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Our Wine Cellar Design Process

Experience, craftsmanship and creativity go into every wine cellar design by Summit Wine Cellars.

CONSULTATION

To begin the wine cellar design process, Summit Wine Cellars meets with you or business owners, architects, contractors, project managers, and interior designers to determine size, function, and style of the wine cellar. The wine cellar design process usually takes place on-site, but it may also be done via conference call to accommodate clients, especially those located internationally.

SOME FACTORS TO CONSIDER

What types of wine and what size bottles will be stored? Will there be a need for a sitting or tasting area in your cellar? Is there a particular theme you would like to represent in your wine cellar design?

  • Proper room preparation
  • Lighting
  • Flooring
  • Architectural accessories

CREATION

Once the criteria, size, function, and style are determined, our wine cellar design department creates CAD drawings denoting measurements and wine storage configurations. The final drawings are presented with a formal quote for review and approval. Elements, such as custom zinc counters, architectural accents, and lighting, are itemized in the quote. Summit Wine Cellars is committed to fulfilling our clients’ expectations, and will continue working with the client until the wine cellar design meets their approval.

CRAFTSMANSHIP

Your wine storage and display area is prepared by professional and considerate craftsmen to our specifications. The wine cellar cabinetry is fabricated by experienced woodworkers who manicure every piece to exacting standards of tolerance, fit, and finish. No cabinetry from Summit Wine Cellars is pre-fabricated. It is all created to your specifications by our craftsmen.

Summit Wine Cellars’ craftsmen then bring the wine racks to your location where they assemble it to the same level of precision with which it was milled. They also install wine cellar cooling systems, tabletops and counters, and other aesthetic enhancements to lend character to the wine cellar design.

COMPLETION

No one wine cellar project is complete without the customer’s total satisfaction and final approval. As you examine your new wine cellar, Summit Wine Cellars experts walk you through the fine details. We also explain and demonstrate the functionality of specific elements such as climate control systems and lighting. We make sure you not only love the look and feel of your new wine cellar, you know exactly how to keep it operating effectively and efficiently.

Remember, whatever your wine storage needs or wine cellar design dreams, we’re here to help you make it come to life. It all begins with a call to Summit Wine Cellars at 203-916-1664.

01

CONSULTATION

To begin the wine cellar design process, Summit Wine Cellars meets with you or business owners, architects, contractors, project managers, and interior designers to determine size, function, and style of the wine cellar. The wine cellar design process usually takes place on-site, but it may also be done via conference call to accommodate clients, especially those located internationally.

SOME FACTORS TO CONSIDER

What types of wine and what size bottles will be stored? Will there be a need for a sitting or tasting area in your cellar? Is there a particular theme you would like to represent in your wine cellar design?

  • Proper room preparation
  • Lighting
  • Flooring
  • Architectural accessories

02

CREATION

Once the criteria, size, function, and style are determined, our wine cellar design department creates CAD drawings denoting measurements and wine storage configurations. The final drawings are presented with a formal quote for review and approval. Elements, such as custom zinc counters, architectural accents, and lighting, are itemized in the quote. Summit Wine Cellars is committed to fulfilling our clients’ expectations, and will continue working with the client until the wine cellar design meets their approval.

03

CRAFTSMANSHIP

Your wine storage and display area is prepared by professional and considerate craftsmen to our specifications. The wine cellar cabinetry is fabricated by experienced woodworkers who manicure every piece to exacting standards of tolerance, fit, and finish. No cabinetry from Summit Wine Cellars is pre-fabricated. It is all created to your specifications by our craftsmen.

Summit Wine Cellars’ craftsmen then bring the wine racks to your location where they assemble it to the same level of precision with which it was milled. They also install wine cellar cooling systems, tabletops and counters, and other aesthetic enhancements to lend character to the wine cellar design.

04

COMPLETION

No one wine cellar project is complete without the customer’s total satisfaction and final approval. As you examine your new wine cellar, Summit Wine Cellars experts walk you through the fine details. We also explain and demonstrate the functionality of specific elements such as climate control systems and lighting. We make sure you not only love the look and feel of your new wine cellar, you know exactly how to keep it operating effectively and efficiently.

