Life in the fast line, that’s how these guys roll. The world of wine has been expanding at such a rapid pace that it’s not surprising to find aspiring vintners from all walks of life. In fact, we’ve tracked down 4 who started life on the road, at 150 miles per hour!
Yes, it’s true, racecar drivers can now be found making wine. And not just any racecar drivers but winners from NASCAR and Formula 1, not to leave out the amazing finishes in Can-Am races as well as the Indianapolis 500. With a track record (no pun intended) like that it’s not surprising that these guys continue to win -- medals with their wines, that is.
Mario Andretti – Andretti Winery
Perhaps the most famous driver ever, Mario Andretti left the world of motorsports after winning races in virtually every division imaginable, from midget racers to NASCAR and, of course, the Indy 500. With so many wins under his belt it’s no surprise that Mario brought passion and drive to his signature Napa Valley estate: Andretti Winery.
With 42 acres in the Oak Knoll District, famed for its long, marine-cool growing season, the Andretti estate produces fine, balanced wines from Chardonnay, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. Mario has enlisted Bob Pepi, son of the renowned Robert Pepi and world-class winemaker in his own right, as winemaker and the results speak for themselves: these wines are winners.
Jeff Gordon – Jeff Gordon Wines
While Mario Andretti may be the most famous racecar driver on this list, Jeff Gordon is probably the most well-known in the USA. This four-time NASCAR Cup Series champ is virtually a household name. Now Jeff has set his sights on making Jeff Gordon wines equally as well-known and highly regarded.
Jeff has enlisted Joe Briggs, of the August Briggs winery, to make his wine and has produced wines from Carneros Chardonnay, Napa Valley Cabernet, Merlot and Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir. Jeff’s love of the region is easy to understand considering his early days racing midget cars on tracks in Calistoga and Petaluma.
Kevin Buckler – Adobe Road
While perhaps more famous as the owner of The Racer’s Group sportscar racing team, Kevin Buckler had an illustrious career with wins at both the 24 Hours of Daytona and 24 Hours of le Mans. After spending much time in the garage, tuning up and getting ready for race day, it may come as a surprise that Kevin started his winemaking career making garage wine. Well, maybe that isn’t surprising after all.
Kevin enlisted Michael Scorsone as Adobe Road’s winemaker. Michael brings experience at some of the finest California wineries to the table, operations such as Neyers, Failla and even Turley. Together Kevin and Michael have produced a full line of California wines from some of wine country’s most famous appellations.
Richard Childress – Childress Vineyards
Richard Childress ran NASCAR cars through the 1970s but really became a driving force with his signing of Dale Earnhardt in 1981. The next 15 years saw Richard Childress racing, with Dale behind the wheel, cruising to six championships. Richard was born and raised in NASCAR Country, Winston-Salem to be specific, so it was a returning home of sorts when he added Childress Vineyards, located just a ways south of Winston-Salem, to his growing empire.
With a clean slate to start, Richard employed Mark Friszolowski to be general manager and winemaker. Mark, a native of Long Island, NY, cut his teeth in that region’s emerging wine industry with stints at Pindar and Duck Walk wineries. Childress Vineyards has emerged as North Carolina’s preeminent winery, producing a full range of red and white wines in a state-of-the art 35,000 square foot facility.