Sonoma: Mike Skinner on wine country

Skinner discusses his hobby of collecting wine. As Morgan-McClure Motorsports prepares to compete in the first of two road course events of the 2002 NASCAR Winston Cup season, Mike Skinner is taking time out of a hectic schedule for a few days...

Skinner discusses his hobby of collecting wine.

As Morgan-McClure Motorsports prepares to compete in the first of two road course events of the 2002 NASCAR Winston Cup season, Mike Skinner is taking time out of a hectic schedule for a few days of relaxation in the NAPA Valley of California. Skinner flew straight from Michigan Speedway on Sunday evening to Sonoma, the site of the16th race of the year.

Skinner, an avid wine collector, will visit a few wineries, play golf and dine at several of his favorite restuarants while in Sonoma this week before beginning work at the track again on Friday. Skinner, who grew up in Susanville, Calif., also plans to purchase vintage wines to add to his extensive collection at his home in Daytona Beach, Florida.

Mike Skinner, driver of the No. 4 Kodak MAX Film Monte Carlo, quotes on his hobby of wine collecting and tastes for wine:

"I became interested in wine through Richard Childress. I used to drink a glass of white wine for dinner on occasion. RC likes fine wine. He would let me try some of his vintage wines and really taught me how to appreciate the full bodied flavors and aromas that wine has to offer.

"Collecting wines became a hobby. It is a challenge to find certain vintages. Angie (Mike's wife) and I have about 800 to 1100 bottles of wine in stock. We have learned to buy the releases now and stock up on them. They are cheaper than they will be in a couple of years. We let the bottles sit up for about 3 years before drinking them. This gives the wine proper time to ferment. We can purchase a bottle of wine when released for $25.00 and in three years the same bottle might sell for $75.00 to $100.00.

"We have mostly California wines. However, we do have a nice collection of French and Italian wines to compliment the stock. I have several favorites. Two of my friends own a vineyard in the NAPA Valley. They produce Viansa wines. A few of my other favorites include Altamura, Silver Oak and Farniete.

"Many years are supposed to have more of a full-body than others. I stocked up on 1997 vintages, because that was supposed to be a great year. The most valued bottles I own are 1989 Silver Oak Bonny's Vineyard. I'm saving those to celebrate my first NASCAR Winston Cup Points win. We used it to celebrate other wins in the past.

"Larry McClure enjoys a great glass of wine also. He prefers Merlots. So we both have our reserve bottles saved up to uncork when we win our first race together.

"The wine I prefer really depends on many factors. Mood, weather and meals play a role in choosing a Merlot or Chardonnay or Pinot Noir or the type of wine to drink.

"Angie and I take a mid-season vacation every year out to Sonoma Valley. We always go following the Michigan race in June. We stay at the Sonoma Mission Inn for 3 or 4 days. The atmosphere is so relaxing out there. It is a refreshing trip filled with golf outings, spa visits, shopping, dining at fine restaurants and wine tastings. Many of our friends set up various trips to local vineyards and we are given private wine tastings. It is a nice break to relax and prepare for the rest of the racing season.

"Going to the NAPA Valley for our first road course race of the year is awesome. It is a great track and I love the area. John Cardinale with Sears Point Raceway sets up a bunch of tastings for us while we are there for the race. It is a lot of fun.

"Our child, a Doberman, is actually named after a bottle of wine. We named him after Opus 1 wine. Many people wonder where the name Opus came from for him and that explains it."

-mmm-

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Series Monster Energy NASCAR Cup
Drivers Mike Skinner