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.
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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