10 Questions For NASCAR Champion Jeff Gordon

Published in Gourmet Live 06.13.12
Kelly Senyei fastens her seat belt for a candid chat with the racing legend and father of two as he goes high speed into winemaking
Nascar driver Jeff Gordon and family

You may know him as a four-time NASCAR Cup Series champion and a leader in pole positions (he has 71 to his name), but when race-car driver Jeff Gordon isn’t busy setting the pace for one of the world’s fastest sports, he can be found sipping and swirling his latest namesake vintage. A longtime oenophile, Gordon, 40, transformed his passion from a hobby to a business when he teamed up with noted California winemaker August “Joe” Briggs, launching the Jeff Gordon Collection in 2005. Gourmet Live caught up with the renowned driver of the No. 24 race car to talk prerace meals, Father’s Day festivities, and what he grills track-side for his wife, Ingrid.

Gourmet Live: What do you eat directly before and during a race?

Jeff Gordon: It varies, but I usually eat salmon, chicken, or another healthy alternative that’s not too heavy. It’s important that I get protein for energy and that I hydrate properly. I also always have some kind of fruit, like grapes or strawberries.

GL: What is the worst food to eat before a race?

JG: I really can’t say that there’s anything that’s the worst. I eat healthy on a regular basis, and it’s no different before I get in the race car. I avoid heavier foods and make sure it’s a really good, balanced meal, and nothing with tons of sugar.

GL: What one drink would you have to celebrate winning a race?

JG: I always have a Pepsi, as they’ve been a big supporter of mine for years. Part of the fun in the winner’s circle is spraying Champagne, and I always look forward to that. When I won in Sonoma, we opened up a bottle of my wine and shared it with everyone, which was really cool.

GL: What inspired you to create your own brand of wine?

JG: As a kid growing up in the Bay Area of northern San Francisco, I was always going to car races and racing go-karts in Petaluma and Calistoga. I remember driving by all of the beautiful vineyards and wondering what they were all about. I’ve always been really curious about the process of making wine, and I’ve also been able to experience some spectacular wines through my travels. I was in London several years ago and had an amazing decanted French white Burgundy, and that’s when it really kicked in. What started out as a casual interest for me developed into a passion, and the more I learned, the more I wanted to have my own label. I wanted to be able to share the tastes that I enjoy in certain varietals with other people, so I teamed up with Joe Briggs in 2004 because he’s a great boutique winemaker who focuses more on the quality of the wine rather than mass production levels.

GL: If you could create the ultimate wine, what flavors and characteristics would it embody?

JG: My wine tastes are continually evolving. For whites, I recently started getting into some of the Austrian Grüner Veltliners. I’m big on red wine, and right now my favorite is our Joie de Vivre, which is our flagship wine. It’s a balanced blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (mostly Napa Valley and a little Sonoma Valley), Napa Valley Merlot, and Napa Valley Syrah, and I absolutely love how smooth it is on the palate from start to finish.

GL: What has been the most gratifying part of having your own wine label?

JG: My entire goal was to get as many people to enjoy the wine as possible, so it’s great to see it being successful. I’m really proud of where we’ve taken the brand since our first 2004 vintage. One of the highlights for me was naming two of the vintages after my kids in the years they were born—the 2007 wines are dedicated to my daughter, Ella Sofia, and the 2010s are for my son, Leo. It’s going to be hard to top that, but I just want to continue making high-quality wines that people take seriously and enjoy. It’s great that the wine is being recognized as a solid California wine, and that people realize that I didn’t just lend my name to it.

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