A wine cellar is no longer just a place to store the bottles
by: Gail Park, Casey Enyeart inspects the inventory in Donna and Dennis McFall’s Dunthorpe cellar, inspired by travels to the limestone caves in the south of France.

Wine passion. It's about buying, sipping and sharing luscious vintages. But for some wine enthusiasts it's about aging it properly in a beautifully designed room.

The aging of fine wine is an intricate process. Creating an environment that controls temperature and humidity is imperative to the success of wine. Hence, the wine cellar takes on tremendous responsibility.

A Murrayhill-area couple feel that the space they designated for their wine collection in their home expresses their conviction to have a harmonious place to store, relax and enjoy the rewards of their quality exhilerating beverages.

'This is really my husband's passion,' says Jean whose husband asked to remain anonymous. 'He pours, and I enjoy. It's fun, and our cellar adds to that enjoyment.'

By definition, a wine cellar is a place where wine is stored and allowed to age. In reality, today's modern cellar is a cool, relatively humid room embellished with soft dramatic lighting, murals and impeccable rows of wooden cubby holes suitable for the most noble bottles or economical favorites that finish off the perfect dinner.

In other words, a wine cellar is no longer just a place to store wine.

Peer into a cellar designed by Donna and Dennis McFall and enter a coveted world of wine. The Dunthorpe owners of The Wine Outfitters create an experience. Converting basements, adapting bedrooms, adding wine cellars to new home plans and transforming unusually shaped spaces answers the oenophile's dream. Those longing to organize their collection and celebrate the romance of wine are learning that their options are many.

'The wine market is growing,' says Wine Outfitters' sales manager Casey Enyeart, who assisted Jean and her nameless wine aficionado husband.

'We're riding the increase in Oregon's wine industry, in 2006 we installed 35 wine cellars,' says Enyeart. 'In this area about 33 percent of new homes includes a cellar.'

Whether under a staircase, inside a closet or dug out into a crawl space, homeowners are embracing the luxuries that a cellar can offer. New components in wine cellar construction increase the quality of today's installations.

A wine cellar is constantly in flux. Like the wine within, it is susceptible to environmental changes. Proper climate control is crucial to the success of any wine cellar. This requires a harmonious balance of temperature, light and humidity.

The perfect humidity conditions are between 50 and 70 percent. Vapor barriers, insulation, shutters or light restrictors, temperature and humidity controls and the ability to track environmental fluctuations are planned into cellar proposals.

'The more constant the control, the greater the protection and better stability for the wine,' says Enyeart, who has worked in the landscape and construction trades.

Enyeart, Dennis McFall and his wife Donna, the lead interior designer, meet with clients and learn about their needs, dreams and vision of the perfect cellar.

Together they sketch out a design. An experience is created. Once safeguards are built into a design, the fun begins. Dennis turns the drawing into a computerized layout, based on precise measurements. Accent lighting, racking systems, molding, faux plaster, murals, shelving, countertops, tiles, sound systems, seating areas and brickwork are added, based on the budget. The options are endless.

The Wine Outfitters, doing business for approximately 10 years, will do the work from start to finish or assist and consult on various stages of a project. They work with many qualified subcontractors and installers, including a few local muralists.

'The design is the homeowners' personal journey,' says Enyeart. 'The murals can be of favorite photographs, a fantasy, vineyard, golf course or a link between a number of memories.'

Enyeart met Donna McFall, who originally hand-sketched Jean's mural, through the Portland State theater program.

'We lived in England for about a year and a half; we took a lot of pictures,' says Jean of one of her two murals. 'The view is through a window combining a mixture of our favorite pictures of Provence. It's a mixture of France.'

Jean's lower-level cellar utilizes a formerly unused space. A support stood in the middle of the area and the final design cleverly disguises it as the column of a double archway. Her 'Roman ruin' theme is based on the excavation of a house in southern France.

A full-length mural illustrates a partially restored barrel room. The tile flooring pattern is reflected in the mural as well. Redwood racking, a dining table and soft dramatic lighting finish the showcase.

The wine cellar acts as a retreat for Jean and her husband. It expresses their memories and travels, and fulfills their need to relax.

'It's like a getaway,' says Jean, who shares her love of wine with friends over hors d'oeuvres. 'I'm aware we have a lot of bottles surrounding our guests. I'm always conscience of that. Having a lot of bottles doesn't mean drinking more.'

A good cellar produces a flow of fine wine over a lifetime. Naturally, many wine lovers' collections expand beyond cellar capacity. So it helps to buy wines in a graduated sequence. Almost all wines are meant to be consumed before the next vintage. It's the bottles that get better with age that connoisseurs are fanatic about.

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