Spiral Wine Cellars – The Journey Begins

My wife Jamie shouted down to me in my home office on a lazy Sunday morning “Skip, did you see the Sunday Seattle Times magazine section on the wine cellars?”

“Nope. Sure didn’t. Why? Should I have?” I answered.
“Take a look. I think it is the answer to what you’ve been looking for,” she replied.

I wandered upstairs and read the article about a Seattle couple who had installed a Spiral Cellar in their home. With each paragraph I got more excited. Finally, an answer to what we needed to keep from ruining my good wines in a house that has very rapid temperature shifts. We already had a great place for entertaining with a great view of the Puget Sound. We just needed a good place to store wines that could be installed in our house for a reasonable price and not a lot of construction disruption. At first blush, the design seemed to fit our needs.

So I jumped on the Internet to look at the information on the website. I found out that it was a UK company that had just set up a U.S. distributor who happened to be in Redmond, WA. The website was actually very informative including videos of the one week installation process. They also had a 30 page brochure which showed a number of installations along with one of the key features which is a completely passive cooling system for keeping the temperature relatively constant year round. The pricing looked good.

OK. I want one. So I immediately sent off an email to the US contact early Sunday morning. Within a couple of hours I had a response from the owner, Scott. We started an email dialogue about being able to visit an actual installation. Jamie pointed out that it wasn’t very clear from the photos how large the actual wine cellar was and could my increasingly overweight body actually get down to the bottom of the cellar and place bottles on the last row. Scott arranged a visit to an installation in West Seattle for the next week.

One of the things I love about the wine culture is the willingness of those who are passionate about wine to share their passions and what they are currently excited about. Rob was a most gracious host as we entered the house to look at his spiral cellar. They placed their Spiral Cellar right in the entry way which is where we were thinking of putting ours. We couldn’t believe what a great piece of carpentry work the installers had done retaining their hardwood floor and placing the pieces back in the door so that everything matched.

We lifted the door up and I couldn’t believe how spacious the cellar was. We slowly and carefully descended to the bottom of the cellar and there was plenty of room for both Jamie and I to stand comfortably at the bottom of the cellar. All of the “bins” were easily reachable. I couldn’t believe how cool the cellar was from such a simple passive air movement system. We were sold.

Scott and Rob were then kind enough to show us the whole installation below the floor level to see how they were able to put the cellar into even a six foot crawl space. About that time Rob’s wife came home and he was kind enough to invite us to share a bottle of 2004 Quilceda Creek Columbia Valley Red Wine. Twist my arm.

As we left, we let Scott know that we were ready to buy. The next step was for a site visit to see how viable an installation site we had. That was arranged for the following week. Scott was still in start up mode so not only was he looking for customers, but for customers that would be willing to be showcase sites for Spiral Cellars. He also shared that his installer was going through the next level of training in the UK so it would be a while before we could get a set of plans and installation schedules set up.

Scott and Joel came by on a Saturday to take a look. I showed them where I wanted to place the cellar which was in our entry hallway. My ideal placement was to have the cellar with a see through glass door that would have the wine underfoot and my 13 feet high wall of books with a library ladder to the side. When guests would come to the house both of our passions would be on display in the entry way – books and wine – to set the tone for our entertaining. I also wanted the wine cellar in the hallway so that as we needed more wine I could go to the cellar in full view of our guests and pick the next wine.

The site visit indicated that there was enough room to place the cellar in the entry way and that there was an easy way to run the PVC pipes to the west wall for passive ventilation. Everything looked good and Scott shared that it would be a couple of weeks before we could write up a contract. He wanted to have his installer go through the two weeks of training in the UK so that we could do all of the estimates and planning accordingly. OK, but could you just hurry it up. I’m ready. “I want it ALL!” (to quote the Queen song).

After Scott left, Jamie and I reflected on the visit. It hit me like a ton of concrete blocks (or three tons as the case may be). It’s going to take months to get this installed. The special concrete blocks for the cellar are only manufactured in the UK which means not only do we have to go through a custom order but we have to wait for the blocks to be shipped from the UK to Seattle, WA. Arrghh! So we had just entered the old material realm of the global economy in “World Wide Wait” mode.

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4 Responses to Spiral Wine Cellars – The Journey Begins

  1. Anne Johnson says:

    Skip- Found your site while researching wine cellars. How did it go? Any building department issues? – Curious in NV.

    • swaltersky says:

      We dearly enjoy our spiral wine cellar and needless to say it is the high point for showing guests how wine can be stored elegantly. I cannot recommend the contractor as the actuality of the construction process was far different than what was promised in all the brochures and literature. It took us six months after we signed the contract to get through the permitting process for the City of Bainbridge Island. The height of absurdity came when the City required a sewage system inspection. They also wanted to make sure that there was a fireman ingress/egress window in the cellar (as it is a separate room – not) and they wanted to make sure that it was heated (defeating the whole purpose).

      Since the cellar was in our entrance hall we were excited to hear that the hallway would only be under construction for less than a week. It took six weeks to actually complete the construction. Then upon completion we found that the doorway was not aligned and the door and hinges were not flush with the hardwood floor creating a tripping hazard.

      In spite of all the problems, we do love the cellar and it works (keeps things the right temperature) all year round. You can see the delivery video problems at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bz5QdnJ-NZ0 I have some 80 photos online of the process but they are in a private folder. If you can send an email to “skip” at this blogpost name I can share the photos with you.

      Thanks for your curiosity,
      Skip

      • Clint stephenson says:

        It was sad to read that the city permit application process and the installation didn’t go as smoothly as promised, I’m guessing that the installers were new to submitting applications to the city, because as the cellar is a non habitable storage space (not a room!!) and under 10sqm this would negate most of the requirements in the building code. Glad you are enjoying your cellar!. I would be very interested in seeing your photos of the installation process -Thanks

  2. Emma says:

    Nice Blog Skip. Very helpful. I am in the UK and having trouble to get a contractor out to us on a weekend, they only do business hrs. So been reading online to look at how other people have found the cellars. It’s a shame that the contractors are not matching up to the product.

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