Book serves as legacy for WTC restaurant

NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - Windows on the World, the elegant restaurant at the top of the World Trade Center that was destroyed in the September 11 attacks, never had the chance to celebrate its 25th anniversary.

But Kevin Zraly, its former wine director, hopes the quarter-century edition of his popular primer on wines, “Windows on the World Complete Wine Course,” which will be published next month, will serve as a legacy.

“I think that’s why I put a lot more time and effort into the book. It’s the only thing that carries on the legacy, the story of Windows on the World,” Zraly said in an interview on the eve of eighth anniversary of the attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people.

“It’s important, was important for me to really do the best that I could possible do to celebrate Window’s 25th anniversary,” he said.

The restaurant, perched at the top floor of the North Tower with a commanding view of New York Harbor and the city, was famous for its spectacular location, its guests who included presidents, politicians and royalty, its cuisine and extensive wine cellar.

“On September 10 everything was perfect,” Zraly recalled. “We were going to be celebrating the restaurant’s 25th anniversary in October ... Windows never got to have its 25th anniversary celebration.”

When the World Trade Center was attacked on Sept 11, 2001, shortly after 9 a.m., 72 employees of the restaurant were among those who died.

Zraly, who was not due at work until later in the day, watched from the streets below as the towers fell.

“I look at it this way, because I have to personally, I still haven’t and I never will come to grips with all of it,” he said. “In my wine department, there were five of us and two were killed that day.”

Zraly’s “Windows on the World Complete Wine Course” has already sold 3 million copies. Asked what were the major differences between this, the 25th anniversary edition, and the earlier ones, he replied:

“When I started writing about wine, there was only French wine. If you needed white, you went to Germany. Italy was a mess. Spain was still under Franco and Portugal was still in the 12th century. There were 12 wineries in Napa. Chile and Argentina had their own problems and Australia was beer and kangaroos.

All that has changed.

“To be honest, while it said it was the complete wine course, it was never complete until the 25th anniversary edition,” Zraly said.