Somewhere in Vero Beach, a building with a nondescript facade conceals a wine cellar stocked with treasured vintages. For those invited to enter, it is a grand reveal. You might think you are in a storage building at first; then, unexpectedly, a heavy door swings open to an elegant tasting room.
On one side is a dining table with chairs; on the other, leather easy chairs surround a marble coffee table, artfully strewn with stately books about vineyards and winemaking history. Maps of classic wine regions adorn the walls. Most impressive of all, a glass wall and doorway allow you to look through to the cellar itself, a vast space filled with towering wine racks.
When you look through that glass wall, you are looking at 27,000 bottles of great wine. Welcome to the Windsor Wine Cellar.
This is where the private collections of Windsor residents, along with the collection of the Windsor Wine Association, are stored. Climate and humidity are carefully controlled throughout the year. The space is not literally a cellar, since it is above ground; however, it is a place where great wine is stored and aged, so the traditional term of “cellar” is fitting.
The storage area itself exceeds 1,600 square feet; add in the tasting room, and the space totals more than 2,000 square feet. And while the current count of 27,000 bottles is certainly impressive, there is room to grow. The cellar has actually been designed to store 40,000 bottles of wine, with the potential to add 15,000 more (for a total of 55,000) if case stacking is used on floor space. This is an extraordinary place.
“I can meander here for hours,” says Jeff Zimmer, a founding member of the Windsor Wine Association. As he adds, “The collections are good,” the intonation in his voice imparts a distinct emphasis to the word “good,” with the single syllable conveying enthusiasm and even reverence. Indeed, the cellar and its collections are emblematic of the culture of Windsor—the ruby in the crown, so to speak. “People appreciate the lifestyle, and wine is part of that,” he says.
This perspective is shared by Betsy Hanley, president and CEO of Torwest, the entity that owns Windsor, who likens the Wine Cellar to the Windsor Art Gallery as distinctive features that exemplify the culture. “The cellar is an unusual amenity,” Hanley says. The Weston family, who founded Windsor, established it, working with the international consulting firm WineTrend on its design and development. “We have a growing number of wine collectors at Windsor, so it’s been quite special to watch.” She also appreciates that the Wine Association, which she calls “a club within the club” of Windsor, has “real wine aficionados and also people who want to learn about wine.” Together, they make for “a very enthusiastic group.”
The bottles stored at the Windsor Wine Cellar span the world of wine, and part of the interest is the way they reveal the focus of each collector. “One person’s a big Barolo collector,” notes Zimmer. Barolo, known as “the wine of kings,” is from Piedmont in northern Italy, where fog-blanketed vineyards of Nebbiolo grapes produce wines of amazing depth and explosive spice.
Another collection features the celebrated Vega Sicilia Unico from the Spanish region Ribera del Duero. “In my opinion, this is the best Spanish wine,” declares Zimmer, and his opinion is shared by many in the world of viticulture.
Still other collections focus on vintage porto, the great fortified wine of Portugal. Rich and warming, port wine became so beloved in the British market that it is interwoven with English history and literature—making it a fitting choice indeed for Windsor.
What about the great wines of France? Some collections center on the beloved Hermitage wines of the northern Rhone. Other Francophile collectors focus on “gran cru” wines—a classification that literally means “great growth” and which is applied to the finest vineyards of Burgundy and the greatest chateaux of Bordeaux.
Two Windsor Wine Association members with a special connection to French wines are Bob King and Rob Long, both of whom are also members of another wine association: the Confrerie des Chevaliers du Tastevin in Burgundy. Dedicated to the celebration of the great Burgundian wines, the confrerie is both regal and whimsical, with its members being entitled to wear robes and headgear in the hues of burgundy and gold.
“There is good humor to it,” along with emphasis on in-depth knowledge of Burgundian wines and their renowned history, Long explains. To be a member of the confrerie, King adds, “you have to know your Burgundy, but you have to be good company, too.” And they appreciate the fact that the Windsor Wine Association seeks to manifest the same convivial atmosphere.
That atmosphere is on full display at the fascinating events held by the Windsor Wine Association—sometimes featuring special visitors who are celebrated names in the world of wine. Guests have included Marchese Piero Antinori, a Tuscan nobleman whose family has been involved in winemaking for over 600 years. (Records from the year 1385 show an ancestor joining the Vintner’s Guild of Florence).
Piero Antinori was himself a key figure in the development of the wines known as “Super Tuscans,” which proved to the international markets of the 20th and 21st centuries that Tuscany is still one of the greatest wine regions in the world. Zimmer describes Antinori as a true gentleman, recalling his visit to Windsor thus: “As soon as he stood up, the room went silent. He was both elegant and eloquent.”
These distinguished guests are welcomed at dinners, with the guest talking about the wines that accompany each course and fielding questions from the Wine Association members. There is, of course, considerable preparation involved; Zimmer wryly says that each one is “like planning a wine wedding.”
To welcome the guests and accompany the great wines, the finest cuisine is essential. At an event with a guest from Zachys, the renowned wine auction house in New York, the menu featured prosciutto-wrapped pears, ricotta tortellini with black truffles, and braised black Angus beef cheek with dauphinoise potatoes and red wine au jus; and the meal was finished in European style with a selection of cheeses.
Even smaller-scale events are memorable. At an afternoon wine tasting held recently in the tasting room area that adjoins the cellar, featured wines included a 2015 Chassagne-Montrachet Premier Cru “Clos du Cailleret”—a spectacular white Burgundy, vibrant with floral, fruit, and spice notes. The selection may have reminded Windsor Wine Association members of the words of a 19th-century writer who quipped that whatever you paid for a good Montrachet, you did not pay too much.
The other treasures uncorked for the tasting were a 2009 Chateau Grand-Puy-Lacoste, which is a Bordeaux rich in notes of tobacco and espresso; a 2011 Clos des Papes Chateaneuf-du-Pape, a fabled wine of the southern Rhone, with vibrant red and black fruit; and a 2012 Caprili Brunello di Montalcino, representing the classic robust elegance of Tuscan wines.
And perhaps best of all for Windsor Wine Association members, these fascinating wines were enjoyed in what is truly a room with a view. Just beyond the glass wall was the vast cellar, with its thousands of bottles still waiting for the days, the years, the dinners, and the celebrations of the future.