Wine should age, not the racks
Ron Cowan from Portland, Ore., was a building contractor and architect until he almost broke an expensive bottle of wine about 15 years ago.
The owner of a home Cowan was remodeling caught the bottle worth thousands of dollars that fell out of a faulty wine rack Cowan had purchased from wine enthusiasts. As he spent the next few hours securing every joint in the racks to make sure it didn’t happen again, he thought to himself, "I can build better racks than these."
Stellar Cellars was born. For the past 14 years, Cowan has used his building experience to work full time creating custom wine racks and wine cellars for restaurants and home owners.
He uses dowel rods to hold the pieces together instead of the brad nails used by his competitors. He uses thick, dense wood usually reclaimed instead of pine or plywood. In short, Stellar Cellars makes its products to last 100 years.
"They’re basically fine pieces of furniture," said regional sales manager Jay Munson, who’s been promoting the product in Summit County for about a year.
A wood supplier in Portland, where Stellar Cellars is based, travels the world buying reclaimed wood from barns. The boards are already weather-tested. Whenever other wood is used, Cowan makes sure it’s grown in a sustainable way. Brazilian Cherry, Philippine Mahogany, Sapele and other woods preferred by Cowan are "impervious to mold and mildew," he said.
To show the durability of his racks, he likes to climb them.
The racks also look nice. Cowan’s products are expensive, but he puts them in the "Rolls Royce" category of wine racks.
"Frankly, it’s the nicest room in my home," said client Michael Noel of his cellar in a suburb of Portland.
The quality, durability and look of Cowan’s racks are designed to please serious wine collectors and people who see wine storage as a home amenity.
Gary Hibler of Portland had Stellar Cellars install a semicircular rack in his basement two years ago. He said he’s not a huge wine collector, but wanted the rack to increase the value of his home.
That trend is huge, Munson said. From Hawaii to Florida and from Texas to Montana, home owners are asking for wine cellars to improve resale value. The 2008 Park City Showcase of Homes lauded a property with a wine cellar.
Stellar Cellars has worked with serious wine collectors with thousands of bottles and bottles worth thousands. Cowan’s expertise in building and his team of craftsman can design a cellar for whatever function the wine serves, Munson said.
If wine is 300 years old and for collecting, not drinking, they can create temperature- and humidity-controlled spaces. If wine is for showing off or entertaining, they can design fancy lighting and paint murals on the walls, Munson said.
Stellar Cellars can create display cabinets behind glass for restaurants, or "lockers" for country clubs where members can store their own collections and ask for their own bottles to have with dinner.
But Noel wanted to emphasize that he had a small space in a 3,200-square-foot home that Stellar Cellars did a fantastic job renovating for his 1,000-bottle collection.
"You don’t need a $1 million or $1.5 million home," Noel said. "Whether it’s large or small, he’s going to do an incredible job."
Hibler’s cellar in Portland had to be custom fitted because of the semi-circular room. He said he shopped around for the job and found that nobody else in the area had the "touch and flair" that Cowan had.
That’s because he loves wine and loves helping others who do, or want to start collecting, Cowan said.
"Wine collecting has been around for thousands of years. It’s not a fad," Munson said. "The racks are designed to go for the long haul."
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