In his long career as a race-car driver, Pruett, who just turned 55, has won 59 major races, including 10 championships. If you count up everything, the sixth-generation Californian has won almost 100 professional races over the years.
His family comes from Roseville outside Sacramento, and his grandfather was a farmer. His father started out in farming, then went into aerospace. Pruett was initially attracted to farming too, but wasn't much interested in row farming -- he was more intrigued by wine.
Race-car drivers Mario Andretti and Richard Childress both have wineries, but they aren't actually involved in making the wines. Pruett is very hands-on. "I'm a very young vintner," he said. "My 2012 release is officially our third release."
He and his family live in the Sierra foothills. "It's a new and at the same time old wine area," he said. "Wine came out of there during the Gold Rush era and, as in most of California, it went away during Prohibition." Pruett Vineyard is one of the newest vineyards reestablished in the area.
In 2005, after making soil analyses to determine what and where to plant, Pruett did all the ripping and clearing and planting of the 3-acre vineyard where he lives. Two and a half acres are devoted to Syrah, and a half-acre to Cabernet Sauvignon.
Pruett does all the winemaking, though he does have a mentor from Napa, Brian Mox, who is now his consultant. Pruett and his wife, Judy, with whom he's written four children's books, have named all their estate wines after their kids.
"We have Lucky Lauren Red, a Cabernet-Syrah blend. CSP Estate Syrah is named for my son Cameron Scott Pruett," he said, and the reserve Syrah is called Taylor's Reserve after their youngest daughter. "And then in celebration of all the championships I've won over the years, we have Championship Cuvée Estate Syrah," Pruett said.
The Pruetts sell the majority of their 500- to 600-case production through their website, pruettvineyard.com -- easy to do after Wine Spectator gave their 2012 Championship Cuvée 96 points and dubbed it the No. 1 Syrah in California. The 2012 Taylor's Reserve was rated at 95 points, the CSP Estate got 93 and Taylor's Reserve 90. Not bad for a fledgling winemaker.
"It's beyond words what we've been able to achieve in such a short period of time for virtually an unknown wine area and an unknown winery and winemaker," Pruett said.
"I've lived my life in racing in fractions of a second. And in the wine business, it's years, almost like polar opposites. It's been an incredible journey and one that's just getting started."