When it comes to wine racks, custom rarely means made to order. After all, I frequently hear complaints from clients that larger-size bottles don’t fit their newly installed “custom” cellars. And don’t get me started on the fact that a rack of bottles with the top angled for display typically fits…11 bottles.
What’s wrong with this picture?
It’s a complaint I share with Chris Giantomides, a craftsman who, after years of installing
such cellars, started GT Systems Corp, with Francis Taracido, a refugee from a wine cellar manufacturer.
The two met when Chris called Francis’ company and wound up complaining about the poor quality of some parts he had, demanding new ones be sent. After numerous such conversations, the two realized that they shared very similar sensibilities and desire for true craftsmanship.
So when opportunity came knocking, Chris and Francis decided it was time to team up and start a business creating bespoke wine cellars.
These differ from more traditional cellars, which Francis describes as “custom to a point,” because they are designed from the ground up.
“We don’t have a standard that we customize from,” Francis says. “Chris and I designed
our system from scratch and work with very specific measurements [from the client’s site.] That’s our flexibility: We can focus on what’s important to the customer.”
As Chris and Francis describe it, the design process starts with a look at the space you have and what you would like it to become. Francis asks, “Is [the cellar] an archive? Do you want showy wall storage? Is the room a showpiece?”
They also look at what wines are already in the cellar, and if the client has a special need, such as a large number of oversize bottles. In addition, the pair also suggest what to avoid, such as halogen lamps, which give off heat.
A design plan arrives pretty quickly: “It can be a 48 hour turnaround, with plan and elevation views, section views and digital drawings,” Francis notes. The plan also includes a timeline, estimated time on site and a start date.
Once the ball gets rolling, production time is generally about two weeks, impressive considering that the cellar starts from large pieces of wood that are cut by hand: “Either Chris or I touch every piece,” Francis says of the process.
“If it doesn’t look right for our house, it’s firewood,” Chris adds of their attention to detail.
Spend any time with these guys, and their devotion to their craft is palpable. They talk about how the wood must feel good in the hand (their first choice is sipo mahogany, though they will work with whatever material the client desires), how they need to pay attention to the grain when cutting, how important it is to spend time up front to get things right. There’s also the little fact that the wood is joined, not nailed together.
Such craftsmanship certainly costs more than a factory-built system, but it’s not just about numbers. For example, their quote for a wine cellar at a restaurant was higher, but Francis points out that the bespoke rack offered three times more storage than the other, lower bid provided.
Chris tells of a residential client who, to reduce the cost, wanted to scale back on the cellar’s bottle capacity. Once the smaller cellar was complete, the client said he could see where the money was spent – and a few weeks later called back to expand the cellar.
Oh, and accommodating the 12 bottles that come in a case of wine? That’s a piece of cake for these guys. “If you don’t build it in a natural configuration,” Francis says, “it will never work.”