Home & Garden

Take a look inside four SLO County home wine cellars

The Lenz wine cellar was formerly a root cellar in San Luis Obispo’s historic Biddle House.
The Lenz wine cellar was formerly a root cellar in San Luis Obispo’s historic Biddle House. dmiddlecamp@thetribunenews.com

One natural consequence of having a bounty of terrific wineries practically at your doorstep is an overflow of bottles and cases to store.

Rather than relegate those precious vintages to the garage, where climate fluctuations can take their toll, these homeowners have created wine cellars — some simple and utilitarian, some finely appointed and primed for entertaining. Here is a look at the spaces they’ve created.

A barn in Harmony

When Pam and Mitch Nichter purchased a former horse ranch in Harmony, they found a new use for the barn. A portion previously dedicated to horse stalls now shelters more than 1,000 bottles of their favorite wines.

The new wine cellar couldn’t be further removed from its agrarian past. It is a sophisticated space designed by architect Laura Gough of Studio 2G, and built by Semmes & Co. under the direction of Frank Perea. Lori Krivacsy was the interior designer.

The 14-by-24-foot space has a barrel-shaped ceiling dramatically lit with LED lights. The walls echo the earthy hues of the randomly set pieces of quartzite flooring in a theme Krivacsy said is “in keeping with the Bug Sur organic flavor of Harmony.”

George Ellis Fine Cabinetry and Furniture built elegant yet simple cabinetry for the space. There is even a dishwasher and sink to eliminate the need to haul dirty dishes to the house.

The couple wanted a space to entertain, so Krivacsy included a rustic table with bench seating. The Nichters use the space to display art purchased on their travels, including tiles from Libson that, aptly, depict imbibing monks.

Old World Edna Valley

Before Led Fortini became part-owner of Biddle Ranch Vineyard, he crafted his own vintages at home. It wasn’t long before his wine collection outgrew the storage space in the Edna Valley home he shares with wife, interior designer Anne Fortini.

Anne’s business Fortini Designs handled the design and construction. She added a fourth wall and a roof to an existing breezeway and created a temperature-controlled interior space. The couple opted to keep the existing rock walls that clad the exterior of their Mediterranean-style home.

To play off that that rustic look, they installed terra cotta flooring, a metal roof, Old World-style iron light fixtures and teak racking. A liquor cabinet holds other spirits, as well as glassware.

Led Fortini wanted enough space for a table where guests can sit and sip with their hosts. The one they chose is an antique, once belonging to a shoe cobbler.

The final room is large enough for about 1,400 bottles of wine. There are also cabinets and modified racks, built by Casagrande Woodworks, which hold larger bottles and cases.

“It’s so convenient now to find a bottle of wine that is ready to drink and at the right temperature,” said Anne. “Plus, it’s easy to display some of our favorite labels.”

Victorian root cellar

The historic San Luis Obispo Victorian owned by Richard and Adian Lenz came with a few outdated amenities, including a root cellar accessible through exterior storm doors. “We looked at the space and thought, wow, that would be perfect for a wine cellar,” said Adian Lenz.

The avid wine collectors took on this project when they restored the structure known as the Biddle House. The entire project was designed by architect Thom Brajkovich of Paragon Designs.

The renovation added an interior staircase from the kitchen as well as storage for 500 bottles. For historic character, the couple chose an antique light fixture fitted with a flickering bulb.

The Lenzes envisioned the cellar as a cool spot to entertain on sweltering summer evenings. The subterranean space keeps temperatures low without artificial climate control. It also maintains a desirable humidity level — at least for their purposes. “We have good wines, but we’re not collectors of super valuable wines,” said Adian Lenz.

The space is outfitted with speakers that connect with their home audio system, as well as a table that seats up to six. “We plan to add a humidor as soon as Cuban cigars are flowing,” Lenz said.

Wine cave in Cambria

When Tom Alexander remodeled his Cambria home, the first room that was completed was the wine cellar.

General contractor Jared Israel oversaw the project that was completed by builder Gary Manning and woodworker Bill Heistand. The 19-by-9-foot space they carved out for the wine cellar is on the side of a hill, under the garage. Because the home, with its ocean views, has more appealing spots to enjoy a glass of wine, he dedicated the space to less social tasks such as storing, cataloging and maintaining records of the wine. The only furniture he required was a simple, wall-mounted desk.

This doesn’t mean aesthetics were an afterthought, however. “We decided to make the cellar look more like an old cave or mine shaft that was con verted into a wine storage area rather than a luxurious or elegant combination cellar and tasting room.”

He opted to use unstained, rough sawn redwood on walls and beams, and finished redwood on the ceiling. The rear wall is clad in the same Hy Desert stone found on the home’s front steps and interior fireplaces. This, he said, creates the illusion of a space “cut into the side of the mountain.”

“It has the feel of an old wine cellar but is also comfortable to work in,” said Alexander. “We find the cellar to be both functional and fun.”