Captivating Cellars

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Captivating Wine Cellars

When crafting the ideal place to store your wine collection, include all of the essential elements—but don’t count out innovation and artistry.

By Ashley Ryan


While wine is celebrated all over the world, both for special occasions and in casual settings, residential wine cellars are still somewhat of a rarity—which may be due to how many elements designers must take into consideration when creating one of these spaces.

One thing people may not realize is that a wine cellar can be as big or as small as you want it to be. “It can be anywhere you choose, whether it’s a closet or a bedroom or a basement,” says Richard Von Saal, owner of and principal artist for Napa Valley-based Vonsaal Design Build.

Von Saal collaborated with Newport Beach residents and Riverain Vineyards co-owners Dean and Laurie Gray in 2015 to produce a Napa-inspired room that holds around 900 bottles of wine, nestled between the home’s entryway and kitchen. The highlight of the couple’s cellar is an oversized slice of a 100-year-old redwood tree from Northern California, bringing Dean and Laurie’s passion for wine together with their love for Napa Valley. The racks, too, are sourced from the area, made with Douglas fir taken from an old winery that was shut down or remodeled. Notably, the materials used in a wine cellar are limited only by the imagination.

“There’s no usual,” Von Saal notes. “Wood—all different types of wood—[as well as] … metal, acrylic, aluminum or steel. … Dean’s [cellar] was going to be a showpiece. You walk in and there it is, in the entry, so I had to make it a showstopper.”

While there are many different materials that can be incorporated into an at-home wine cellar, Newport Beach resident Robin Strickler, who has also designed wine cellars in town as owner of Irvine-based Design Works, says that size is always the most important factor. “Typically, when we design a wine cellar, we start with the bottle count of our client and discuss the type of racking that would work best in the space available,” she explains. “… Each wine cellar is very personal to the client’s collection, space and [the] specific design they are going for.”

But it’s all for naught if you can’t determine where each varietal has been placed. Von Saal and Strickler agree that leaving the labels visible is a pivotal part of the design process. “We use horizontal racking … to display the labels,” Strickler says, adding that this technique often maximizes the number of bottles that can fit in the space, as well.

On a similar note, proper lighting is also key to creating a successful cellar, according to Von Saal. He recommends using directional lighting to highlight the labels, but accent lighting elsewhere in the cellar. Strickler adds that it’s important to avoid having sunlight, fluorescent fixtures or UV light seeping into the room.

Lastly, those designing wine cellars in their homes will want to monitor the temperature of the room, keeping it somewhere between 54 and 56 degrees Fahrenheit. Strickler says she often installs a Vinotemp cooling system for her clients, but Von Saal notes that proper insulation and airtight weatherstripping on the doors can work just as well.

While there are many rules you must follow to craft the perfect cellar, there is also a lot of freedom involved. “Don’t be afraid to be creative,” Von Saal says. “There are no cookie cutters for wine cellars. Let your mind flow—and let [the wine] flow into your glass.”

Wine Wonders

Whether you’re looking for the best tools to serve pinot noir when friends visit or glasses to put sauvignon blanc in, these products will help you make the most of your vino experiences.

Williams Sonoma chilling wands

This set of two WINE CHILLING WANDS speeds up the cooling process—simply place the stainless steel gadgets in the freezer for a few hours then slip them in your cup for a perfectly chilled glass of vino, $39.95, at Williams Sonoma, Newport Coast. (949-464-2168;


Orange Coast Winery

Sample varietals from one of the region’s only wineries with an Orange Coast Winery MEMBERSHIP, which offers a complimentary wine flight each month at the Newport Beach-based tasting room as well as wine credits toward bottle purchases with select memberships, from $29 per month, at Orange Coast Winery. (949-645-0400;


Wine Barrel Serving Tray

Crafted from recycled wine barrels, the locally made WINE BARREL HEAD SERVING TRAY OR CUTTING BOARD can be used in the kitchen or to deliver wine, charcuterie and more while entertaining guests, $79, with advance order at The Winey Guys, Costa Mesa. (949-355-7793;

What to Drink with What You Eat

Learn precisely which varietals to pair with your next meal thanks to Andrew Dornenburg and Karen Page’s book “WHAT TO DRINK WITH WHAT YOU EAT,” a guide that details which wines to serve at different times of day and with various types of food, $35, at LCA Wine, Costa Mesa. (657-232-0920; Stemware wine glassesThe OLYMPIA STEMWARE wine glasses, exclusive to Z Gallerie, are available in sets of four, with each collection uniquely shaped for either Champagne, red or white wine (pictured), available in silver or gold, $59.80, at Z Gallerie, Fashion Island. (949-640-2916;

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