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The June issue of Hartford Magazine features a story about a Summit Wine Cellars project in Avon, Conn., where Summit owner/designer Fred Tregaskis evolved a basement wine storage room into a true wine cellar where form and function are perfectly balanced.

“It’s  a very spacious cellar, traditional, with old wood accents, very functional and very pretty at the same time,” said Tregaskis, who called the clients “fun to work with.”

The story opens like this: “John Papa and his wife, Sara, have had a cave à vin for storing their collection of fine wines in the basement of their Avon Mountain home for 10 years, but it was like Cinderella before the ball: a simple, unfinished, vapor-locked room with a climate-control system, offering safe passage through time for noble French and Italian vintages. No style, charm or flourishes like artifacts or stonework.”

There are certainly style, charm and flourishes now.

The cellar features reclaimed lumber—lightly stained and tinted ash—which is reasonably priced, high-quality wood that takes stain very well. Because an insect called the Emerald Ash Borer has been killing and damaging ash trees, there’s a lot of ash available in lumberyards right now.

“It’s strong, flexible, beautiful wood,” said Tregaskis, whose design flourishes include using antique wood in the soffits and pillars, while also designing a cascading rack that presents bottles in a way that highlights the labels. “We built a waterfall of wine racks.”

Another fun element in the design is a wine barrel from France that serves as a counter, as part of a collection that focuses on wines from France and Italy.

While the Avon project is a traditional wine cellar, Tregaskis said, “A lot of what we’re doing is using steel and plexiglass and zinc and things like that because we have the facilities to work with more modern materials. It’s fun to be able to offer more choices.”

The designs that utilize those types of materials tend more toward industrial chic, with recent examples including wine cellar designs for clients in Ridgefield, Norwalk, and Madison, Conn.

See Summit Wine Cellars’ Portfolio Page

Asked if the type of wines favor by individual collectors lead to design preferences, Tregaskis said, “I’ve done very modern cellars showing old Burgundies and traditional cellars showing California wines. I’ve done modern cellars in ski lodges in Vermont and traditional cellars in Palm Beach, Florida, and townhouses in Manhattan. So it’s all over the place.”

Whatever clients’ design preferences, the process of commissioning Summit Wine Cellars to design the ideal environment for storing fine and collectible wines is simple and swift.

In response to inquiries, Tregaskis visits the location and shows potential clients his portfolio. He does a sketch as part of an initial design phase, and after reviewing those design ideas with clients, Tregaskis moves on to create a CAD drawing. Design approval is next, and then all the components to create the design are fabricated, followed by installation and finishing touches. The entire process can be completed in the space of two months.

“Crucial to the cellar but not as sexy is the climate control,” Tregaskis stressed. Summit Wine Cellars offers in-house engineering on climate control systems and can design a system specific to particular spaces, in order to maintain the ideal conditions for fine wine, approximately 55 degrees Fahrenheit and fairly high humidity.

While those climate conditions might seem straightforward, issues created by the surrounding environment can make climate control a challenge. “I did a wine cellar in a horse barn in Falls Village and had to do heating as well as cooling,” Tregaskis said.

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Fred Tregaskis first developed a passion for wine during his art school years, when he worked in the New York’s Hudson Valley vineyards. Years later, after working for a national wine magazine, he was given the opportunity to design and build a 28,000-bottle cellar for Lespinasse Restaurant at the St. Regis Hotel in New York—and in the process Summit Wine Cellars took root.

Tregaskis and Summit Wine Cellars have created dramatic custom wine cellars for clients throughout the world, from Maine to California, and Bangalore to Buenos Aries.

Tregaskis also writes about wine, conducts tastings and hosts a radio show on wine for NPR station WHDD/Robin Hood Radio based in Sharon Conn.

To learn more about Summit Wine Cellars, LLC, contact Summit Wine Cellars by email at info@summit-cellars.com, or by phone at 203-916-1664.

Photo credit: In this Hartford magazine photo, A cascade of bottles in a wine cellar in New Canaan, CT designed by Fred Tregaskis of Summit Wine Cellars.