The “Red-Red-Wine” Estate
- Written by: Ivy Carter
- Produced by: Sean O'Reilly
- Estimated reading time: 13 mins
Begun as a small private resort, the “Red-Red-Wine” Estate (aka Cala Zarca, which means “light blue cove” in Spanish) has grown into a compound on Lake Travis in Central Texas. Mickey Redwine, the owner of both the highly successful Texas-based Dynamic Holdings and this massive, sprawling and unique project, set out to construct his own Southwestern reclusive getaway. In classic Texan style, Redwine says, “It all started in a honkytonk on a cocktail napkin when I did a rough sketch of a boat dock.”
Redwine’s napkin blueprint grew into a monster project that he says consumed his time, thoughts and pocketbook for over five years. From the humble beginnings on a napkin, the Red-Red-Wine venture now includes waterfalls, a boathouse and a grotto on a 76-acre spread that many guests avow shames elite resorts worldwide. The grounds are accented with strategically placed fiber optic lighting to create a property that could turn Hugh Hefner green with envy.
Redwine purchased the Lake Travis property in 2001 after flying in a helicopter from the lake’s mile marker No.1 at Mansfield Dam to mile marker No. 53 near Marble Falls while looking for the perfect tract of land. Wanting a minimum of 100 acres, he finally settled on a piece of real estate on the North Shore that was 76 acres with one-fourth mile of lakefront property.
However, there was a problem: the piece of land that caught Redwine’s eye was in the middle of a new high-end residential development that was to include an 18-hole Gary Player designed golf course. To further complicate things, the acreage that Redwine fell in love with comprised 13 individual lots in the development, with the largest of the lots having been sold to a Houston couple only weeks earlier. Redwine immediately put on his negotiator’s hat and made the developer a deal he couldn’t refuse. He offered to buy the entire 13 lots, all or none; the developer reacquired the sold lot from the Houston couple, and the deal with Redwine was consummated.
Redwine’s original intent was to create a retirement estate. “Somewhere along the way I got divorced,” he explains. “And I scrapped my plans for a 15,000-square foot main house, a guest house and a ranch house for the groundskeeper.” Instead, Redwine got to work on his boat dock/bachelors pad, equipped with a large swimming pool and playgrounds. The estate remains an ongoing project and he has laid utilities that will allow him to add a main house, etc., at his discretion in the future.
Laying the Groundwork
Dynamic Holdings and local subcontractors (as needed) completed most of the heavy construction work on the project, including site preparation and utilities. The estate is located just outside the city limits of the town of Lago Vista, but the property accesses local utilities and city services. The estate’s entire utility infrastructure was all placed underground, keeping wires and utility poles out of sight to maintain the desired ambiance of this picturesque private resort. A state-of-the-art security system is integrated into the infrastructure complete with remotely controlled cameras connected to and monitored via the Internet.
The entry gate to the estate is one of a kind in both design and functionality. It is probably one of the classiest, heaviest and most secure sliding entry gates ever designed. Thanks to Estate Gate – an Austin-based company – the operating mechanism works smoothly and dependably, and it enables the gate to be remotely controlled while documenting who enters and exits the property. Fineline Commercial, also from Austin, contributed greatly to the timely erection or several unique structures throughout the property.
Traversing the property is eased by the presence of several modes of transportation. Redwine says, “There are over 4,000 linear feet of concrete and asphalt flat ribbon curbed roadways throughout the property.” In high-use areas there is ample parking, and even spaces to park and hook up numerous motor homes to electrical, water and sewer. Redwine’s property also includes a nature path for walking the estate grounds and enjoying the abundant natural plant and fauna life. A wildlife plan was implemented early in the project to protect deer, turkey, a variety of protected bird species, bobcats, fox, and even a panther. A cedar tree and fire ant eradication process is also in place.
