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Cellars market: Home wine storage makes its move

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Real Estate,Susan Wittman

Home wine storage is moving out of the cellar and into the closet -- or any other small niche open on a home's main level.

While large basement cellars remain popular, smaller versions are debuting on higher floors as stunning furniture. Some installations can also be found tucked into closets, lofts and dining room nooks, and even under stairs.

"You can absolutely put a cellar anywhere you want," said Lisa Weiss, whose McLean-based Wine Cellar Co. has seen a surge in requests for wine cabinets, dining room-niche cellars and "closet" cellars from 3-by-5 feet to 5-by-6 feet.

Resources
Wine Cellar Co.: winecellarcompany.com
Caves a Vin: cavesavin-winecellars.com
Vinotheque: vinotheque.com

"It's a great use of small space, gives you a decent bottle count and looks beautiful," she said. "But the smaller and quirkier the space, the higher the cost per bottle."

The costs can add up pretty quickly considering all the elements in a construction project: demolition, framing, insulation, climate and humidity control, electric, plumbing and racking.

"To climatize a room, you're talking five figures just to cool it," said Gene Clouse, owner of Caves a Vin in Northern Virginia. Adapting a smaller space for wine storage may not be as cost-effective, he said, because the cooling system cannibalizes the space. A small space can hold 200 to 300 bottles, at best.

But neither cost nor design challenges have quenched wine lovers' thirst for innovative cellar design and inventive space solutions.

"It's a matter of building the space creatively and using the right cooling unit," Weiss said. Smaller cellars are more expensive but offer several advantages, including adding value to a house. "You can also start small and grow your cellar," she added.

Though Weiss specializes in cellars, she also sells wine cabinets by California manufacturer Vinotheque. Most are appliances that plug into a standard wall outlet. A cabinet is cost-effective and mobile, Weiss said, but don't increase a home's value like closet cellars.

Large cellars offer more lifestyle advantages, such as generous bottle storage and space for entertaining. "Wine culture is part of collectors' daily lives, the way they socialize, entertain, party and meet new clients," Weiss said. "So wine drinkers and collectors must find the scenario that works best for them."

No matter what size the cellar, Clouse recommended planning it concurrently with other remodeling projects and getting the architect engaged early to simplify design and construction phases.

An all-the-bells-and-whistles cellar that stores 1,000 to 3,000 bottles may exceed $100,000. An average-size cellar from 6-by-6 feet to 8-by-8 feet stores 1,000 bottles and costs $30,000 to $60,000.

A closet cellar, so-called for its size, holds 300 to 700 bottles and costs $15,000 to more than $100,000, depending on options. Wine cabinets hold 200 to 400 bottles and cost $3,000 to $20,000-plus. Stairwell storage holds 250 bottles and starts at $10,000.

At the early stages of a collector's odyssey, with a cache of 100 to 200 bottles, "a wine refrigerator or attractive hardwood wine cabinet is the way to go," Clouse said. "When you reach 1,000 bottles, then you're ready to build a whole room."

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