A Sleek Slopeside Cellar
A spacious and cleverly engineered wine room takes a traditional Wyoming ski home to a new level
"Wine is bottled poetry,” wrote the 19th-century novelist Robert Louis Stevenson. With that quote in mind, the recently completed wine cellar of a Teton Village home may be viewed as an eloquent modern composition—an anthology, if you will, dedicated to the care, presentation and appreciation of many fine bottles.
From a design perspective, storing such an extensive collection presented Kevin Burke, a principal architect of Carney Logan Burke Architects in Jackson Hole, and his team with a less-than-lyrical challenge. Their client had recently purchased the decade-old residence in a prime slopeside location and wondered how he could squeeze a wine storage area—“initially just a small space,” Burke says—into an awkward 100-square-foot corner of the basement next to his children’s play area.
With the house already maxed out on its county-allowed above-ground square footage, the possibility of enlarging that space seemed unlikely. Until, that is, Burke half-jokingly suggested they create space below grade, under the driveway or auto court, which wouldn’t count toward the county maximum. The client loved the idea of a real underground wine cellar—and revealed his true desire to house a much larger collection. Soon Burke and project architect Matt Thackray had developed plans for a 2,500-square-foot space.
Though that may sound simple, the logistics were anything but. Situated below the parking area, the underground structure had to be strong enough to support a load as heavy as a fire truck, should such an emergency arise. Excavating 18 feet below grade presented challenges as well: “We had to find ways to keep the existing house from falling into the hole we were digging,” Burke recalls.
Because of its location at the base of the Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, the site was also subject to considerable water runoff during snowmelt. To prevent infiltration, the architects designed what Burke describes as “a giant concrete box with a multilayered waterproofing system running down the foundation walls and underneath the building.”
Within that box, the team created an elegant contemporary space. An undulating suspended ceiling of fine-grained, clear-finished mahogany contrasts with a floor and two walls of Valser quartzite quarried in Switzerland. An enormous window-wall opens to a series of waterfalls and reflecting pools descending the hillside from the main house. A hermetically sealed interior glass wall separates the temperature-controlled storage area—fitted with custom mahogany racks by Spearhead Timberworks of British Columbia—from a tasting and lounge area with custom furnishings designed by Burke and Thackray and new pieces selected by Jen Mei, also of Carney Logan Burke.
The result is a prized retreat with a “refined, clean, contemporary aesthetic,” ideal for focusing attention on each bottle to be opened and savored. Says Burke, “What started as a simple little design exercise evolved into a really stunning space”—just as the juice of crushed grapes makes an astonishing transformation into a fine wine.
Viewed from just below the main house, the wine cellar has views of a series of rock-lined pools cascading down the slope. A flat-topped boulder to the right of the window-wall provides an ideal gathering spot for al fresco wine tastings. On the other side of the wall, above the glass, is a landscaped entry walkway and bridge leading to the home’s front door. Lighting from chandeliers and recessed spotlights gives the cellar a golden glow.
Gray leather Roche Bobois sofas provide a casual spot to enjoy the view and a glass of wine. Architects Kevin Burke and Matt Thackray designed the elliptical tasting table in the foreground.
Custom mahogany wine racks include end shelves, framed in blackened steel, that can accommodate magnums.
Integrated into the wall beneath the sliding portion of the window, a step-shaped boulder leads outside.
A stone staircase leads to the home’s primary living spaces above.
Stone was a natural choice for the cellar; mahogany accents warm up the look.
Leaving some of the quartzite blocks roughly cleft and others more smoothly honed added texture to the streamlined space.
The wine storage area’s doorway includes a gasketed steel frame and in-floor closer, which help maintain an optimal temperature and humidity.
5 ESSENTIALS FOR SAFE WINE STORAGE
Whether you’re working with a few bottles and a small cupboard or a cellar’s worth of wine and an entire basement, follow these few basic rules for keeping your collection in optimum condition:
A low and constant temperature is the key to keeping wine stable and slowing its maturation. Ideally, keep reds and whites alike within a 50°F-to-55°F range, although they’ll be okay at up to 68°F. Avoid storage spots in the attic, to which warm air rises, or in the garage.
Keep bottles away from strong light—especially direct sunlight, which can damage wine. White wines in clear bottles are especially susceptible.
Low humidity (the norm in the high country) can make corks dry out and shrink, which allows air to enter the bottles and interact with the wine, causing it to oxidize and thus spoiling its flavor. (High levels of humidity are okay, though the moisture can damage labels over time.)
Peace and quiet
Vibrations—whether from heavy machinery, frequent footsteps on poorly supported floorboards, or nearby automobile traffic—can shake up the sediment in older wines, also negatively affecting their drinkability. So a peaceful, undisturbed spot is ideal.
On the level
Always store your bottles on their sides. This keeps the corks in contact with the wine, preventing them from becoming dry.
ARCHITECTURE & INTERIOR DESIGN Carney Logan Burke Architects Jackson, WY 307-733-4000 CONSTRUCTION Dembergh Construction Wilson, WY 307-733-1001 LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE Hershberger Design Jackson Hole, WY 307-739-1001 STRUCTURAL ENGINEER Greg Kingsley and Jerry Brock, KL&A, Inc., Golden, CO 303-384-9910 ELECTRICAL & LIGHTING CONSULTANT Jarron Pew, Helius Lighting Group Salt Lake City, UT 800-287-0268 MECHANICAL ENGINEER Mike Cook, CN Engineers, Jackson, WY GEOTECHNICAL ENGINEER Randy Schrauder, Womack Associates Jackson, WY CIVIL ENGINEER Dave Dufaul, Nelson Engineering, Jackson, WY MASONRY Matt Litzelman, MSL Construction Jackson, WY 307-699-0321 WINE RACKS, WOOD CEILING, WOOD DOORS, CABINETRY, & HANDRAIL Ted Hall, Spearhead Timberworks Nelson, BC 250-825-4300 TASTING TABLE, INTERIOR STEEL & GLASS DOORS Jeff Brandner, Brandner Design Bozeman, MT MOTORIZED TV CONSOLE Rob Dearing, Dearing Workshop