Dining SEEN Feature Food + Drink

Wines In the Cellar

June 25, 2015

Age your collection in style.

By Susan Kehoe, Ph.D.

Wine cellars are no longer the dark, dank, musty cave-like spaces that word conjures up. Now they are state-of-the-art, temperature-controlled rooms that are part of the house.

Nidal M. Daher, a certified sommelier and president of Unique Wine Cellars in Bloomfield Hills
(uniquewinecellars.com), designs modern-day wine cellars and can recommend the wines to fill them.

Daher recently designed and installed a contemporary wine cellar that’s unlike anything imaginable in a private home. Metal racks mounted on wavy drywall are backlit with floor to ceiling multicolored LED lights.

To achieve a “floating look,” the racks stop above the floor, which is covered with loose black stone beneath the racks. The owners can view their wine collection through thermo-pane glass from the adjoining recreation room, instead of having it tucked away. If Vegas had a wine bar, this is how it would look.

Daher explains that designing a wine cellar is the art of “presenting your uncommon wines in a not-so-common way.”

He adds, “With so many people collecting fine wines, the investment must be protected, like art or any valuable collection.”

As the prices for fine wines have soared, the technology for wine cellar storage has made enormous advancements. To preserve optimal taste and quality for years, both red and white wine must be stored at a constant temperature of 55 degrees. The relative humidity cannot be less than 50 percent or greater than 80 percent, ideally ranging between 65 to 70 percent.

“Humidity is as important as temperature because of the osmosis effect that causes liquid to seep out when it hits a lower humidity,” Daher adds. “The fill of the bottle’s neck should not lose more than ¼ inch when stored for 20 years.”

Cooling systems installed in the home guarantee these requirements are met. Other requirements include complete insulation of walls, ceilings and floors to create a vapor barrier. Carpets are forbidden in wine cellars because they attract and hide mildew, the enemy of fine wine. Recommended materials for wine cellar floors include stone, slate and marble.

Wine cellars can be incorporated anywhere. When one homeowner’s child left for college, the parents converted his bedroom into a wine cellar. The stunning room is built from mahogany, and temperature controls protect the precious cargo. Imagine returning home from college and opening your bedroom door to find that treasure chest.

Older wine cellars can also be brought into the high-tech world. Daher recalls converting an existing wine cellar in an old French country home, without losing its provincial charm.

In the original cellar, round clay “pigeonholes” for bottle storage were cemented into brick arches. He removed the clay and cleaned the brick, revealing a hidden room behind. Now the graceful arches provide a focal point for an enchanting room that’s ideal for wine-tasting parties.

While wine cellars can be retrofitted into any home, Daher cautions, “It’s more costly to add a wine cellar to an existing home because you might have to take down a wall to build in the proper mechanicals.”

Daher works with architects and builders to provide a turnkey operation, particularly in high-end homes. During construction, many homeowners prep an area for a future wine cellar.

Some homeowners display fine art within their wine cellar. Daher shared a picture of a cellar he constructed with lighted niches for the owners’ art. The cellar, built with unstained heart redwood, is exposed to the adjoining dining area through double-paned glass. It provides an opportunity for the owners to exhibit both their art and wine collections — and provokes stimulating conversation during a dinner party, no doubt.

Cellars that hold several hundred bottles of wine can cost from a few thousand dollars all the way to hundreds of thousands, depending on the owner’s aesthetic preferences.

“A good wine cellar can be built for $20,000 to $30,000,” Daher says. “The average wine cellar has a capacity for 800 bottles of wine, but there are cellars with much more or much less.”

Daher doesn’t see the interest in wine slowing because “the fastest-growing segment of wine drinkers is age 22-44, so wine is not a passing fad.”  NS

Unique Wine Cellars
Nidal M. Daher
(248) 852-8800

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