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Savour the experience of a wine room

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The wine cellar evolves to a personalized place, worthy of inviting family and friends in to sample the collection.

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A wine room or wine cellar isn’t for every home or homeowner. But for those people who value rare vintages, beautiful bottle art and stylish storage solutions, a wine cellar or wine room is a safe and cool space to store and display a prized collection.

“A wine room or cellar can add value and helps elevate a particular area of the home,” says Eelco Kleinleugenmors, managing director of product and design at Calbridge Homes in Calgary.

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“It’s really depends on the lifestyle of the homeowners and what they value. We’re all about creating and building something special for all our home owners, whatever they are needing.”

In past years, wine collections were typically tucked away in cellars created from unused basement space.

Not these days. While traditional basement wine cellars are still popular for many, builders are also seeing a move toward wine rooms and feature displays on main levels and even second floors of new homes.

Kleinleugenmors often has clients request to have wine rooms and coolers incorporated into kitchens and butler’s pantries, and he’s getting more and more clients who want wet bars and wine fridges installed into upper-storey living areas, too.

Calbridge and other builders are still seeing a trend toward dedicated tasting areas — a table or bar, a few chairs — built into or next to a homeowner’s cellar, so they can open bottles and taste in the midst of their collection.

It’s about comfort and ease of access, placing the wine room or feature near where a homeowner typically spends their time.

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Small wine features that display just a few bottles in, say, a kitchen or dining area, are also popular. This storage style is not typically temperature- or humidity-controlled, but it lets owners show off a handful of spectacular bottles — special vintages, rare purchases and beautiful labels — similar to a piece of fine art.

This style is popular in cellars and wine rooms, too, not just dining areas, notes Patrick O’Brien, owner and operator of Wine Cellars Plus in Calgary.

Since 2004, O’Brien has worked on and supplied wine racks to residential and commercial cellars and wine rooms across North America. He says this newer style is especially popular because it can be adjusted to highlight favourite bottles in a collection. Standard 750 mL bottles are the norm, but he also offers racking solutions (and custom lighting, too), designed to show off outstanding spirits and large-format bottles such as magnums.

“Nowadays a lot of people are looking for racking that showcases their labels, versus more traditional cellars where you slide your bottles in and only show the cork,” O’Brien says.

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While classic old-world finishes such as distressed wood, stone and chandelier lighting are still popular, builders are seeing many requests for sleek, contemporary finishes: black powder-coated metal, brushed stainless steel, brushed nickle, white oak.

A custom-built wine display or room isn’t just about beauty, however. It is about protecting your investment, too. Serious oenophiles can own collections worth thousands of dollars, and security, humidity, temperature and lighting all must be considered. Your builder will typically work with electrical and HVAC teams to ensure the finer details aren’t forgotten.

“We can create a specialty room that is fully insulated and temperature controlled, with LED lighting that doesn’t add heat to the space,” Kleinleugenmors says.

“We work closely with our cabinet suppliers and trades to really fine-tune the detailing.”

Christopher York, president and owner of Riverview Custom Homes in Calgary, has built wine cellars and rooms to hold as few as 100 bottles and as many as 2,500 and more.

“We tailor our work to the needs of each individual client,” York says. “The cellar can be functional, architectural or both. It becomes part of the identity of the home.”

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Really, it’s about ensuring that each wine lover gets what works best for their space, budget and taste.

“There are so many avenues that we can go down these days when we talk about displaying and storing wine bottles,” Kleinleugenmors says.

“We want homeowners to be excited and live in their home exactly the way they envisioned during the design process.”

Starting to plan

If you’re thinking about creating a wine room or cellar, here are a few tips from Peggy Perry, the Calgary-based owner of Vinfluence, a wine excursion and consulting service and the chair of the Calgary Stampede’s wine competition.

• Build a collection slowly. If you like a wine, buy extra bottles and then set them aside to age. “Buy more than you drink,” she says. “Establish a regular purchase pattern, putting your favourite wines aside.”

• Excessive UV light and heat will damage wine. Avoid racks that sit on top of your fridge or kitchen counter. Your wines will be exposed to too much heat and light, which will quickly and negatively affect quality and taste.

• Keep bottles away from fireplaces and heated concrete flooring, too. The ideal temperature for long-term wine storage is around 13 C.

• Bottles with corks need to be stored on their sides, so the wine can keep the cork from drying out. Screw-cap bottles can be stored upright.

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