The staircase to the wine cellar
reveals bottles “killed” at The Joel Palmer
House in Dayton. The poster hanging above
shows “Pig,” a recent thriller of which the
Czaneckis proudly consulted. ##Photo by Hilary Berg

Watch Your Step

Basements aren’t all scary, right?

By Hilary Berg

What is it about a basement that frightens me so? During a round of word association, “dark,” “musty” and “cobwebs” would top my list.

Creepy, right?

When I was a child and had to go downstairs, by myself, I’d keep one eye on the light switch and the other on the door. I’d feel my heart beating outside my chest, running as fast as I could, certain someone, something lurked inside the shadows.

Although tempered, my imagination can still conjure up dramatic scenes worthy of a Fright Night movie marathon. I’m sure my early fascination with scary films explains my fear of basements, not to mention abandoned lake cabins, creaky Victorian homes and blood-soaked slaughterhouses. Thankfully, I can avoid all those locales, except the first.

My current home does not have a basement, but I do visit houses that contain them.

I’ll admit, when I’m at someone’s place the first time, I often feel the compulsion to look around, experience the layout, find the bathroom, peek into a bedroom — only if the door is open — check out the color schemes, the décor. But never, EVER, does my curiosity include the basement; it’s off-limits, unless invited. Even then, who’d ask you down there, lest there lies a ghastly surprise...

Honestly, the only legitimate reason to explore a basement is if there’s a wine cellar, such as the one at The Joel Palmer House in Dayton. The stacks are legendary, filled with many vintages of local Pinot Noir and other toothsome bottles. It’s a tight fit — not easy to escape if “trouble” starts — and low-lit as well, but that’s the sacrifice you make to peruse all the treasures, hand-curated by two generations of Czarneckis.

However, I’ve no idea where the light switch is, so stake that out before you get too deep into the maze of wine. But it’s ok, there’s nothing scary down there, except for maybe a couple ’97 Pinots left behind...

That was one harrowing vintage, so the story goes...

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