How do you know when to build a real storage space for your wine? If you’ve got bottles stashed on top of the fridge, piling up in the garage, or even, heaven forbid, stowed in a stuffy attic, it’s way past time.
Though it may seem intimidating, building a cellar for your wine doesnâ€™t require an MIT degree. In fact, local experts agree that with the proper plans, a proficient do-it-yourselfer can create one in a few weeksâ€™ time.
To make sure bottles donâ€™t go bad, most wine cellars carefully monitor temperature, humidity, and light. Ideal storage conditions are between 50 and 59 degrees Farenheit with 60 to 80 percent humidity. Too cool a space can encourage deposits; higher temperatures contribute to premature aging. Low humidity causes corks to dry out, which can allow air to sneak inside and oxidize your prized bottles, while high humidity can breed mold. All this may sound awfully technical, but just remember that the only real necessities are access to electricity and, for bona fide oenophiles, room for expansion.
For more guidance in designing a cellar, turn to a local expert like Apex Wine Cellars in Marlborough. Prices vary for a professionally built cellar, but expect to spend a few grand to adequately house your merlots and Sancerres. â€śWeâ€™ve done cellars that hold 120 bottles of wine [for about $5,000],â€ť says Apexâ€™s Peter Oikle, â€śand ones that hold 3,500 [for about $20,000].â€ť To see the range of possibilities that custom cellars offer, we took a peek inside four stunning local spaces.
Project #1: The Boysâ€™ Club
When Jim Nuzzoâ€™s wife wanted to build him a wine cellar for his 50th birthday, she asked the contractor who had just finished their Newton homeâ€™s million-dollar renovation: Andy Bolalek of Canton-based Bolalek Construction. His one stipulation: â€śPromise you wonâ€™t come downstairs until itâ€™s all finished.â€ť The Nuzzos agreed.
Bolalek capitalized on the 110-year-old Victorianâ€™s stone foundation and worked within the existing space to create a 10-by-12-foot wine cellar with a domed ceiling. A small Jerusalem stone table and two chairs made from â€™50s tractor seatsâ€”Jim Nuzzo found them on eBay for $80 eachâ€”make for a unique place to sample a bottle. The designer also installed a handmade chandelier and wall sconces. One door leads to the main house, the other to what Nuzzo calls the Bat Cave, a 6-by-10-foot cigar room furnished with a TV and two rocking chairs.
â€śWhen I opened the door, my jaw hit the floor,â€ť says Jim Nuzzo, a venture capitalist and WBUR commentator whoâ€™s been collecting wine for decades. Among his favorite treasures are three bottles of port: one from 1955, his birth year; one from his 1977 college graduation; and a 1988 port he got on his wedding day. Heâ€™s also storing three other special portsâ€”from each of his three childrenâ€™s birth yearsâ€”that he plans to uncork on their 21st birthdays.
Project #2: The Conversion
South Enders Ray Skiba, Jim Barnovitch, and Paul Whaley all shared a love of wine. They also shared a coal bin. The unusual 104-square-foot brick-lined tunnel was adjacent to their five-story townhomeâ€™s below-ground kitchen. â€śThe curved brick tunnel is reminiscent of the wine caves of Italy,â€ť says designer Peter Oikle. And the coal binâ€™s inherent low humidity and temperature made it the ideal spot for a cellar.
It did, however, need a few modern-day updates. â€śThe bin wasnâ€™t waterproof, and during heavy rains, water would leak in,â€ť says co-owner Whaley, a local real estate agent. So before construction even began, he hired Weymouthâ€™s Holland Construction to renovate the tunnel.
Another challenge was getting the rack lengths right, since the circular ceiling had an irregular radius. Oikle solved the problem by sizing the African mahogany shelves on-site, during the actual installation (typically, racks are precut). He chose the wood for its natural rich grain and colorâ€”stained and varnished racking often releases fumes that penetrate wine corks.
Today, with low-voltage lighting (to minimize unwanted heat), clean and restored brick walls, and Italian limestone floor tiles, the original coal bin is all dressed up.
Project #3: Suite Dream
Inspired by the great cellars of Burgundy and Bordeaux, this serious cellar in Dover comprises two rooms connected by a limestone foyer. One is a semicircular space filled with custom-made mahogany racks and 1,500 bottles of wine. In the other are even more racks and a wooden plank-top table piled high with 500 cases of wine.
Westborough-based interior designer Ned Jalbert erected a wrought-iron gate at the entrance to the first room. He also installed a hanging metal neo-Gothic light fixture in the foyer. â€śThe way it casts light aroundâ€¦itâ€™s kaleidoscopic,â€ť he says.
The owners also worked with a ventilation specialist to ensure the temperature and humidity are always optimal, and that a backup system is in place.
Project #4: the Italian Job
A trip to Italy was all it took. Shortly after returning stateside, a local homeowner hired Charles River Wine Cellars to help him turn a 14-by-16-foot section of his Kingston colonialâ€™s basement into a Tuscan-inspired retreat.
Rather than use the typical limestone for the walls, designer Ed Loughran crafted columns out of the less expensiveâ€”but nearly identical-lookingâ€”European castle stone. Loughran also hired a local artist to paint sweeping Tuscan landscapes onto the roomâ€™s tumbled marble tiles, which are further enhanced by soft accent lighting.
The owner chose mahogany racks for their durability and resistance to moistureâ€”the upscale shelving holds 1,600 bottles and cost $50,000 to create. But that doesnâ€™t strike Loughran as too extravagant. â€śYou really owe it to the collection to house it properly,â€ť he says with a smile. â€śWe call it liquid-asset protection.â€ť
Source URL: http://www.bostonmagazine.com/2007/11/stellar-cellars/