Photography by Ryan Dearth | Published in the 2018/19 Holiday issue of Vail Beaver Creek Magazine
Outside a Tuscan-style villa at the end of a cul de sac off Beaver Creek’s Village Road, Tiberius—a life-size bronze of a laughing, wine bottle–wielding bear, stands guard at the front door of Casa Di Montagna Della Rotella, the mountain home of Jonathan and Alysa Rotella. “When you’re walking up to our home, you see a smiling bear with a bottle of wine; that’s just who we are, and it makes me smile every day when I look at that—it’s probably the best investment I’ve ever made,” laughs Jonathan Rotella, a fortysomething entrepreneur and oenophile. “No matter what happened during the day, there’s Tiberius smiling with a bottle of wine reminding me that there’s plenty more in the house.”
Namely, the 3,200 bottles—arranged by Old World and New World varietals—in a former basement walk-in closet that Rotella, at no small expense, has converted into one of the most notable wine cellars in the valley. “A lot of the homes here in Beaver Creek and in Vail have wine cellars; they all have very expensive, very good bottles of wine, and everyone’s palate is different, so I wouldn’t say mine is better than anyone’s in particular,” Rotella allows. “But I’m very proud of my cellar and I like what’s in there; and I can tell you everything that’s in there and why I have it.”
The crown jewel? A 2005 Domaine de la Romanée-Conti Romanée-Conti Grand Cru, Cote de Nuits that Rotella purchased at an auction in Hong Kong for more than $25,000. More bottles arrive monthly in temperature- and humidity-controlled trucks dispatched directly from favored wine estates in Napa and Bordeaux, from international importers like Acker Merrall & Condit, or hand-delivered by local retailers (like Beaver Liquors’ David Courtney) who understand the proclivities of his well-developed palate.
Rotella traces his interest in wine to his first job after college, when he was a young East Coast pharmaceutical representative with a generous expense account, courting potential clients with superlative vintages at dinner sales meetings. Seeing potential in the untapped market of hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT)—enhancing the body’s natural healing and recovery process in the pure oxygen environment of pressure chambers—Rotella bootstrapped NexGen Hyperbaric. “I actually borrowed from my 401k to start my company because trying to explain what hyperbaric medicine was to a bank was like trying to explain physics to a third grader,” Rotella explains. “So, I said, ‘You know what? I’m going to stop here and do it myself.’” From a single outpatient clinic at a hospital in his hometown of Naples, Florida, NexGen has evolved into an HBOT juggernaut with 30 facilities (and counting) nationwide, treating not just patients with chronic wounds and post-concussion syndrome but also superstar athletes like Bode Miller. Having fallen in love with Beaver Creek on a post-graduation road trip after college, and with the success of NexGen, Rotella wanted to make the resort one of his primary addresses. “I knew then and there that day that this is where I wanted to live,” says Rotella, who splits his time between homes in Colorado and Florida. “I had my heart set on this valley somehow, someway.”
The Rotellas, who met in Naples and married in Hawaii, owned a condo in Bachelor Gulch for a decade before finding the Beaver Creek home they wanted—a nearly 9,000-square-foot Tuscan-style villa they purchased in 2014. Owned by a former US senator, the home had been managed as a luxury rental and required a basement-to-eaves makeover. The Rotellas, who share a passion for gourmet meals and fine wine, had ambitious plans for their kitchen and wine cellar, but midway through the remodel they had a baby (Oliviana, now a precocious 2-year-old), so those rooms were saved for last, completed only recently. Alysa Rotella guided the renovation of the kitchen, an airy space with marbled countertops, a sun-drenched breakfast nook, and a professional workstation that’s often helmed by Mirabelle Executive Chef Daniel Joly, a longtime friend who reserves a table for the Rotellas at the front of his restaurant/home near the Beaver Creek gatehouse.
Jonathan Rotella oversaw the six-month process—completed over the summer—of transforming a downstairs walk-in closet into a 482-square-foot temple of Bacchus, starting with custom-made shelves fashioned from the staves of Napa oak barrels to cradle and celebrate each and every bottle.
“We spent a ton of time actually physically measuring his specific bottle layout and designing the cabinets to accommodate all that,” says Patrick Hoeft, the contractor Rotella hired for the project. “We’ve done some [cellars] before, but none of that caliber with the newer technology that he put into it … he used some pretty state-of-the-art stuff.” Like a security system that includes high-definition cameras and a facial recognition lock, and a custom environmental control system that, even when the keyless door opens, maintains the cellar at a perpetual 55 degrees and 65 percent humidity. There’s also an adjacent wet bar with a dramatically LED-lit countertop made from a golden-hued, transparent granite-quartz quarried from South America, flecked with bits of fossilized vegetation that glow when illuminated.
Antiques dealers the couple had developed relationships with during frequent trips to European wine country helped flesh out other details, like a stained glass window sourced from a 15th-century Italian monastery and a chandelier that’s an exact reproduction of a fixture they admired in a 13th-century British castle. Then there’s the floor—imported limestone sourced from Bordeaux, and hardwood finishes from Germany’s Black Forest. “I wanted the cellar to be modern from a cooling and humidification standpoint and, at the same time, I wanted to celebrate some of the greatest areas where wine comes from,” Rotella explains. Although, part of the fun was also rolling up his sleeves and helping with the construction. “The most unique part was just the experience with him,” says Hoeft. “I hadn’t worked on a project where it was more of a collaboration between the two of us; normally we just build what someone has envisioned, but … we built more of a personal relationship.”
And in the process, they created an oenophile’s man cave.
“There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t love going into that wine cellar; sometimes I just spend time in there with the music on,” Rotella says, sniffing and swirling ink-colored pours of Napa cab with his wife at the wet bar late one recent morning at an impromptu tasting, paired with gnocchi the couple hand-rolled in their kitchen with Chef Joly, who settles onto a stool and talks about the time Jonathan hired Mirabelle to cater his 40th birthday, under one condition—“‘I want you to be a guest,’ he said,” recalls Joly. “I don’t think I’ve ever drank so much good wine in my life.”
Then there’s the 2005 Margaux that Joly and Rotella shared on Father’s Day. “I always like to surprise him with wines he wouldn’t open for himself,” says Rotella. “And Daniel has a fantastic palate, so it’s always interesting for me to hear what he thinks of the wines.”
On cue, Oliviana takes a bashful sniff of her father’s glass then buries her face into her mother’s neck. When their daughter was born, the Rotellas purchased a case of all five first-growth wine varietals from France to commemorate her birth year; once the shipment arrives next year, most of those special bottles will age for another 18 years. “That will be her gift when she turns 21, but in the meantime, I bought enough that Alysa and I can drink some prior to that,” Rotella says. “Part of my journey is finding great wines and collecting them.”
And in the end, sharing them with family, and friends.