Customized Wine Racks for the Home Wine Cellar
The fun part of this business is seeing the faces of clients as they enter their finished wine cellars for the first time. At that moment, all the work, sweat and tears is suddenly worth it. No one is ever prepared for how good it looks. And as I counsel them, it will only look better over time, as the cellar fills with wines from around the world, decorations, paintings, and other tchotkes. The cellar takes on a reflection of the owner’s individual personality and remains a constant source of pleasure as owners share the cellar experience with friends and family. Life is good!
Customized racking is offered in several finish levels and types. (1) Standard classic racking is by far the most popular because it offers great flexibility in form and function. The majority of the cellars you will visit are comprised of classic racking customized to the dimensions and to the layout of the room. Below are a couple of photos of classic racking.
Un-chilled cellar in Hinsdale, Illinois, with individual bottle, case storage and solid diamond racking. The wine cooler in the back is for the really good stuff.
Chilled cellar in Homer Glen, Illinois featuring individual bottle storage, display angle and a picture opening with an arch fascia.
(2) Another approach to custom wine racking uses metal racking. Bottles are arranged according to sizes and custom-placed racks hold up to three bottles in each holder. These racks impart a modern feel to any cellar and are used extensively in high-rise, wine cellars in Chicago. Metal racking can also be used with classic, wooden racking. (Typically, metal racking incorporated into a primarily wood-rack cellar would be used as a focal point within a picture opening to provide a high-visibility spot to feature a grouping of very fine wine.)
180 North Residences, Chicago, Illinois
(3) The designation of millwork racking offers the greatest level of fit and finish available to the wine aficionado. The wood choices and finishes available range from unfinished all-heart redwood to the finest birds-eye maple finished with seven, hand-buffed coats of lacquer. Millwork racking is not for the faint of heart. Material cost may be three to five times that of a typical classic-racking design. But for those who demand the very best, nothing beats a full millwork cellar in a deep walnut or rift-sawn white oak.
Note: For those of you considering millwork be aware that not every millwork company thinks wine racking. Many kitchen and bath companies offer what they call wine racking. While it may be millwork in fit and finish, their racks usually flunk the function and form test. Most kitchen and bath companies settle for a cabinet filled with diamond bins, top to bottom. While diamond bins have their place in wine storage and are easy to make from a millwork standpoint, they are not the best storage solution for most wine collectors. Take my advice. Let the kitchen and bath people do the kitchen and bath. Let the wine racking companies do the cellar.
Below is a photo of a hybrid project featuring both millwork and classic racking. Given the mix of woods and function, the client was able to afford the very best, sacrificing nothing.
Wayne, Illinois wine cellar featuring both classic and millwork racking using complementary woods and finishes.
A Word of Caution about the storage shown above: There was a builder in the Western suburbs who loved using clay tiles for wine storage. (They are normally terra cotta in color.) The cellars he constructed certainly were beautiful and had that ‘old world’ look and feel. A couple of years ago a true, wine collector bought a spec house with a clay tile cellar. Less than a week after moving into the home, the buyer/collector called the builder demanding that he remove these damned tiles and install some real wine racks. It seems the collector ripped the labels of several bottles of an irreplaceable vintage. Whether it was inserting the bottles or removing them, the rough edges of the tiles destroyed any and all paper they touched. The cellar was simply impossible to use.