Remember, whatever your wine storage needs or wine cellar design dreams, we’re here to help you make it come to life. It all begins with a call to Summit Wine Cellars at 203-916-1664.

NEED HELP? JUST CALL US AT 203-916-1664. WE WILL GUIDE YOU THROUGH THE PROCESS.

Wine Cellar Design: A Definitive Guide for Connoisseurs

Wine cellar design combines the art and science of envisioning, designing, and creating the perfect wine cellar in which to store a collection of fine wines that will benefit from aging to create a sublime experience when opened and enjoyed.

Wine cellar designs are created for fine homes, restaurants, luxury inns, and even corporate settings, and can be created for rooms and spaces of many other types, from closets to entire basements.

The most important consideration is climate control that regulates temperature and humidity levels to ensure the quality of the wines being stored is not compromised. Old European wine cellars often benefitted from favorable natural conditions, but modern wine cellar designs rely on cutting-edge temperature and humidity control systems to produce the ideal conditions that allow fine wines to age gracefully, gaining intensity of flavor and value.

In addition to climate control, the key components of proper wine cellar design include aesthetics favorable to storing and displaying wine collections—ranging from traditional to modern designs—as well as proper lighting for enhancing the display, security measures to prevent intrusions and theft, and wine cellar design components that safeguard the cellar design and the collection from occurrences such as power outages, flooding, and severe storms, as well as making the collection and cellar design easier and more affordable to insure.

Our wine cellar design guide covers all of those issues in detail, while also providing interesting information about the benefits and lore of collecting fine wines and showcasing them in a beautifully-designed wine cellar.

Our Wine Cellar Design Guide Table of Contents

In this compact but definite guide to wine cellar design, we’ll cover the following topics:

  1. Wine cellar design history
  2. Key concerns that affect storing and aging fine wines
  3. Proper climate control systems for wine cellar designs
  4. Wine cellar safety and security issues
  5. Wine cellar design aesthetic flourishes
  6. Enjoying your collection of fine wines
  7. Wine tourism
  8. Wine and literature
  9. Conclusion: Tapping into wine cellar design expertise of Summit Wine Cellars

A Brief History of Wine Cellar Design

In 2017, according to a BBC story, pottery fragments discovered in the Republic of Georgia were determined to represent the earliest known evidence of the production of wine made from grapes. The fragments of earthenware jars that stored the wine are 8,000 years old, according to findings published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

“Previously, the earliest evidence of wine-making was from pottery dating from about 7,000 years ago found in north-western Iran,” the BBC story said, quoting Stephen Batiuk, a senior researcher at the University of Toronto: “We believe this is the oldest example of the domestication of a wild-growing Eurasian grapevine solely for the production of wine.”

In 2011, archaeologists reported finding the world’s earliest known wine-making facility in Armenia.

In 2013, researchers found the world’s oldest wine cellar in Tel Kabri, a Canaanite city of the Bronze Age—near the modern day Golan Heights in Israel—that was likely destroyed around 3,600 years ago, according to history.com.

In the 15-by-25-foot room researchers found 40 three-foot-tall pottery jugs that contained traces of syringic and tartartic acids, “both common ingredients in wine, as well as flavorings including mint, honey, cinnamon, myrtle and juniper berries,” history.com said, noting that researchers were impressed by both the size of Tel Kabri wine cellar design and the sophisticated winemaking technique.

Translating that wine cellar design into today’s standards, a PBS story on the discovery said it could accommodate 3,000 bottles.

“This is a hugely significant discovery — it’s a wine cellar that, to our knowledge, is unmatched in its age and size,” said Dr. Eric Cline of George Washington University said in the PBS story.

The world’s oldest wine barrel, dated 1472, was found in a 600-year-old wine cellar underneath the Hôpital civil in Strasbourg, according to “Atlas Obscura,” which says, “The wine cellar was built in 1395, when the French hospital was moved outside of the city gate. … Wine was often used for medical and religious purposes at that time, so having a wine cellar as part of a hospital was common, though not many remain today.” (“Atlas Obscura” says patients were given two liters of wine each day.)

