Meet You in the Wine RoomSwirling, Sniffing, Sipping and Savoring…Installing a Wine Cellar Brings Home the Pleasures of Collecting Wine

By Parker Quimby

With national wine sales having increased by 5 percent in 2005, it is no surprise that more and more Emerald Coast residents are adopting the wine lifestyle. The increased popularity of wine events, tastings, auctions, dinners and even clubs has encouraged local wine lovers to bring their passion for vino into their homes in the form of a cellar or dedicated wine room.

From beginners to seasoned  aficionados, the purpose of proper storage is to enjoy wine when it’s at its peak. While the world of wine is ever expanding, so are the creative options for protecting and displaying wine collections. Whether building a new home or reworking an existing space, homeowners can take advantage of a range of options, costs and features when planning an in-home wine cellar.

For many, the creative process of planning and installing a dedicated wine room is a collaborative effort with a builder or installer, an interior designer, a wine specialist and, of course, the homeowner.

A Wine World of Your Own

“We want to build relationships with our clients, and we will work with them to see what works best for them and to help them develop their wine room to proper specifications . . . proper insulation, proper racking, asking the right questions such as whether they want to entertain in the room, what size bottles they will be storing,” said Michel Thibault, manager of Chan’s Wine World in Destin. “The whole point is to drink wines that are mature.

”Thibault likens a red wine that hasn’t matured to a 16-year-old child. It shows promise but isn’t quite all together yet. A red wine that has matured five to six years is like a 40-year-old – more complex, intelligent and interesting.

“It’s a crime to drink wine too young,” Thibault said.

With an in-home cellar, a wine lover can purchase wines that “show promise,” then save them for that perfect moment when the wine is at the optimum stage for drinking. After a client has created his or her personal wine cellar and begins to cultivate a collection, Chan’s will work with them to secure a variety of wines.

“For example, the ’05 Bordeauxes will be superb,” Thibault said. “Our job is to buy a lot of ’05. When they are available in a few years, we’ll host a special dinner or have an event and let our clients have a first shot at unusual and unique wines – and at a special price.”

The team of specialists at Chan’s Wine World works with four to five companies based out of larger cities and recommends a “best fit” depending on the individual needs of clients. A recommended partner of Chan’s is Cincinnati-based Wine Cellar Innovations. The company’s interactive Web site offers homeowners the tools to customize a home cellar. A local representative also will work with the homeowner to address specific needs and desires, as well as tackle challenges such as the Emerald Coast’s high level of humidity, warm temperatures, and the possibility of storms and flooding. 

Nuts and Bolts of Installation

While basements lend themselves to conventional wine cellars, they are not common in Florida. Fortunately, there are many creative options for those wanting to begin their personal wine collections or finally create that dedicated space to safely house and beautifully display the wine in an existing collection.

A popular approach is to fashion a climate-controlled area, creating an environment similar to traditional caves and cellars. Many variables come into play, the most important being temperature, humidity levels, lighting and vibration.

To simulate cellar-like conditions, companies such as Wine Cellar Innovations offer devices ranging from small, self-contained refrigeration devices to full-fledged climate-controlling systems. Breezaire and Whisperkool are self-contained wine-cellar refrigeration units that are affordable and perfect for new wine collectors. These units are cost-effective and can be installed with ease.

For more serious collectors, split air refrigeration systems are a viable choice. They look like a central air-conditioning system but actually work to keep the temperature and humidity levels balanced in the wine room. While the installation process is more involved and the cost is higher, these systems give the homeowner complete control over the refrigeration of the room with electronic controls and digital displays, and the system can stand up to more-demanding climate conditions.

In addition to refrigeration devices, the room itself should be built as if it were the exterior of a house. Insulation, doors and vapor barriers are built to keep the air in the wine room separate from the air in the rest of the house.

After the proper construction and refrigeration, the owner has endless options for wine racks, as well as storage and design elements. A wine cellar can cost from $700 to $10,000 – or higher – depending on the tastes and desires of the homeowner. Wine rooms become small museums, with wine collections taking center stage. Decorative doors, gates, ceilings, floors, ladders, tabletops and lighting all add to the ambiance of the room.

A Designer’s Touch

In addition to the functionality of housing a wine collection, many wine rooms have another function – entertainment. Whether designing a room that a small group can go into and sample and savor wines or fitting a small wine cooler into the existing framework of a home, an interior designer can capture and convey the personality of the owner, the home itself and the wine lifestyle as a whole, as well as tie the wine room into other entertaining areas.

Karen Waterfield, president of Sugar Beach Interiors in Destin, recently worked with Cary and Debra Califf to design an elaborate wine room for their new Destiny home. The sleek, contemporary wine room is situated conveniently off of the home’s kitchen and dining room. With no detail spared, Waterfield worked with the Califfs and the builder to create a cozy, yet contemporary room perfect for entertaining guests and displaying the couple’s sizeable wine collection. Features include built-in Subzero wine chillers, beautifully tailored custom cabinetry, black granite flooring, a faux finished ceiling, high-tech lighting, a flat screen television and a custom free-form granite wine tasting table.

Waterfield worked with builder Ron Roberts of DRE Roberts Construction to make sure the room was both functional as a wine room and aesthetically pleasing to the homeowners and their guests.

As the wine culture has developed on the Emerald Coast, Waterfield has seen an increase in the requests for wine cellars when homeowners are deciding on their blueprints and discussing design features. In addition to working with Ron Roberts, she has worked with Mike Masras of Designer Kitchen & Baths, who provides customized cabinetry for wine rooms, as well as with local builder Johnny Boswell of Boswell Builders & Sons. The design team at Sugar Beach has worked with requests ranging from wine coolers tucked under a staircase or in a closet to all-encompassing wine rooms with bistro sets and bars.

“Building an in-home wine cellar is definitely an entertaining trend with people who live here,” Waterfield said. “Think of all the entertainment in the area that revolves around wine: walkabouts, balls and auctions offering huge, fabulous bottles of wine at charity events. It is very much an integral part of the area,” and will continue to add to the growth and vibrancy of the Emerald Coast.