Danica Patrick On The Dream That Drove Her Wild Until It Became A Reality: Her Own Wine Label

Danica PatrickPhoto Credit: WILL BUCQUOY



Danica PatrickPhoto Credit: WILL BUCQUOY

DANICA PATRICK IS PRETTY INTENSE… and she’ll be the first person to tell you so (she even has a podcast and a book — both titled Pretty Intense — to back her up). Truthfully, I’d expect nothing less from the most successful woman in the history of American open-wheel car racing. She’s a badass and she’s a legend, smashing glass ceilings like a Xena the Warrior Princess in a leather jacket. But no person should or could be defined by any one thing, and this 39-year-old is no exception. Sure, she’s pretty intense, but she’s a dreamer, too.

Case in point: We’re talking about her wine label, Somnium — which, quite literally, is Latin for “dream.” And though she’s a true Aries sun, displaying far more of that outward intensity, there’s still a part of her that can wax poetically and romantically when speaking about the moment she fell in love with wine.

To set the scene: At the moment this Napa Valley love story begins, her racing career was just beginning to take off. In 2004, she became the first woman to win a pole position in the Toyota Atlantic Series and in 2005, was named Rookie of the Year for both the 2005 Indianapolis 500 and the 2005 IndyCar Series. In 2006, age 25 and riding high on life, she decided to make a pit stop in Napa Valley. What she found at the beautiful Quintessa Estate on the eastern edge of Rutherford in St. Helena was a calling.

The property, known for its hills, valleys, and a giant knoll running through its midst, was strewn with rose petals from a wedding the evening before. What could be more romantic? “It was a beautiful morning in November, cool, with fog misting over the Valley. It was just so pretty. I just stood there, looking out at it all and I thought to myself, ‘Man, it’d be so cool to have something like this someday.’ But it was just a thought; I also didn’t have $50 million to start a winery.”

But lest you forget, Patrick is not only “pretty intense” but definitely someone who defies the odds. Thus, because of her will, she found a way — copious amounts of money aside — and in 2009, drove that dream straight into reality by purchasing her first vineyard on Howell Mountain, one of Napa’s most prestigious AVAs. Her inaugural vintage, the 2014 Somnium Cabernet Sauvignon made its debut in 2017; a red blend and a rosé soon followed.

“Once I get an idea in my head, it really is hard to slow that engine down — pun intended,” she says now with a laugh.
One might even say she tends to go full throttle (I do, anyway). “It is definitely in my nature to go all in,” she agrees. “The only time I find myself stalling out or being a procrastinator is if I just don’t know what to do next, but as soon as I know what I want, then I go ahead. Things stall out once it gets time to scale and expand because I don’t know how to play that role. I’m more of the dreamer, the visionary.”

Luckily for Patrick, stalling out hasn’t happened with her wine efforts. If anything, the opposite is true. She expanded her reach in 2020 with the launch of Danica Rosé, a separate, more expansive effort, grown — as many great rosés are — in Provence, France. “It’s the most authentic region to make rosé from, and for me, being authentic has always been integral to who I am and how I like to operate. So, whether people liked or didn’t like what I did in the racing world, hopefully they could at least respect my authenticity. To me, that’s what this rosé is, just an extension of that, so it’s really an extension of myself, of my brand,” she explains.

If anyone wonders why a lauded race car driver might choose to include a winery as part of her brand, Patrick has one very simple answer: “People ask me why I make wine, and I say, ‘Because I like to drink it,’ and it’s just the truth. I almost never drink anything else,” she confides.

Nothing? Ever?

Danica PatrickPhoto Credit: WILL BUCQUOY

“I mean, every now and again I’ll have a vodka or tequila drink, but everybody who knows me knows that I pretty much only drink wine, and that’s that. I like it, so I like to drink it. We get into what we’re interested in, you know?”

Patrick’s appreciation for drinking wine was cultivated in England, where she moved after dropping out of high school in Beloit, Wisconsin, in 1998, at age 16 (with her parents’ permission) to further her racing career. This was long before she dreamed of owning a winery. [Ed note: Anyone who becomes a true connoisseur after drinking sweet house whites in a British pub is legit.]

That being said, wine ventures aren’t always the most lucrative. Like the tortoise versus the hare, sometimes it’s a slow and steady burn that wins the race. This is something Patrick, who has spent many seasons “getting in tune with nature, talking about the wind, getting in touch with the season and the varietals, the weather, how many grapes were harvested… getting an appreciation for the extent of effort and the level of detail it takes to create great wine,” is all too aware of.

