Be sure to use stains and finishes that are water-based to avoid odors and vapors that can contaminate your collection.

This West Bend wine cellar, a project by Moore Designs Inc., features family members in the mural giving the space a personal touch.

Kopp offers additional tips for storing wine:

1. Keep the area cool and dark.

2. Make sure there is no vibration.

3. Lay bottles on their sides.

4. Devise a system to track aging and keep the area organized.

5. Racking comes with single or double-deep storage. Take into consideration spacing for wine, champagne, unusual bottle sizes and wood wine cases.

6. Lighting is important. You need enough light to read the labels, but too much light can damage the wine.

7. Doors should be sealed and insulated to ensure that moisture and temperature are kept consistent. Use either wood or glass doors. 


This story ran in the December 2010 issue of: