Remember the days when wine was as tightly locked up as an ax murderer at an insane asylum?
In baronial homes and upscale restaurants, the wine cellar was a double-locked vault in the bowels of the building where dusty bottles resided in dark solitude. It seemed almost cruel – what had those poor grapes done wrong?
But lately, the wine cellar has gone public, even a little bling-y. Designers are freeing those cooped-up bottles to be displayed in dining rooms, foyers and other highly visible places – glass-fronted, backlit and proud.
“About 90 percent of the cellars I design are a focal point; most of them are for viewing,” says Jerry Wilson, founder and owner of Coastal Custom Wine Cellars in San Juan Capistrano. “Most people like to show wine off as well as drink it.”
If you follow food trends, then it’s easy to see the accessible wine room as part of the modern gastronomic movement. Wine and food should be enjoyed together in synergy. Keeping the wine close to the kitchen and dining room, in full view, is an excellent choice.
“People are obviously very passionate about the food they make, the sight, the smell, etc., so it only makes sense that they want to hang out in the kitchen,” says Joseph Kline, co-owner of Joseph & Curtis Custom Wine Cellars, one of the largest and most successful wine cellar builders in the country. “The same thing goes for the wine cellar. People want to be around the wines they love.”
The showcase wine area started in the restaurant industry. One of pioneers of highly public wine displays was Charlie Palmer’s Aureole at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas, which opened in 1999. Conceived by restaurant designer Adam Tihany, Aureole’s visual trademark is a glass-enclosed, four-story wine tower that dominates the restaurant. Its 3,200 bottles are retrieved by “wine angels,” black-clad young women who glide up and down on harnesses in full view of diners, going from bottom to top in 10 seconds. (Aureole says only 10 bottles have been broken since the restaurant opened.)
OK, so no matter how hard you try your home wine display will be less impressive than Aureole’s. But it’s still a good investment.
Realtytimes.com says a handsome and prominent wine room helps sell a house and adds grace and sophistication. “They’re a great conversation starter and the centerpiece of a room,” says Orange County architect Christopher Brandon, who has noticed a sharp increase in the demand for home wine displays. “People are naturally drawn to them.”
That’s why if I had a showy glass wine display in my home, I’d keep one Old School feature: a big, heavy lock. I’ll happily share my wine – but I won’t give it away.