“Fundamentally, why I started a winery was obviously because I like to drink it, but it has to go beyond that when you’re looking at why you choose to keep going,” she notes. “Making money has never been my reason for doing anything, though as I work through the numbers, I’m still losing money — just not as much money as I did when I started. I’m trying to figure out how to build the business so that I can make it profitable and then go from there. I have a path to success, but I have to be rational and reasonable.”

Patrick also has to have a reason she keeps going. “When you have a deeper reason, it helps you through the times that aren’t going the way you think they should be going. Time is hard to nail down, it’s like this illusionary moving target. Sometimes stuff moves really fast and sometimes things take a while and you just have to disconnect from the timeline we as humans think we can inflict on everything. Like, ‘This is going to happen by this time and then I’m going to get married and then I’m going to have kids and then I’m going to start this business and it’s going to be profitable.’ It’s great to have goals, but life doesn’t work that way.”

Danica PatrickPhoto Credit: WILL BUCQUOY

Instead, she says, her goals are viable — to grow the brand, make it profitable, get it into more stores and all 50 states — as is her reason for continuing. Much like Patrick herself, it too is straightforward and uncomplicated. “The purpose, my deeper reason here, is to encourage people to be together, to share their experiences, stories, and time together, to really connect in that way. This is such a digital age of texting and Instagram, but there’s a disconnect when it comes to the spoken word and storytelling. As humans, we need community, and what better facilitator to deepen the experience and open yourself up is there more than having some wine together, sharing stories and a meal? These are some core, fundamental tools for longevity. Happiness is to share these things. So that’s the purpose of it all, because if it was just to make money, I would have sold a long time ago.”

Patrick stresses that by selling Somnium and Danica Rosé, she is also sharing her story. She feels that what keeps customers coming back time and time again is their connection to the wild ride that has been her life. “In the very beginning, the one thing I was told quite a few times that made an impression was ‘You need to have your story.’ Well, I didn’t have to make anything up, so the story is the easy part. And this is a story about a dream,” she reminds me.

“My story reflects the fact that I stood on that knoll in the middle of Napa Valley and had a dream, an idea in my head, and I made it happen. It’s about a dream that continued to evolve, that was meant to bring people together, to connect with each other. I think that when we’re in connection with others, anything is possible. It’s when we’re alone that things get hard or scary… And experiences are so much better when they’re shared.”

It’s a tale that she never tires of telling, either. “I love that I get to share the story about why I do it,” she confides, noting that it goes back to her very first experience with Aaron Pott, the Quintessa winemaker-turned-consultant who helped Patrick in her quest to create Somnium, and that pivotal November day in 2006.

“We went into [the Quintessa] library and [Aaron] pulled out some old wine. I’ll never forget this. We were sitting there doing the whole ‘smell this, taste this’ thing, and he was like, ‘I don’t care about that. I want to hear about your cars and racing.’ And then we just talked about life. It didn’t have to be fancy. I wouldn’t have cared if we didn’t talk about the wine at all. I don’t care if you’re like, ‘This tastes of dark cherry and the tannins are so smooth and my mouth is so full.’ What I do care about is that when you drink wine, you spend time with people. You cultivate relationships, and you can’t do that if you’re not together.” She pauses, before saying, “How fun is it that wine is really just sort of the reason to be together?”

Super fun. Now where’s my glass?

Danica PatrickPhoto Credit: WILL BUCQUOY

IT’S A MONDAY, but Danica Patrick isn’t complaining. She’s one of the lucky few who have never felt the Monday blues. It’s not weird — her life has just been anything but traditional.

“You know, I’ve been lucky my whole life. No day really means anything to me,” she admits. “It’s not like a Monday feels like ‘Oh no, here we go again for the week.’ It doesn’t mean five days of consecutive work. It’s just all very inconsistent, unpredictable, and always changing.”
Let’s unpack this for a minute. It’s already been said that she’s broken all kinds of ground (and gender stereotypes) in the racing world, but just how many is freakin’ amazing. Her accolades: She made history at the 2008 Indy Japan as the only woman to ever win an IndyCar Series race.

She was the first woman to win a NASCAR Cup Series pole position; set a record for the most top-10 finishes by a woman in a Sprint Cup Series in 2015; and in 2013, by leading laps in the Daytona 500, joined an elite club of only 14 drivers to have led both the Daytona 500 and the Indianapolis 500. Patrick stopped racing full-time in 2017, but competed at the 2018 Daytona 500 and the 2018 Indianapolis 500 before officially retiring that year as a legend.

