In this excerpt from the new Clarkson Potter book Living with Wine, which explores 30 stunning wine cellars around the country, author Samantha Nestor chats with many passionate vinophiles, including the founder of Pixar Animation Studios, John Lasseter and his wife, Nancy. Here’s an insider look at the special home this creative couple designed for their prized wine collection.
“John and I call it the cathedral of wine,” says Nancy Lasseter with a smile, referring to the cellar she owns with her husband, the creator of the wildly inventive, joy-giving Pixar animations. Because of the fanciful aspect to John’s design work, one would expect this particular couple to have wine storage laced with plenty of clever touches, and it does not disappoint.
As Nancy pulls open the heavily beveled glass-and-iron door [to the wine cellar], she explains that her inspiration for it came from her love of the ironwork found in the New Orleans Garden District. Beyond the jewel-like door, the wine cellar extends over a long sweep. Ceilings are twelve feet high. Plaster arches; saturated, buttery walls; and bays off the aisle suggest a glistening Spanish monastery, along with those doors and some spectacular lighting.
In other areas, the aesthetic choice has triumphed over efficiency, such as in the Lasseters’ decision to display bottles horizontally to show their labels clearly. The family has many special and signed bottles, and along with the regular Lasseter Family label—[in 2005, they acquired a local winery, which they renamed Lasseter Family Vineyards]—they also design labels with colorful Pixar graphics, which add a lot of fun to an otherwise formal and spare room.
Even with their choice of display, there is still room for six thousand bottles and two hundred magnums. “We didn’t count bottles when we started. That was a mistake,” Nancy says. “We underestimated how many large-format bottles we actually had. When the racking was used up, we had to dismantle several of the bottom rungs to make room. Obviously we felt a little silly.”
Fortunately, it was all fixable, and the room does not suffer from the adjustment. With steel, iron, and crystal as the backbone of the room, the Lasseters and [Josh Rowland, the designer on the project] were careful to incorporate warmer elements for balance. The brick-like, tumbled limestone on the floor, the canary and koa wood lining the shelving units, and the Marmarino plaster in a Mediterranean sunny yellow make the room look like an inviting still life.
But for a visitor, the most interesting design element is the cellar’s biggest secret. To the right of the chandelier stands a wall of wines. Nancy walks over to it and stares at the stacked bottles, trying to remember.
“Oh, it’s this one,” she says, turning a bottle as if it were a doorknob. The wall moves, and in a few seconds she and her visitor are standing on the other side of it, no longer in the wine cellar but in her project room, where she also does the boxing and shipping for the family’s own label. From the other side, inside the house, the wall looks like a normal bookcase. On that bookcase is a ledge, and on that ledge is a book, and in that book is the fingerprint control used to gain access to the wine cellar.
“We had to find Creative Home Engineering, an Arizona company specializing in secret doors. Isn’t it amazing?…I’m rambling on like a proud parent. But isn’t it just the best space?”
Reprinted from LIVING WITH WINE Copyright (c) 2009 by Samantha Nestor with Alice Feiring. Published by Clarkson Potter, a division of Random House, Inc.