After a storied racing career that included 24 Hours of Daytona and 24 Hours of Le Mans victories with his team The Racers Group (TRG), no one would have blamed Kevin Buckler if he decided to retire to the easy life.
“TRG was a total Rocky Balboa story,” Buckler said. “From zero to the top echelons of professional sports car racing. I always say they put me out to pasture — I got out of the car in 2005, 2006, and we continued on to our next journey.”
That journey is focused on another of Buckler’s passions: great wine.
“I’ve always been involved in wine,” he said. “In 1998, some friends of mine and I started a little wine group. Four years later, I ended up buying it out and took the brand name, and started to take it to the next level.”
The next level was Adobe Road Wines, founded in 2002 in Petaluma, California, by Buckler and his wife Debra.
“If Austin, Texas, and Napa Valley had a love child, it’d be Petaluma, California,” Buckler said. “Petaluma is hot right now — restaurants, hot young chefs, cool little places. We saw this happening, so I went out and bought the only piece of property left downtown on the riverfront where everyone hangs out.”
That’s where Buckler is building a new facility that will be much more than a tasting room.
“We came to the city with our plan and said, ‘look, guys, we want to build an entertainment complex’ — 16,000 square feet where we do a little bit of everything you can do around the wine world,” he said. “What we’re doing is what I consider the new paradigm for the wine world. It’s experiential and fun.”
The Racing Series
Buckler attributes the success of Adobe Road to the competitive spirit he brings from the racing world.
“I cannot believe how similar some of this is. In racing, there’s no BS because you live by a stopwatch, so it’s results, results, results. When we were winning races, the only people that were allowed to work on my car were the best of the best, and they knew that and so they competed for that position. It’s the same here.”
Adobe Road has recently made the connection explicit.
“I had this idea of starting this Racing Series wines two years ago,” Buckler said. “We started with one little wine called Redline, and we had strong sales right away, so then we went to the next level.”
After Redline, Buckler produced three more high-end California red blends in the Racing Series: Shift (with an aluminum-plated, H-pattern shifter actually on the bottle), The 24 (with a Daytona Rolex on the label), and a “very, very high end, no-holds-barred cabernet blend” called Apex (with a metal label that shows the curving of a racetrack).
“I really am into the blends nowadays,” Buckler said. “And so those four blends we did with the Racing Series are near and dear to my heart.”
For Buckler, this was never a hobby.
“First and foremost, we crafted really good wines,” he boasted. “I didn’t want to be one of those guys who said, ‘hey, I’ve got a great story and label, but we didn’t bother to get scored.’ All the wines scored 90 points or above from Spectator or Parker; Shift got a 93+.”
Despite Buckler’s competitive spirit, it’s not all about scores. “It’s about bringing people together,” he said. “I love how wine connects people.”
Jeff Somers, [email protected]