Andretti Winery was established in 1996 by the famed race car driver, Mario Andretti. However Mario doesn’t mix his wine and auto racing so don’t expect to find any race cars here. The winery is located only about 10 minutes north of downtown Napa, on Big Ranch Road – about 1/2 way between the Silverado Trail and Highway 29.
NOTE: in late March 2021, Andretti Winery closed its doors to visitors and will no longer be hosting visits to the winery. Wine will continue to be sold online and through their wholesale distribution outlets. It may be possible they will open in a different location at some point – we will keep a close eye on this development and will update this review accordingly – or archive this review if they discontinue production at some point.
Interestingly enough, Laird Family (prominent growers and winery in Napa) own the physical winery on site and also lease the tasting room to Andretti. The winery is in the somewhat cooler (when compared to the warmer up valley) growing location of the Oak Knoll district. Andretti leases approximately 42 acres surrounding the winery and tasting room; it is planted to Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Sauvignon Blanc. They also purchase grapes from other vineyards in select locations in the Napa Valley.
Mario was born in what is now called Motovun, Croatia – at the time of his birth in 1940 a part of Italy but after World War II annexed by the former Yugoslavia. A family that was effected by the war – in 1948 they fled for Lucca in Italy and in 1955 immigrated to the United States. Mario is not the only Napa ‘vintner’ with the distinction of being born in what is now Croatia – Mike Grgich was also born in the small village of Desne, Croatia. Mario fell in love with wine through numerous trips around the world as a result of his racing career; he would seek out the finest wines in various regions and wine became a part of his lifestyle.
His racing career is long and accomplished. He is one of only three drivers to date to have won races in Formula One, IndyCar World Sportscar Championship and Nascar. He won the Indianapolis 500 for the first and only time in his career in 1969 – and some refer to his never winning this race again nor any of his family members in the racing industry as the Andretti curse. His professional career began in 1968 and ended with his retirement in 1994 (although he had been racing vehicles since the late 1950s). Like other race car drivers he has suffered a number of crashes – some could have been life threatening (reference his time racing in 1970).
Mario became more interested in the wine business after a wine was produced in his honor in the mid 1990’s to honor the end of his illustrious racing career. Eventually he teamed up with Joe Antonini, former CEO of Kmart (and one of Mario’s sponsors during his racing days) to form Andretti Winery.
And while he has been the subject of numerous books, he is also an author several times over including of What’s It Like Out There? published in 1970.
Several brands are produced under the Andretti label including their Napa Valley Series (wines that are not vineyard designates), the Villa Andretti Series (reasonably priced limited production wines that focus on Italian varieties (wines not often found in the Napa Valley), and the Montona Series (named after Mario’s childhood home in Italy featuring very their most premium limited production wines).
If you enjoy a style of Chardonnay that is slightly buttery and somewhat oaky, their Montona Series Reserve Chardonnay is made in this style.
One doesn’t always see Pinot Grigio on the tasting lists of Napa wineries; the one here is worth seeking out. The 2015 Napa Valley Pinot Grigio is a light salmon color in the glass (this wine sees more skin contact then the few Napa Pinot Grigio’s we have tried. Not overly citrus on the bouquet or palate. Shows hints of floral aromas along with raspberry. The wine is balanced nicely with both crispness along with a noticeable weight on the palate. Very refreshing and drinks well by itself.
The 2015 Andretti Carneros Pinot Noir shows an intriguing bouquet – it is somewhat savory with notes of bacon fat and smoke along with fruit aromatics including red berries. Fairly soft entry on the palate, balanced and rounded in feel – decent acidity with fine grained tannins. Not necessarily a delicate Pinot Noir.
Try their Sangiovese – we tried the 2006 Andretti vintage. It is a very well balanced wine with a hint of oak along with cherry flavors.
Another wine worth mentioning is their Blanc de Noir Sparkling Wine made from Cabernet Sauvignon grapes. Very few wineries in the valley make a sparkling wine – theirs has some interesting hints of toast and raspberries which when mentioned together sound like an odd combination, but it really works with this wine. We tried the 2001 vintage.
We also found the Merlot and their limited release Port styled wine to be worth trying.
Larger group tour vehicles often stop here and like other popular walk-in wineries the tasting room can become very crowded quickly (it is not a large space). If the weather is good, chairs and tables are available in the courtyard not far from the rows of grapes. And a nice touch we don’t always see in public tasting rooms, a small refrigerator is on site providing select cheeses and other artisan bites for sale. Grab a few of these paired with one of their wines – and enjoy your tasting outside.
Andretti Winery is small with a faux Italian/Tuscan feel from the courtyard, fountains, and landscaping. Their main courtyard is a great place for photos.
A membership in their wine club offers you tickets to their member only parties (there are lots!), a chance to meet Mario and other benefits including the opportunity to customize your wine shipments. Winery apparel and Mario Andretti books & souvenirs are available for sale in the winery.
And you know your in wine country when the winery cat is named Merlot.
Looking for a private wine tasting experience? Andretti offers this as well as numerous other private options; honoring their Italian heritage – food is a big part of the winery offered experiences including several lunches, and dinner options. Some of the options include a tour of the winery and a walk through part of the vineyards. And Andretti can host private and corporate events on site.
For more information and or to join their wine club, visit: www.andrettiwinery.com
NOTE: this review has been identified as needing a *major* update.