Oenophiles’ Delight

Personal wine spaces bring the restaurant home

While some homeowners came to the realization during quarantine that they wished they had built that dream pool, extensive terrace overlooking the sea or media room, others sought to celebrate their love of riesling, pinot noir, and cabernet by commissioning stylish spaces for bottle storage.

“We’re getting that a lot. We’re really busy,” says Jacob Duquette, founder of Wine Cellar International in Fort Lauderdale. “What we’ve found is that people who previously had the view of ‘Someday a wine room would be cool’ are now dipping their toes in the water. With a lot of people working from home, they feel that they can really be part of the oversight of the project.” And because people aren’t really dining out much these days, they’re even more apt to import the restaurant experience. Duquette says he’s getting at least twice as many inquiries as he did before the pandemic. “I can’t say it’s all COVID-driven, but it certainly has had a multiplier effect.”

Given that Florida homes don’t have basements, Duquette acknowledges that the term “wine cellar” is a bit of a misnomer—it’s more a state of mind. What is undeniably tangible is that his company is designing and constructing more residential wine rooms, wine walls and glittering wine displays than ever. For a home in Fort Lauderdale built by Sarkela Corp. according to a new owner’s specifications, Wine Cellar International installed custom millwork, steel racks and a custom-made library ladder for a sparkling wine room. Tucked behind the glass wall of a dining room and set against an earth-toned design palette, the wine space is a showstopper.

And for one $15 million spec house in Jupiter (the builder was Turtle Beach Construction), Duquette’s firm positioned an unusual, steeply pitched wine room beneath a walnut staircase. Inside the glassed-in space, Duquette used anodized aluminum pegs for label-forward storage. If you think that an asymmetric wine vault is an eccentric amenity for a spec home—developers are thought to play things safe—think again. “Realtors tell me that their high net-worth clients in Miami Beach and Palm Beach walk into a home and ask, ‘Where’s the wine room?’ not “Is there a wine room?’”

Miami-based interior designer Michael Wolk has also noted the wine display trend. As respected for his furniture as for his acclaimed work for hospitality, corporate and residential clients, this visionary cut his design teeth executing the Joko Recording Studio for John Lennon and Yoko Ono—as a young design student. “Listen, consider and execute” are the words that form his professional mantra.

And listen he has done. Wolk says that state-of-the-art wine storage areas, display cases for vintages, and imbibing rooms reigned as top requested design projects even before the coronavirus crisis. Collecting wine, storing it stylishly, preserving it as it ages, and displaying bottles—as one might a collection of first-edition books—has become a gratifying pursuit for many South Florida homeowners.

“People have been willing to spend more money on their homes in recent years in an effort to bring the amenities and luxuries of five-star resorts into their living spaces,” he says. “That trend has only accelerated with COVID. People are looking at their surroundings and are giving more thought to fulfilling more activities within the home.”

Wolk’s wine displays for his hospitality work have informed his residential projects. His wine walls in the Porsche Design Tower in Sunny Isles Beach set a local standard. Shimmering, chilled wine lockers straddle the restaurant’s entrance and number 1,500 bottes—750 on each side. Built with oak and stainless steel, the displays double as a grand entrance and a semi-transparent wall. From the tables inside, diners feel as if they’re ensconced in a futuristic version of a wine “cellar”—weightless-seeming instead of dank and underground.

Following the principles he put to use in the Porsche Design Tower, Wolk devised a cutting-edge wine alcove within a formerly Mediterranean-style, Boca Raton home, which he was enlarging and reimagining in a more contemporary style. While the clients had numerous locations to relax and commune, they specified a wine room as the pièce de résistance.

So Wolk executed a wine wall to divide the dining and wine tasting areas. “It has a door on one side, and fixed glass on other,” Wolk explains. “It’s meant to illuminate and expand the space so your eye doesn’t stop. It keeps the area simultaneously airy and separate.” The refrigerated compartment, sleekly composed of glass and polished stainless steel, holds some 500 bottles. In a home that boasts costly modern canvases, Wolk’s wine divider ranks as a work of art. “It’s aesthetic,” he says, “as well as functional.”

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