NASCAR and Wine?

If you think NASCAR racing and wine don’t mix then you need to read this week’s wine column.

NASCAR and wine are an unusual pairing in most people’s minds. The results from the 2010 North Carolina State Fair Wine Competition just might change your mind. Childress Vineyards, owned by veteran NASCAR driver Richard Childress won Best in Show for his 2008 Barrel Select Cabernet Sauvignon. Childress Vineyards has won the Best in Show four times and this is the third year in a row.

Richard Childress began his racing career as a replacement driver during a strike in the late sixties. He parlayed this chance into a successful racing career and later founded Richard Childress Racing featuring drivers like Dale Earnhardt.

Ray Evernham and Richard Childress (Courtesy RCR NASCAR Racing)

Ray Evernham and Richard Childress (Courtesy RCR NASCAR Racing)

So how did a racecar driver become a winemaker? During his racing days Childress spent time in California wine country meeting farmers and winemakers along the way igniting his passion for wine. After retiring from racing he began experimenting with growing grapes in the Yadkin Valley of his home state of North Carolina. Not a place many associate with fine wine and he has set out to change that.

To help him put the Yadkin Valley on the map, Childress Vineyards hired award-winning winemaker Mark Friszolowski. Mark came to Childress from Pindhar Winery on the North Fork of Long Island, a wine region he helped establish. Mark focuses his efforts on making quality wines from European varietals such as Chardonnay, Viognier, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah. If the result of this year’s NC State Fair Wine Competition is any indication it looks like these investments have totally paid off.

Childress has located his winery close to the Richard Childress Racing museum, a 47,000 sq. ft facility that houses 46 cars from Childress’ racing career and draws NASCAR lovers from all over. The 35,000sq.ft winery was designed to provide a beautiful setting to enjoy his wines as well as the home to lively festival and concerts. In 2008 it was named one of the Top 25 Tasting Rooms in America by Wine Enthusiast magazine.

Childress isn’t the only winery to visit in the Yadkin Valley which has over 30 wineries that make up the Yadkin Valley Wine Trail. A third of all wineries in North Carolina are in the Yadkin Valley which has proven to be one of the best areas in the state to grow both native and European grape varietals.

If you are thinking of taking a weekend trip to wine country you don’t need to travel west. Instead head down to the Yadkin Valley of North Carolina to check out Childress Vineyards and some of the other great wineries in the area. So start your engines and race down to one of the east coast’s premier wine regions—Yadkin Valley, North Carolina.

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Laurie Forster

Laurie Forster, The Wine Coach® is a wine educator, dynamic speaker and author of the award-winning book The Sipping Point: A Crash Course in Wine. Laurie was not born with a silver corkscrew in her mouth. In fact, growing up Laurie thought wine was pink and came in a box. After several stressful business dinners trying to order off wine lists the size of a phone book, she began educating herself on wine. In 2001 she left the business world to professionally study wine and save others from these awkward moments. Laurie began her wine career in Manhattan where she studied with the American Sommelier Association to earn her certificate in Viticulture and Vinification. She has since earned an Advanced Certificate with the Wine & Spirits Education Trust (WSET), completed her first step towards certification with the Court of Master Sommeliers and has trained at the Culinary Institute of America in Napa Valley. Laurie’s specialty is creating unique corporate keynotes, team building events and group tasting seminars where she can deliver on her mission to demystify wine one glass at a time. She is also a regular contributor to several magazines; a sought after guest expert on TV and radio stations across the country, including Martha Stewart Radio. For more visit:

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