The grounds are irrigated with the help of an immense, sectionally timed sprinkler system that is fed by the lake, and they are heavily landscaped with a combination of both native and exotic plants, adding to the beauty and relaxed atmosphere of the Red-Red-Wine Estate. “There are several varieties of oak trees throughout the property,” says Redwine, while listing species.
The added plant life and landscaping is designed to coincide with different areas where entertaining is done, as well as with the native plant species throughout the property. Tropical plants, palms, flowers and banana plants flourish around the several manmade waterfalls, the grotto and a cold-water Jacuzzi.
The 12-person cold-water Jacuzzi is located within the area known as “lovers lookout” that is unquestionably the most majestic view on the estate. The Jacuzzi is fed from a bubbling 600-gallon-per-minute gusher of ice-cold water that is pumped from the bottom of the lake and flows over the swirling pool’s negative edge to become the cascading waterfalls that adorn the boat dock below. “This is definitely one of my favorite places to be on the estate on a sweltering Texas day or warm summer night,” says Redwine. “That’s when the Jacuzzi takes on a whole different ambiance with the distant lights across the lake dancing on the moon-lit water and the swirling imbue of the Jacuzzi and falls illuminated by fiber optic accent lighting.”
Nautically Inspired Architecture
The first structure on the grounds was Redwine’s combination boathouse bachelor pad and bunkhouse. The three-level structure encompasses sheltered docking for two boats, several decks, entertainment space, custom-sculptured metal art, a master bedroom and a room of bunks for guests. The lower deck offers 50-amp power hookups for four vessels, as well as a power lift suited for a 40-foot cruiser. Currently docked at Red-Red-Wine are Redwine’s powerboats, a 40-foot 400 SS Formula cabin cruiser and a 15-foot Sea Doo Speedster jet boat. “There’s also a separate, floating sundeck and a guest boat docking station,” says Redwine.
Redwine and his guests enjoy a granite wet bar with fiber optic lighting, and a full stainless steel kitchen outfitted with a propane barbecue and rotisserie, double gas burners, a microwave, a large sink and food prep space. The deck is constructed with Ipe, an imported Brazilian hardwood, one of the hardest woods in the world that is resistant to rotting, pests, weather damage and general wear and tear. Visitors are kept cool in the hot Texas summer by a misting system, as well as custom ceiling fans supplied by Big Ass Fans out of Lexington, Ky., which helped by strategically sizing and suggesting the best locations for the fans at both the boat dock and cabana. Redwine had a high-end sound system installed inside and out as well.
The second floor deck of the boathouse is accessible from stairs on the first floor or a ladder from the lake. Redwine has installed an unusual feature, a favorite of many guests, which adds thrill to lakeside afternoons. “There are two cable swings suspended from an A-frame for my guests’ entertainment,” he explains. “The swings launch from the second level deck and drop you into the lake from an elevation of 10 feet.”
Redwine’s master bedroom is accessed from the second level and kitchen area by a custom-built stainless steel staircase. The staircase created a very unique problem of its own due to its unusual design of rolled stainless steel sheeting and a handrail that required a spiraling compound curve. After several fab shops turned down the job, Redwine contracted with a specialist from Houston that builds stainless steel staircases for yachts. The job required the contractor to transport his welding, rolling and bending equipment to the jobsite on Lake Travis to build the staircase.
Both the master bedroom and bunkhouse are perched atop the boathouse on the third floor of the structure, where Redwine says visitors can experience a breathtaking view of Lake Travis. Ipe flooring continues throughout the house and into the master bedroom. Redwine’s bed frame, headboard and several other furniture pieces were custom-made of the same wood. The bedroom features a full bath, large windows, a deck with a view, and a granite top work desk so Redwine can take care of business when he needs to. Next door, the bunkhouse mimics the cabin of a high-end yacht with cushy bunks for visitors, built-in storage and a wall-mounted HDTV television. The third-level deck – accessed by another custom-built spiraling staircase decorated by metal art of grapes, grape vines and leaves – features a round, breeze-generating canopy and a high-velocity fan with a misting system in case sunbathing guests need to escape the heat.