Meanwhile, the world’s largest wine cellar design is the equivalent of an underground “city” in Moldova with miles of tunnels, or “streets,” where wine is stored. National Geographic touts it as a travel destination.

Issues Affecting the Storage of Wine

While wine cellar design may be the most prominent part of creating a dedicated space for your wine collection, the environment around your wine is an important part of the aging process, allowing wines to achieve rich, aged flavors or subtle degradations that add unique flavor notes and character over time.

The world’s ancient wine cellar designs took advantage of naturally cool and relatively humid locations to counteract the potentially harmful effects of the factors that affect the quality of wines.

When wine cellars moved beyond vineyards and wineries and into dedicated rooms within homes, inns and hotels, restaurants and other locations, wine cellar design had to adapt to address these potentially harmful factors:

  • Excessive heat
  • Overly dry conditions and lack of humidity
  • Direct sunlight or too much natural light
  • Vibrations
  • The way bottles are stored

In simple terms, high temperatures, especially over a long period of time can spoil wine. The ideal temperature in which to store wine is between 50 and 60 degrees Fahrenheit.

When the environment in which wine is stored is too dry, corks in wine bottles are at risk of drying out. This allows air to enter the available space at the top of wine bottles, which oxidizes the wine and causes it to spoil.

Direct sunlight and even too much artificial light can cause chemical reactions in wine that causes the flavors to change and become compromised.

Vibrations have been shown to speed up the aging of wine, as well as causing adverse chemical reactions.

The way wine is stored is critical. Racking must ensure that the wine is constantly in contact with the cork to help prevent it from drying out, which means that bottles of fine wine are stored horizontally in wine cellars. This necessity has created an opportunity in terms of wine cellar design—designers are inspired to move beyond traditional wooden racking systems that display a matrix of foil caps on bottle tops and design displays with elements like stone, metal and glass that often show off the labels of wines.a

Climate Control for Modern Wine Cellars

Historically wine was stored in atmospheric cave-like settings, at basement level or underground, at vineyards, wineries and by wine merchants in the storied wine regions of Europe. These places were naturally cool, dark, and damp, offering perfect conditions for keep corks moist and extending the life of fine wines.

When wine cellars became popular in homes and elsewhere, where the ambient conditions would be harmful if not mitigated, the climate control arm of wine cellar design was born and began immediately to innovate.

These days, wine cellars feature custom wine cellar cooling systems that are incorporated into a wine cellar design, or installed by HVAC contractors and residential builders who are creating wine rooms as part of their projects.

Wine cellar temperature and humidity control systems generally fall into three categories:

  1. Through-The-Wall
    2. Self-Contained Ducted
    3. Split-Systems

Through-the-wall systems are often the choice of do-it-yourselfers, and typically the most economical and easiest to install systems. They’re ideal for smaller wine cellars and those looking for the most economical option.

Self-contained systems are “Plug and Play” units that have become the standard for professionals due to high reliability and easy installation. They are also single but can be installed within 25 feet of the cellar and connected through ductwork.

When through the wall or self-contained systems aren’t ideal given the wine cellar design, a split system should suit the space. Split systems offer the most flexibility, with separate condensing units and air handlers, the option to add humidification and heaters, and the ability to configure with or without ducts.

Safety and Security in Wine Cellar Design

Proper climate control is only one aspect of ensuring safety and security for fine wines stored in wine cellars. Most other necessary elements address the conditions that might pose a threat to the wine—and the overarching thing that ties it all together is properly insuring both a wine collection and the wine cellar design.

That means the wine cellar design will ensure that wines are not exposed to harsh natural light, and that racking and design elements are crafted in a way to cushion the wines from any harmful vibrations. The rooms are parts of a structure containing a wine cellar might be fortified to withstand storms and natural disasters like a tornado or hurricane—and savvy wine cellar design will ensure wines are stored safely above the floor as a precaution in case of flooding, either natural or from a mishap in a home’s plumbing system.

