Designing a Wine Cellar

The Wine Cellar Company’s Lisa Weiss has put together this video that explains how you can build your own custom wine cellar. When building a cellar, the most important aspect is racking.

Why a cellar?

First you have to decide what your purpose is in building and racking a wine cellar. Will you be entertaining here? Will you and your guests go downstairs and taste wine there? That will affect the design and build of the cellar. Her first recommendation is to have a local source of information. While the Internet is useful, it’s good to have someone local to go to for advice.

Size matters

Are you a collector who buys a few bottles here and there, or do you like to buy your wine by the case? If it’s the latter, then you’ll want to design a cellar with significant storage—diamonds bins, for example, which hold up to twelve bottles. If you purchase your wine by the bottle, and if you want to display your labels, then you’re looking at a different storage solution. “All those things make a difference. If you want to have a functional approach or if you want to entertain, you need certain amount of space.”

A different consideration is the type of bottle you like: standard bottles, or bigger ones—they’re all going to make a difference in how you build your cellar.


If you’re building a small functional cellar (not one for entertaining or regular tasting), start with at least three-and-a-half feet on one wall. That will give you the depth you need to include refrigeration and racking.

If you’re going to have a tasting room for entertaining, you need to decide if you want it inside the chilled environment of the cellar itself, or separate. If you’re going to use it for entertaining, you’ll require additional items like a tabletop, storage for glasses, cigars, other liquor bottles, etc.

What kind of wood?

When you consider what kind of wood to use in your wine cellar, know that the traditional choice is redwood. Why redwood? It handles moisture well. But it’s not your only option: cherry, mahogany, oak, maple and other special woods. Many people building a cellar like to use unfinished wood that can be stained any color they choose. The only wood that Weiss cautions against is cedar, as it has a strong scent that can get into the wine.


Recessed lighting is a good option; you can also choose a chandelier for a more formal touch. Install a dimmer in the cellar so that you can do your tastings in an agreeable environment but also raise the level in order to read labels. If you don’t have refrigeration in your cellar, keep the lighting low so it doesn’t heat the room.

Flooring & Glass

Most people choose stone or some type of tile; other options are wood and even concrete. Your flooring is determined by the appearance of the room. Many people like having glass in the cellar. That’s fine, but you need to make it tempered glass. There has to be a double pane to account for the differences in temperature.