Hinsdale Cellars

Search for Wine:

Receive newsletter


The Essential Digest by the Editors of HinsdaleCellars.com 

A Hinsdale Cellars Exclusive:
Designing Custom Wine Cellars

By Marc Lazar
Cellar Advisors

December 2006

This installment of Vintelligence focuses on designing unrivaled custom wine cellars.  In the final weeks of every year, media outlets present numerous top 10 lists of some sort.  The wine world is no different, but finding a cadre of wine writers to agree on the best wines is never easy.  Anointing any wine as the “best” is extremely subjective and ultimately depend on your preferences.  Here we will focus on elements of design and automation to make your wine cellar the ultimate showplace. We will share some of the most outrageous features we have seen implemented by other collectors around the country as well as cutting edge products just entering the market. 

Many of the most striking features of custom wine cellars are structural elements.  As wine cellars become more of a congregation and conversation point in upscale homes, architects have been challenged to integrate custom cellar design with the overall home.  Racking is the first domain of evolution.  Avant garde cellars are increasingly moving away from traditional redwood racking and into elaborate fabrications of glass and metal.  VintageView racking, in which bottles are displayed with labels visible have taken off as collectors strive to highlight their collection, not the structure holding it.  Likewise, the striking vertical Lucite cellar at Aureole Restaurant in Las Vegas has inspired some stunning all glass cellars, in which bottles are stored in cubes of varying sizes, supported by a hidden metal framework.  Taking the transparent school a step further have been collectors installing glass floors above the cellar so guests in a living or dining area on the main floor of the home can see into the wine cellar below.  To connect two such spaces, consider a staircase leading directly into the cellar. 

Recently, the most elaborate layout for custom wine cellars we have seen involved three rooms, arranged in a circular configuration around a central lounge.  One pod is designated for white wines, another for reds, and champagnes are stored in the third zone. For the champagnes, speciality racks accommodate the odd bottle shape, and cooling is kept at at a frosty 45 degrees F.

In keeping with such an advanced layout, the cooling systems for each zone are discrete and redundant.  Should cooling fail in one of the areas, dampers were installed to “share” cooled air and prevent any temperature fluctuation.  Nearly as exciting as the “cellar in the round” was a custom display crypt installed in a Napa Valley estate.  This particular wine cellar was laid out in a traditional rectangular format, albeit quite large.  In the center of the floor, a sunken crypt was installed and custom cradles made to highlight large format treasures from the collection.  Tom Warner, the leading guru for bespoke cellars, has done a similar cradle design for other clients and fashioned custom bases for each bottle such that the display can be rotated for parties or tastings.  Need to highlight your 9L Bordeaux?  No problem – just swap out the Burgundy 3L cradles and drop in the Bordeaux…voila, an extreme cellar makeover.

Beyond striking structural features, serious collectors are adopting home automation technologies at a rapid clip.  A very exciting new product, called CellarSensor is being unveiled January 1.  Currently in final product testing, this tool is a web-based temperature and humidity monitor that can be installed anywhere in wine cellars, new or pre-existing.  Data is transmitted to a base station connected to your home internet and can send alerts via phone or email whenever conditions deviate from custom preset parameters.  In years to come, this product will revolutionize the consignment of wine as well, since it logs historical temperature data.  Imagine sending your wine to auction along with a complete print out of cellar conditions since you first purchased the case.

The wired home has invaded custom wine cellars on many fronts. Collectors have begun upgrading the usual staid wine room art with plasma screens displaying vineyards, wine personalities and historic domaines.  And of course, once a huge display is installed in your cellar, there is no excuse for anything less than completely automated inventory management. CellarTracker, the leading software solution for wine cellar management is particularly well designed for this type of display.  Cellar contents can be sorted, displayed and cataloged by a myriad of reports and many of the nearly 3 million bottles in the database include label photos and exhaustive tasting notes.  CellarTracker data can be retrieved from any PC with a web connection, but the smart home goes a step further.  Using touch screen web tablets, home theater companies are now able to combine Crestron or AMX integration controls with wine cellar data.  Imagine using the wall mounted or wireless touch panel in your kitchen to pick a bottle to go with dinner while also controlling audio, video, lighting and security!

Currently, state of the art inventory management depends largely on barcode technology to scan consumed bottles. While this makes removing a bottle from your cellar like a trip to your local grocery store, the next generation of inventory controls are on the horizon.  Now in use by large retailers, warehouses and shipping companies, radio frequency tags or RFID, will soon come to home wine cellars as well.  As the prices drop, we will be able to tag single bottles or cases and RFID sensors will detect when the bottle is removed from the cellar.  Within the cellar, these sensors can also update exact location in real time.  When you move a case around, the data will follow!

When custom wine cellars are as elaborate as those discussed, security is always a concern.  While not ubiquitous yet, several gadget obsessed oenophiles have installed biometric fingerprint scanners to control access to the cellar.  One collector is rumored to have installed multiple doors and scanners so that family members can only access the portions of the cellar to which they have authorization.  Likewise, a home in the Bahamas has been outfitted with magnetic locks on the owner’s three wine cellars.  Since he often loans the house to friends and business colleagues, he can lock and unlock the cellar remotely from anywhere. 

When conceptualizing the ultimate cellar, creativity is the only limiting factor.  As collectors are increasingly discovering, wine storage is just the tip of the iceberg for custom wine cellar design.  Integrating wine into your lifestyle has never been easier, and we hope the above products and ideas will be helpful in your quest to outfit the ultimate cellar.


Thomas Warner Wine Cellar Company
The absolute best custom cellar racking company, unmatched craftsmanship

The ultimate management utility for custom wine cellars. Three million bottles managed and 23,000 users.

Web based temperature and humidity monitoring

Signature Audio + Video
Contact Allan Stevens for outrageous home theater and automation installations

VintageView Display Racking
Commercial wine racks and residential wine racks using the unique label-forward design


Vintelligence on Demand

 Ben Glaetzer
Jeffrey Fink
 Doug Shafer
Marc Lazar

The Essential Digest