Now, in addition to investing in a slew of companies, she focuses on her athleisure line, Warrior, her “Pretty Intense” everything, her wine, of course, and VOYANT by Danica, a new home scent collection meaning “the seer,” a reference to the inner eye chakra, one of the key energy points in the body essential to wellness and healing. In case you’re wondering, yes, she is human. Also like the rest of us, she’s gone through her share of hardships. They just don’t include Mondays.

I’m not with her in person — she’s chilling at her home studio/office in Scottsdale — but we’re talking about pandemic hardships (with an occasional sidebar about her awesome, 480-bottle-strong wine cellar, most of which is currently with her, part of which is still at her Chicago house), which, for someone who obviously loves being around people and bringing them together — seems pretty damn bleak.

“I drank wine with people on Zoom. I drank wine with people at home. I definitely think my consumption was up. Definitely for the first couple months of quarantine, the sun would just start to go down and I’d be like, ‘Some rosé, maybe?’ It’s 3:30, your work is done. ‘Is that too early? Maybe I’ll wait until 4:30 because that seems more reasonable.’ Wine is a bridge to relaxation and connection. Done in a healthy way, it’s a tool.” She chugs water from a jug that seems as big as she is to punctuate her point.

Danica PatrickPhoto Credit: DANICA PATRICK

Now, we’ve shifted gears and this is real talk. Our conversation evolves into a discussion on life, love, and the whole damn thing.

“Covid breakups were a thing,” Patrick says dryly. She has personal experience in the matter given that she split from Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, her boyfriend of two years, back in 2020 during the early days of the pandemic.

“It happened, and I’m OK,” she says. “Everything takes time, especially based on whatever your experience is with the relationship, the dynamic, and how everything plays out. Some days were better than others, and overall, it was really hard, but I’m good now.” (She’s better than good, actually: Patrick began a new relationship with Carter Comstock, the founder of Freshly, last year after the two were set up by the cofounders of Beam, of which they’re both investors.)

She seems happy. Like, really happy. The kind of happy someone can only be if they’ve truly shed what makes them unhappy, like a butterfly coming out of a cocoon. So when I wonder aloud if that’s how she feels, she smiles and points above her head to a vibrant painting of reds, oranges, and golds — the colors of a desert sunset. It is, she says, just that. “I had a friend who’s an artist make this for me. I said, ‘I just want something that has Arizona colors in it, and I want it to be like a phoenix rising kind of energy.’ This spoke to me. It’s super intense. To go through something like that [during the pandemic] just adds layers to all other dynamics.”

I ask if she ever visited Sedona, an Arizona city known for its New Age community, powerful vortexes, and overall propensity to heal, and wonder if she used the city to feel the phoenix energy, become the butterfly in her painting.

Danica PatrickPhoto Credit: SOMNIUM

“I did, actually,” she confides. “When things were starting to go down, I took an overnight trip there with two girlfriends and stayed at a great place called L’Auberge, which is where I stay most of the time when I visit. But I also go for day trips. I love going to the Center for the New Age to get psychic readings or to buy crystals or incense.”

Patrick seems so pragmatic that her love of the mystical is surprising, but awesome nevertheless. “I actually see a lot [of them], but I do it for fun,” she confesses. “The [people] I see in Sedona will do palm readings or little 15-to-30-minute readings at most, but the healers I typically see are more official. I use Akashic readers who I do really in-depth, hour-long calls with. Sedona’s just for fun and a little bit of play.”

That being said, she will give credit where it’s due, and she owes a wealth to the city for one very important reason. “My spiritual transformation began there,” she admits. “Back in 2015, my girlfriends and I went up for a few days for my birthday and did a vortex tour. Our guide’s name was Bear. We hiked the Kachina Woman [vortex], did a labyrinth, all kinds of cool stuff. That’s probably where my love of woo-woo really started. I’m really generally quite a spiritual person, so it helps to cultivate that.”

In case you’re wondering — no, she did not consult with psychics or mystics when it came to creating her winery; that decision was all her. But her spirituality has helped in her overall decision-making, both personally and professionally.

“I’m much better at being able to sense things and understand when I’m meant to let go versus push harder, and I’m more in flow with what’s really meant to be as opposed to what I’m forcing. I’ve learned that in order to have things flow naturally, other things have to fall away. Sometimes it feels uncomfortable — that part is usually the hardest — but it also opens you up to so many other things.”

Said like a phoenix rising from the ashes, driven by a dream.