Located so close to Cork Board world headquarters that itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s within walking distance, Andretti (yes, that one) Winery is located at 4162 Big Ranch Road, which lies right between Highway 29 and Silverado Trail. The tasting room, winery offices and residence make up a Tuscan-style Andretti Villa that is nestled just off this less-traveled Napa road. If youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re headed north on Big Ranch Road, the winery will be on your right.
Founded in 1996, Andretti Winery was founded by none other than famed race car driver Mario Andretti. The story goes that when Andretti retired from racing, a commemorative wine was produced in his honor and from then on, he became interested in owning his own winery. Andretti quickly assembled a team, purchased some 42-acres of prime Napa Valley property and built his namesake winery, and as they say, the rest is history.
We dropped by the winery in the late afternoon (our favorite time for winetasting) recentlyÃ¢â‚¬Â¦
The winery: Again, Andretti Winery was built as a Tuscan-style villa, with bright yellowish orange structures (just like those in Tuscany), fountains and beautiful gardens surrounding the primary tasting area. The winery, which is located in the heart of the Oak Knoll District, is open to the public seven days a week between 10am Ã¢â‚¬â€œ 5pm, with no appointment necessary for a tasting. If youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re interested in a tour, appointments are required.
After parking we crossed a stone tiled piazza with a water fountain in the center (ah, if we were only truly back in Tuscany!) and made our way toward the tasting room. There is only one tasting option offered at the winery, a four flight tasting for $8 per person. If more than one person in your group is planning to taste, be sure to check-out the two-for-one tasting pass (warning, PDF) on the Andretti website. If youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re a Napa resident, the winery does participate in the Napa Neighbors program, which means you can taste for free!
The tasting room: Upon entering, the tasting area feels a bit more like a souvenir shop than a place to enjoy some prime Napa Valley wine. The walls are lined with racing photos and there are t-shirts and other Andretti racing memorabilia available for purchase. The L-shaped bar is made out of wood and has numerous bottles of wine sitting in the wall-mounted racks behind it. This is where the bulk of the tasting happens, although the winery also has several tables and a nice garden area out back where youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re welcome to enjoy the wine under the sun as well. The overall vibe is extremely relaxed–it felt as though we were truly in a family-owned winery and were cherished guests that had been invited over to enjoy some wine. We opted to stand at the bar, along with two other couples, for our tasting.
The staff: We saw only two staffers on-hand at the winery this particular afternoonÃ¢â‚¬â€which was just right for the number of people in the tasting room. Both were friendly, informative and provided just the right amount of information about the wines, the winery and (if asked) about Mr. Andretti and his career. They were also willing and able to offer the other guests suggestions on nearby places to taste (Monticello, which is right next door, came highly recommended). We were informed that the typical tasting includes four different wines (for $8 per person) of our choosing and were handed the list of available vintages.
The wine: For our first flight we opted for the 2006 Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc ($22 per bottle), which was perfect for a warm summer day. This cool, crisp wine had hints of citrus and we got yummy melon and honey flavors on the palate. Overall, it was a pleasant wine that weÃ¢â‚¬â„¢d certainly serve at a spring or summertime lunch party.
Next up was the 2006 Napa Valley Syrah ($33 per bottle), which isnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t typically one of our favorite varietals. On the nose we got a bit of plum and oak and this full-bodied wine certainly tasted rich, with hints of cherry and oak.
Following the Syrah we tried the 2006 Napa Valley Sangiovese (also $33 per bottle), which was our favorite of all the wines we tasted. This wine had strong cherry flavors on the nose, which we love, and had a long, fruity finish. Having tried a few other SangioveseÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s in our time, we enjoyed this one for being light and fruity, but not overly so.
Our final taste of the day was the 2005 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. The wine retails for $38 per bottle and is a blend of Cabernet grapes two vineyards, one south of St. Helena and one in St. Helena. It was another full-bodied wine with the classic dark fruit flavors coming through in abundance, including blackberry and spicy oak. Overall, a decent Cab.
The Cork Board rating: 3.5 corks (out of 5 possible). A low-key tasting room with friendly and informative staffers, a laid-back overall vibe and surprisingly solid wines make Andretti Winery a sure-fire addition to our Ã¢â‚¬Ëœwill return toÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ list. That said, we could certainly do with a little less of the memorabilia…
Have you visited Andretti Winery lately? Leave us a comment and tell us what you thought of the experience. Also, be sure to check out our previous winetasting reviews.