That’s a Big Pool
Redwine’s property includes an enormous pool that spans an acre and contains more than 6 million gallons of water, and purportedly the largest pool in Texas. The pool is surrounded by exotic landscaping and three of the property’s many waterfalls, including two of the largest on the property, one of which incorporates the grotto and cascades into multiple smaller falls as it flows into the pool after winding a distance in excess of 200 feet. The pool bottom is comprised of Gunite, a pneumatically applied high-PSI dry-mix shot-crete. The material has allowed Redwine and his crews to construct the sides of the pool, as well as the grotto with rocky, exotic features to include a dive rock.
The pool’s deepest part is 21 feet, and three white sandy beaches – for sunbathing, lounging and volleyball – accent the water’s edges. A shallow wading area descends from the beach gradually, and more intrepid swimmers can paddle out to a floating sun deck in the middle of the pool. Several cold-water Jacuzzis, or sitting pools, sit between the waterfalls, grotto and pool, which are all lit by fiber optic lighting. A poolside palapa offers shade and a table for beverages, readily available at the cabana bar just up the boardwalk.
The cabana offers an ideal balance of functional and fun beach amenities. Inside, guests can find a temperature-controlled environment, sinks, changing rooms with baskets for personal belongings, a washer and dryer, and the controls for the sound system for cranking out tunes around the cabana and the pool. A fold-down futon offers the perfect spot to steal away for an afternoon nap. The outdoor area of the cabana includes two shaded decks, a chimenea fireplace, a porch swing and a two-person hammock. An outdoor bar is fully stocked and a kitchen with stainless steel amenities, including a barbecue pit, rotisserie and fish fryer, allows Redwine and his guests to enjoy tasty outdoor gourmet meals, many times prepared by Redwine himself.
Maintaining a property with so many complex features isn’t easy, but Redwine has developed several systems to save precious vacation time and safeguard his property while he is away. A helipad offers accessibility from the air. The shoreline descent to the boathouse from the higher ground of the property is long and steep, stairs from the upper level parking lot accommodate walking, but heavy gear, food and supplies are transported from the end of the stairs down the slope by a state-of-the-art, electric, three-phase tram manufactured by Marine Innovations out of Minnesota that was sold, installed and is maintained by Austin Dock and Tram, a local Austin company that services Lake Travis. “It’s remotely callable from anywhere on the boat dock,” Redwine explains. “This commercial-grade tram hauls people and supplies between the lower boat dock parking area and the boat dock. And it’s automated to stop when it reaches either end.”
Lake Travis is known regionally for its tendency to flood. “The lake can rise in elevation very quickly,” explains Redwine. Many dock owners in the area pay for the services of a monitoring company to adjust cables on docks and keep pertinent cables, wires and numerous other utility lines from tangling as the lakes elevation changes. “I’m not always on the property to monitor the lake’s elevation,” says Redwine. “And I wasn’t going to trust the task to a service company. I set out to design a system that would be totally self-sufficient and allow the dock and all of its utilities to rise and fall with the lake, while remaining aesthetically acceptable.”
Redwine solved his problem by building a steel I-beam track that follows the slope of the hill and parallels the tram track. A fifth wheel assembly allows the dock to rise and fall and pivot in all directions without putting strain on the structure or mechanism. Divers placed cabled anchors around the dock that keep the structure in place while offering flexibility. Utilities are neatly packaged in a heavy-duty vinyl umbilical cord sleeve that follows the I-beam and utilizes buoyancy to coil the sleeved utilities appropriately under the dock.
“The end result is a clean, maintenance-free, totally self-sufficient system that requires no monitoring,” says Redwine. “To my knowledge this is the only system of its kind in existence. I’ve been encouraged by several people to patent the idea.”