Even with all of those measures, insuring the wine cellar design and the wine collection is necessary because home insurance policies don’t typically cover collections of wine,

Which can be damaged or destroyed by everything from the factors listed above to extended power outages to break-ins, and other types of theft—even though exacting wine cellar design includes locks and movement detectors.
A blanket wine insurance policy is generally recommended for collections whose bottles are valued at less than $1,000 each, and you can choose the blanket amount. Very rare and valuable bottles should be insured individually.

“Don’t forget about insuring the wine cellar itself,” Square One Insurance Services says on its website “If the racking or inventory systems are damaged, a specialty company may be able to provide coverage for this.” It’s a testament to wine cellar design being almost as valuable as the wines themselves.

Innovations and Style Flourishes in Wine Cellar Design

Wine cellar design has come a long way since the caves of ancient times. When the best wineries and vineyards for 2019 were announced many of the stunning properties honored fully embrace modern design in their wineries and cellars.

Zuccardi Valle de Uco, the top honoree, was described in a CNN story as “a Bond villain-style lair in the majestic mountains and valleys of South America.” It features a wine storage space with a massive full-circle metal storage system surrounding a circular concrete floor anchored by a sculpture garden composed of rocks and a boulder in the center.

Another award-winning winery was Clos Apalta in Chile, designed by Roberto Benavente Riquelme and Amercanda Office. It’s a six-level structure built of wood, glass and steel, including a wine library.

Traditional wine cellars, featuring primarily stone and wood are still popular, and contemporary wine cellar design doesn’t always push the limits. Wine cellar designs that blend traditional and modern elements are called “transitional.”

That might mean a cellar design with thick slabs of wood arranged vertically, and large stone slabs inserted horizontally into grooves routed in the wood, or slabs of wood placed vertically, with metal used to create X’s and bins for bottle storage and display.

There’s a growing trend of wine cellar design embracing very modern elements—concrete, metal, brushed metal, glass, and Plexiglas—to create minimal spaces that exude high style but still have a sense of warmth that emanates from the bottles and their rich and diverse label designs.

Wine cellar designers typically have these elements fabricated by expert craftsmen to the exacting standards of each wine cellar design. These bespoke components of each unique cellar are then shipped to each cellar location and assembled there.

The final aspect of expert wine cellar design is proper lighting, which is tailored to each project. In many cases, backlighting the wine can create a dramatic effect.”

Enjoying the Fruits of Your Wine Cellar Design

The topic of how to best assemble a collection of wine to showcase in a gorgeous wine cellar design is the most subjective part of the equation. The Wine Spectator sees four principal types of wine collections:

  • The Balanced Cellar involves a mixture of vintages, prices and drink windows;
  • the Instant-Gratification Cellar focuses exclusively on fine wines that are ready to drink right away;
  • the Tasting Cellar is constructed as a learning tool;
  • and the Investment Cellar focuses on profit potential.

An Instant-Gratification Cellar can’t be too large or there’s a risk of wines pushing past their optimal drinking window—and you have to constantly replenish the cellar with “drink now” new vintages and/or seek out older wines at their peak, which can get expensive. The Tasting Cellar and Investment Cellar both will potentially have wines that might not be your favorites; in one case you’re trying them in order to learn more, and in the other the wines are there because eventually they’ll have great value for a broker, private buyer, or buyer at auction.

Whatever type of cellar you want to assemble to enhance your wine cellar design Ben Wallace, the owner of the Cellaraiders, a fine and rare wine broker that sources and stocks older wines, offers these warnings:

  • Avoid buying wines you’ve never tried based on critics reviews. How do you know you will like the wine and now you just bought a case of it, and if you have bought age-worthy stuff, are you prepared to cellar something for 10 years until it becomes mature only to find out you don’t like the wine? He recommends buying an “off-vintage” example of a wine that’s ready to drink, and if you like that example, then proceed with buying the wine in volume from age worthy vintages.
  • Don’t buyonly the great vintages. So now all your wine needs 10-20 years of aging, what are you going to drink now, 3 years from now, 5 years from now? Stage your cellar by buying wines for different drinking windows.

