What makes a great Sedona wine cellar? We’ll raise a glass in praise of passion and personality – two traits common to the five very different rooms profiled here. Cellars (we’ll use the term even though only one of these is underground) all must keep wine at the right temperature and humidity; beyond that, the aesthetic style is up to the individual. Most of these five teamed with designers and architects to get the results they envisioned; the joy for life they bring to the table, expressed in their personal style and love for a fine Cabernet, Zinfandel or Bordeaux, is their own.
“The house was built around the wine cellar,” says Doug Napp with a laugh. “It was the most important thing!” It was his idea to house his collection – about 1,800 bottles – behind a glass wall facing his dining room. “It’s not huge [90 sq. ft.],” he says, but looms large via the “ambiance it gives us when sharing a meal.” Doug, a CPA, left the details to the pros. “I have 10 thumbs,” he jokes. “I know numbers.” Which comes in handy as he eyes his collection. “My kids tease, ‘Keep buying because we’re going to get [the collection],’ and I say, ‘Over my dead body! I’m drinking it all!’ You’ll want wine you can let age, and be here to enjoy it. At some stage I think I’ll have to stop buying,” he chuckles, “because I’ve done the math.”
State of the Art
Larry Decker has about 2,000 bottles in his wine cellar, although “without the art, the capacity would probably be about 10,000.” But that would only be half the fun – having a gallery in the 30′ x 15′ room “combines two passions,” Larry says. “This was not even a room when we bought the house. We had people come in with sledgehammers and jackhammers and wheelbarrows to dig this out from the rock.” It took about three months to build, and needs two coolers to maintain temperature, but the setting has an extraordinary charm, a soothing setting for socializing. “We have tastings down there, serve appetizers or aperitifs,” Larry says. “People may not like to be at 57 degrees, so that’s a bit of a downside.” Then again, “all those bodies heat things up; the coolers have to work extra hard.”
When Ike and Carol McDonald began thinking about their new house in Sedona, a built-in wine closet wasn’t in their plans. “I began buying wines when we were living in California, but I never had a place to keep it cool,” Ike recalls. “I used the garage, which really is not good. My first thought here was to buy a wine cabinet, but when I mentioned it to our architect at the Design Group, he just designed it into the house. It looks nicer, and it’s quieter, because he put the air-conditioning unit on the roof.” Another plus was the ability to add stained-glass doors with an eco-friendly theme, which the McDonalds love. The unit holds about 270 bottles, and gives Ike options unimaginable in his old carport. “I can control the temperature,” he exults. “They say 58 degrees but I keep it at 55-56 – I think that’s roughly what it was in the natural wine cellars in Europe.”
Keith Schall’s background is in academia, so naturally when he began planning his Sedona wine cellar, he did his homework. “There’s a book called How and Why To Build a Wine Cellar; I practically memorized that one before we moved here.” While he happily left it to the pros to construct the insulated, sound-deadened room when the house was built, “I was able to make sure everything was right.” He put a personal stamp on the room by doing his own cabinet work (plywood and pine), and accenting it with end pieces from wooden wine cartons. But what makes him happiest? Location, location, location. “We wanted it on the main level – near the garage because we would be bringing cases in and out, and near the kitchen because that’s the first place one goes with a bottle,” he says. “So they put it right in the middle of the house.”
“Some wine cellars are really nice with all the cedar, you know, they smell great, but they’re so uniform,” laments Jeff Graham. “It’s nice when they have molded corners and all that. But if you can, I think it should reflect upon you and your lifestyle and who you are.” Mission accomplished; Jeff’s eclectic wine cellar, a marvel of shapes, could never be called cookie-cutter. “This was a small [12′ x 12′] breakfast patio we enclosed. My roommate at the time was a carpenter. It was my direction, but he built the frames and I did the artwork of arranging the tubes in a pattern. They are ceramic, and hold cool. So I told my roommate, ‘Go to the hardware store and bring me one of every kind they make.’ And that’s why we have the different shapes; people love to have their picture taken in there.”
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