Hail Me a Cab … in Napa
Napa Valley (as well as Sonoma) is home to some of the most beautiful, heart melting landscapes in the world. It has a slight European flare due to the wineries emulating old world chateaus but it is unmistakably American in its spirit of True Grit ambition. I was therefore very excited to meet Bo Barret of Chateau Montelena Vineyards which made history in the famous “Judgement of Paris” when its Chardonnay won a blind tasting against other supposedly superior French Chardonnays single handedly putting California wines on the map.
I’ve met many people in the wine biz — in France, Spain, Chile — and what I love about California wine people is their laid back, unpretentiousness. It’s almost as if they can’t believe their own luck; yet we all know that the wine business is literally back breaking as well as an unrelenting world to be in. I found Bo Barret to be a personable highly affable man with a Joe Biden smile who looked like he had just stepped off the pages of a J. Crew catalogue (although it may have been his adorable brown labs). At the end of our conversation he handed me a bottle of his wine, which I immediately had him sign.
My next stop was just as fun at Judd’s Hill, a winery that lets you be “winemaker for the day” forgoing the back-breaking work and total stress of a true wine maker to mix, slosh and slurp. We were absolutely starving having missed lunch and their Chef made us the most amazing dinner of grilled meats and vegetables that we ate up like the orphans in Oliver. I think we all sang “Food Glorious Food.” They put on a great party for us as well to show all of us (viewers included) how life is celebrated in Napa Valley, which from my perspective I would say is very well and all the time.
On a sad note the Judds’ lovely father Art who proclaimed my “Hail Me a Cab” to be among the best wine he has ever drunk passed away the day before the show aired. The Judds sent me a beautiful note saying how the whole family watched the episode and what an honor to his life it was.
The highlight of this episode for me was going to the Andretti Vineyards. My dad has raced cars even before I was born, summers were spent on a race track in Lime Rock Connecticut and for me, Mario Andretti was the first name in racing. Not only did I get to meet Michael and his son Marco, but Tony Kanaan and Danica Patrick as well. How you cannot be impressed with that woman is beyond me and I was very excited to be able to talk to one of the few women to break the barriers and help change the usual start of a race — “Gentleman, start your engines ” — to include the ladies as well. She was absolutely lovely on and off camera and I asked her for a personal favor: I wanted her on camera to tell the Travel Channel that they should allow me to be in the driver’s seat of a race car. Due to insurance, they refuse to pay for me to be in a sport deemed too dangerous. I had to sit shotgun at the NASCAR experience in Las Vegas, something that left me completely humiliated and fuming more than an open-wheeled car in the Indianapolis 500.
When I asked Danica if she thought their attitude towards my safety wasn’t utterly ridiculous, her answer shocked me: she said Travel Channel was right and that it’s too dangerous for me to be in the driver’s seat. Of course, I had that part edited out.