In terms of learning about great wines to enhance the wine cellar design, Wallace has these recommendations:

  • Go to wine tastings. Try everything, Rhone, Barolo, Petit Syrah, Mouvedere, see what floats your boat. If you can afford it, go to small sit-down tastings where for $200-$1000 you can try $1000-$10,000 worth of wine (if you bought a bottle of each, that is what it would cost you to try all the wines poured.) On this score, wait until your palate is good enough to discern nuances of complex wine.
  • Forget the bulls***—and other words. Yes, wine can smell like a “barnyard” and a “wet saddle blanket,” or like cedar and anise, but really are you going to buy on the basis of this?

Perhaps the best advice that covers everything above is to connect with a trusted wine broker or wine shop, and work with them in trying new wines and establishing a buying profile.

You’re not done yet. Every time you head to the basement—or wherever—to admire that wine cellar design and all the pretty labels basking in flattering light, with happy, moist corks and safe and sound even if a tornado is forecast, you have to decide what to drink.

Cheers from wine cellar design authority Fred Tregaskis and the Summit Wine Cellars team!

Wine Tourism: Famous Estates, Caves and Underwater Wine Cellars

Wineries have always embodied the finest architecture and design, which extends to the winemaking facilities and the wine cellars. The conviviality created of the wine trade, and the tradition of wine estates welcoming visitors, evolved over time into a thriving wine tourism industry.

Experiences range from traditional tours, tastings and sales to overnight stays and dining at on-site restaurants, to cooking classes, and much more.

A Travel Channel feature on the 10 Craziest Wine Cellars and Wineries Around the World describes swimming, bocce, live performances at a performing arts pavilion, and an Annual Harvest and Halloween Carnival at Francis Ford Coppola Winery in Geyserville, California, as well as exclusive tours and lodging at Château Pape Clément near Bordeaux and other premier wine estates.

A $20,000 VIP package at Castello di Amorosa in St. Helena, California, features a “private chef, photographer, a barrel of Cabernet Sauvignon, limo transport, and a key to the castle.”

Meanwhile, the entire hamlet of Livernano in Tuscany can be rented for weddings, parties, and other events.

Visiting wine cellars to admire stunning design and technical marvels—from traditional architecture to high-tech modern caves and everything in between—is always an integral part of the wine tourism experience.

A CNN piece on 10 of the world’s most unusual wineries may well describe the most unique wine cellar in the world, located in Croatia.

“Edivo Viva winery is located underwater, off the coast of Drače on the Pelješac Peninsula,” the story says, explaining, “Its wines—stored in tightly-corked amphorae—are aged for one to two years in a sunken boat that acts as an underwater cellar.” The ocean’s temperatures and serenity are said to improve the quality of the wine.

Viking River Cruises, a travel venture familiar to fans of Masterpiece on PBS, offers Châteaux, Rivers & Wine, an eight-day excursion with seven guided tours highlighting Bordeaux’s vineyards and cellars, and including truffle hunting, blending Cognac, and tasting Saint-Émilion, Médoc and Sauternes “in their own “terroir.’”

Wine and Literature

Ernest Hemingway famously returned to his beloved Paris in 1944 and helped French resistance forces “liberate” the wine cellar at the Ritz.

Wine and literature go hand-in-hand. Writers famously appreciate wine, and books are filled with references to wine.

Wine Enthusiast chronicles references to wine in literature, and the Quarterly Review of Wine provides some fun by offering a literary and oenology IQ quiz.

Fortunato’s “connoisseurship in wine” in Edgar Allen Poe’s “The Cask of Amontillado” may be the most famous—and ominous—incorporation of wine (and an ad hoc “wine cellar”) into a work of literature.

Robert Louis Stevenson said “wine is bottled poetry,” and wine is a recurring theme in some of the world’s best poetry.

This literary appreciation of wine has another aspect: books about wine, grape varieties, wine regions of the world, the ranking of vintages, and glossy photo books chronicling the most beautiful wineries and wine cellar designs.

Eric Asimov writes a column for The New York Times every year on the best books about wine, and examples of other must-read lists can be found at The Daily Beast, New York Magazine, and many other sources.

NEED HELP? JUST CALL US AT 203-916-1664. WE WILL GUIDE YOU THROUGH THE PROCESS.

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