Home & Garden

Interest in wine goes mainstream

More people are decorating with the fruit of the vine in mind

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - Wine is climbing like a vine to an important role in the American home.

Home-decor catalogs are filled with items related to corks, labels, bottles and barrels. New homes are constructed with wine bars and even cellars. Neighborhood block parties are turning into wine tastings. What gives?

"There is something sexy about it," said Ryan Sciara, managing partner of Cellar Rat Wine Merchants in Kansas City, Mo. "Even my sister, who doesn't drink wine, decorates with it."

The 37-year-old Sciara, who will be a contestant on Season 2 of the public television reality series "The Winemakers," sees the correlation of wine's rise in popularity with its pricing. As drinkable wines from Spain and Australia became available for $10 or less, more people invested because it was a way to travel the world without buying a plane ticket.

"Wine has become more democratic," said Samantha Nestor, author of the new book, "Living With Wine" (Clarkson Potter, $75). "It's no longer a club for sommeliers and rich businessmen. A single working woman is just as likely to become a collector as anyone else."

Nestor, special projects editor at Metropolitan Home magazine, has noticed more wine storage and tasting areas being integrated into homes. Cellars aren't tucked into the caves of basements any more. They're built under stairwells and inside closets. Floor-to-ceiling wine walls are the main feature in some dining rooms. Her book showcases wine in dozens of residences, including those in Napa Valley and New York, with traditional wood racking or state-of-the-art stainless steel.

The next big thing in residential wine storage is "very Vegas." Inspired by restaurants, the future just might be cool-burning LED lighting to illuminate bottles in pink, green and blue. But what most stood out to Nestor as she researched the 256-page book was the people.

"They were each about creating an experience," Nestor said. "As they opened up a bottle of wine, they delighted in introducing people to new wine and telling the stories of their collecting journeys."

Because wine has become such a big part of people's lives, Steve Bell recently started building wine furniture, available at Performance Furniture in Kansas City, Mo. The mahogany and cherry buffets, featuring metal grating, store wine that will be consumed within a few months. The pieces are available in Italian, Spanish and French styles and are set up in Performance Furniture's event space, Cellar 222.

Todd Klaus, who with his wife, Trisha, owns Off the Vine Design in Overland Park, Kan., says more customers are having wine tastings in their homes.

"Blind tastings are especially popular," Klaus said. Wine bottles are covered up with bags, even brown paper ones, so guests form opinions based on the taste, not the label, of wines. "People are experimenting with different countries and regions."

To enjoy wine, Sciara says, just rely on your palate. Pricey equipment is unnecessary. At home, Sciara uses a standard waiter's corkscrew and regular red and white wine glasses, nothing tailor-made for Pinot Noir. He doesn't always decant.

"I know wine has this mystical quality," he said and shrugged. "But it's just grape juice."

IDEAS FOR DISPLAYING EMPTY WINE BOTTLES

- Candleholders

- Bottle trees

- Wall of wine

WINE STORAGE

- Keep in a cool place, ideally between 55 and 57 degrees.

- Humidity should be about 60 percent. When it's higher than 70 percent, it can degrade the labels and glue. Below 50 percent, corks dry out, creating a loss of liquid that can damage the wine.

- Avoid direct light.

- Don't move bottles much, because that can disturb wine sediments and damage the wine.

- For a cost-efficient cellar, assemble modular, add-on-capable redwood units.

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