Long before Danica Patrick rose to fame as an asphalt-ceiling-smashing race-car driver with a Napa wine label to her name, she was a kid growing up in Illinois. She never loved the bone-chilling weather there, but she toughed it out on a Midwesterner's logic: Life was cold, and the warm and scenic climes that she preferred were just where you went on vacation.
In 2007, she would reject that logic, buying a home in Scottsdale, Ariz. Now, just months into her retirement from a multiple-record-setting career on both the IndyCar and NASCAR circuits—including a win at the Indy Japan 300 in 2008 that made her the first woman ever to win a major-league, open-wheel race in a North American series—she is spending more time at home, making dinner for friends or waffles for her boyfriend, Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
But this is not your mama's retirement. After her final race at the Indianapolis 500 in May 2018, Patrick flew straight to Auction Napa Valley, where a lot including bottles of her wine, Somnium, and a car ride with her sold for $300,000. With the racetrack receding in her rearview, Patrick has shifted her winemaking career into high gear.
Patrick fell into wine in 2006 when, on a trip to Napa, she tasted Quintessa's Illumination Sauvignon Blanc. It was love at first sip, and she struck up a friendship with winemaker Aaron Pott. In 2009, she purchased 24 acres on Howell Mountain for Somnium and brought Pott on board as winemaker. They released the inaugural 2014 estate Cabernet in 2017, and the portfolio has since grown to include a saignée-method rosé and a Sauvignon Blanc sourced from Bavarian Lion Vineyard in Knights Valley—a nod to the revelatory glass of Illumination that started it all. She wants to help others have their own wine moments, she says: "You can go to Napa to [do] all that on a high level, or you can do it at home."
Patrick's own 400-plus-bottle cellar factors prominently into her entertaining habits. "Usually I go down to the cellar and I grab four or five bottles of red wine," she says. "That's the first trip, and if it's a good night, there's one or two more trips down there for the group of 12 or so of us that usually get together." She favors Napa Cabernet, and her collection includes appearances from Harlan, Bond, Abreu, Pott and Quintessa.
Due to the 8,300-square-foot modern house's unusual, double-disc-shaped exterior, Patrick nicknamed it the Jetsons House when she bought it. "Modern can be very angular," she says. "This is everything but angular. It looks like flying saucers—everything is very round."
The kitchen is no exception. With curves of taupe Venetian plaster, a swooping arc of blue- and purple-veined black granite, black leather barstools and brushed-steel appliances, the space evokes the wheels, asphalt and chrome of a racetrack, though Patrick says that wasn't part of her thinking when she bought the place. At the time, she was more concerned with actual wheels: She needed a home for her cars, in addition to her wine, and the seven-car garage and 1,000-bottle-capacity cellar were just right.
But today, the kitchen gets serious traffic—Danica-style. The title of her 2017 fitness book, Pretty Intense, reportedly describes not only her health regimen, but Patrick herself. She does things her way, and she throws herself into cooking with characteristic focus and swagger. "I eat paleo, which means everyone that comes over eats paleo too, because I don't cook two meals, I cook one," she says. "Turns out most of the time, people love it."
Some cooks follow recipes assiduously; others fly by the seat of their pants. You can guess which one Patrick is: "Yeah, I'm the fly-by-the-seat-of-the-pants one," she laughs. "I don't really care for baking, but I love to cook, and I'm good on the grill, I'm good searing, good roasting things, you name it." It's likely no coincidence that her cooking, with its charred, roasty bent, tends to marry particularly well with a good bottle of Cab.
From her grillside vantage on the patio, Patrick has a stunning view of one of Arizona's most iconic sights: Camelback Mountain. It's a fitting backdrop for a woman who just keeps climbing.
Photos by Ben & Kelly Photography
Reprinted from Pretty Intense by arrangement with Avery, an imprint of Penguin Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House LLC. Copyright © 2018, Danica Racing, Inc.
Wine Pairing: What’s better for an indulgent brunch than vintage Champagne? With waffles, Patrick favors the Perrier-Jouët Brut Champagne Belle Epoque, with its toasty pastry, ripe citrus and glazed apricot profile.
Preheat your waffle maker. In a large glass bowl, stir together the coconut oil, eggs, vanilla and honey to combine. In a separate bowl, mix the almond flour, coconut flour and baking soda with a fork. Combine the wet and dry ingredients, then stir in the almond milk. Pour a portion of the batter into the waffle maker and cook according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Transfer the waffles to a plate and keep warm in a low oven or serve immediately. Repeat with the remaining batter. Makes 8 to 10 waffles
Tip: If you double this recipe, adjust the almond flour to 1 1/4 cups and the coconut flour to 3/4 cup.