Redwine’s sprawling private resort is one-of-a-kind, and will continue to evolve. “I’ve left it open ended so I can expand when I want to, though at this juncture the only plans I have for any future addition to the project is to add an underground guest house,” he says. “I am currently researching that field to make sure that when I build the guest house I will be utilizing the latest that technology has to offer.” The Red-Red-Wine Estate offers the perfect respite from the day-to-day burdens, something Redwine enjoys sharing with his family and friends.
When Redwine is asked about the logistics, planning, problems and successes encountered throughout the Red-Red-Wine Estate/Cala Zarca project he sums it up as follows:
“This project has been one of my life’s greatest and most gratifying accomplishments. However, it has definitely come with its share of hurdles, setbacks and legal battles. The first obstacle, I guess, that has been ever-present throughout the project was my self-induced idiosyncrasies, a byproduct of my being so fastidious with a tendency to over-spec/over-build things.
“For example, after visiting with all boat dock sub-frame manufactures in the U.S., none were able or willing to provide a heavy-duty galvanized sub-structure that would properly support a three-level floating structure. To meet my desired specifications I ended up contracting with a structural manufacturing company out of Longview, Texas, that had never built a boat dock sub-frame, but they had built other heavy-duty frameworks that met my design criteria. I then trucked the thousands of pieces to San Antonio to be hot-dip galvanized and then finally trucked to the erection site on Lake Travis.
“It was at this point in the project that I decided to both erect and finish out the boat dock substantially with my own crews and local subcontractors as needed, as no boat dock contractor that I was able to find had the experience in dealing with such a massive structure/project. There are essentially no nails used on the boat dock or anywhere else on the project, including the cabana; instead, treated screws were utilized. The same goes for wooden 2x4s; instead, 2x6s were utilized. All framing lumber was factory treated for rot/termite prevention.
“Due to the additional weight infused onto the boat dock due to the specification criteria, the number of floatation segments was doubled and in some areas tripled, which guaranteed a very steadfast structure. A 3,500-PSI concrete would have sufficed on all areas where concrete was poured; instead, 4,000-PSI concrete reinforced with rebar on 12-inch centers was poured. Although I have a tendency to overbuild I believe it’s a positive in that it adds to the current value of the project in dollars prudently spent, as well as to the long-term in cost savings on maintenance.
“Substantially adding to the value and exclusivity of the Red-Red-Wine boat dock is the fact that the LCRA [Lower Colorado River Authority] recently adopted new rules and regulations that prevent any future living quarters from being built on boat docks on Lake Travis. To name a few other impediments to the project, the designer/superintendent that I hired to assist with the concept and crew management had to be terminated well before the projects completion, and I had a lengthy and costly court battle to have the property de-annexed after the developer I bought the property from went into bankruptcy and the city provided utilities therefore going into a stalemate. This involved my company having to install the power and water main not only for myself, but consequently for a substantial portion of the subdivision as well as other areas of the city. None of which I was ever compensated for.
“My hats off to all of the contractors, vendors and other providers who contributed to the success and enabling of the project by their input and hard work. They were truly team players, with special thanks going out to my Austin-based legal team, Howry, Breen, and Herman, LLP and the Hull Firm; my insurance carrier Hanby Insurance Agency, from Mesquite, Texas; and all the companies I’ve previously mentioned that were invaluable to constructing and installing various components of the project.”
Proud of this substantial undertaking coming to fruition, Redwine had a professionally shot and produced video tour of the entire estate done by Marco Martinez Trevino of Echo Earth Media, an Austin-based company; the video is accessible at calazarca.com.
Both Trevino and the company that developed the website for the Red-Red-Wine/Cala Zarca project (cyberonyx.net, a company out of Virginia/Hawaii) say that out of all the high-end projects they have worked on this one is without question the most ostentatious. When Redwine is asked if he would ever consider selling his private exotic resort, he only responds, “Perhaps, for the right price.” Surely, that price would be substantial considering the investment, effort and innovation that have gone into this outstanding property.
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