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Cakebread’s Vintage Party Is Celebrated by All in Napa Valley

Cakebread’s Vintage Party Is Celebrated by All in Napa Valley

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We tie on our apron for this year’s 27th American Harvest Workshop

Attendees of the Cakebread Vintage Party get hands on in the vineyard.

Most years, Cakebread Cellars finds itself at the top of the list for most-popular restaurant wines. There’s a reason — the Cakebreads love food. From the time Jack and Dolores Cakebread founded their Napa Valley winery in 1973, the family has spent a lot of time on the road visiting restaurant kitchens while developing their own gardening and food programs at the winery.

Click here to see the Cakebread’s Vintage Party Is Celebrated by All in Napa Valley (Slideshow)

In 1987, they launched their pioneering American Harvest Workshop to bring together top restaurant chefs, about 10 paying amateur chefs, and many local farmers and artisan food purveyors at the winery each fall to prepare two lavish wine dinners open to the public. This year’s chefs were Greg Biggers of Sofitel Chicago Water Tower, Marc McDowell of Makena Beach & Golf Resort in Maui, Jim Severson of Sevy’s Grill in Dallas, Brad Turley of GoGa in Shanghai, and Eric Haugen of the Lambs Club in New York City.

I was thrilled to get an invitation to help out in the Cakebread kitchen.

Celebrating 40 Years: A Family Tradition of Premium Napa Valley Wines

The Cakebread family, owners of Cakebread Cellars in Rutherford, is one of the most highly esteemed and successful wineries in California’s famed Napa Valley. Since its founding in 1973, the winery has earned a reputation for exceptional wines and gracious hospitality. Cakebread’s success has been built on quality, consistency and continuity – characteristics the family believes apply equally to the grapes, the wines and the people who create Cakebread’s world-class wines. Each of the Cakebreads has contributed his or her individual talents to produce a harmonious, synergistic blend – Jack and Dolores as founders, and sons Bruce and Dennis now at the helm. With Bruce as president and COO, and Dennis as vice-chairman and senior vice president of sales and marketing, the family traditions and passionate commitment are ensured for the next generation.

The Cakebread Story

The Cakebread story began as a sideline for Jack Cakebread, who first worked on his family’s orchard in Contra Costa County, and later, became his father’s partner at Cakebread’s Garage in Oakland. Jack had developed an interest in photography, and while taking pictures of the Napa Valley for The Treasury of American Wines, fortuitously struck a deal to purchase the Cakebread ranch from family friends. Jack and Dolores split their time between the garage and establishing the winery on the weekends. The original property of 22 acres was primarily pasture, so needless to say, the undertaking required years of painstaking work. Sons Bruce and Dennis helped out on weekends, before joining full-time. As Dennis notes, “Ours is really an amazing American story . . . with my dad establishing a Napa Valley vineyard on the weekends with his family and turning it into one of the best-known wineries in America.” Over the years, the family continued to acquire prime vineyards – all but one in Napa Valley. The original 22 acres has grown to 1,100 acres (560 acres under vine), in some of the most desirable locations in the Napa Valley, Carneros, Howell Mountain and Anderson Valley. The winery purchases additional grapes from growers with whom it has been doing business for years, many of whom are recognized producers of top-quality Napa Valley grapes. While much has changed over four decades, the basic Cakebread philosophy of continuing to improve every year, has not. “We plow our profits back into the winery, and plan for slow, steady growth,” according to Bruce. “Dennis and I remain hands-on and, after 40 years, our passion for wine and the wine business is unabated.”

The early success of Cakebread wines – Chardonnay, Cabernet and Sauvignon Blanc – built a loyal following and enabled the family to continue acquiring top vineyards. The story behind their acclaimed single-vineyard Cabernet, Dancing Bear Ranch, is certainly a testament to the family’s dedication to quality, despite the long road required to reach that goal. In 1998 the Cakebreads purchased a dramatic 28-acre site on Howell Mountain in northern Napa, with elevations reaching 1600 ft. The team then spent the next 11 years of planting, planning and trial winemaking before releasing the 2006 vintage nationally. Ever looking ahead, Bruce and Dennis set their sights further north to Anderson Valley, and have been diligently developing the Pinot Noir “project” – now nearly 20 years in the making. Dennis is particularly optimistic about the recently purchased Annahala Vineyard, noted for producing elegant Pinots.Cakebread plans to release a new Pinot Noir called “Two Creeks” with fruit from Annahala complementing the current Apple Barn vineyard fruit.

The Cakebread Team: Vineyard and Winery

The quest for improvement is a philosophy shared by the entire team at Cakebread. On the vineyard side, Toby Halkovich, director of vineyard operations, joined Cakebread in 2004 (a relative newcomer), and manages the winery’s estate vineyards and contract growers. Toby points to technology as being the driving force of change. “Technology allows us to be more nimble,” he says, “and to fully express each vineyard’s character in our wines from year to year.” Following the Cakebread culture of encouraging innovation, Toby has been working with UC Davis on cutting-edge research on how to positively impact flavor and varietal expressiveness in the field. New devices that can now wirelessly track data, which will be correlated with grape and wine characteristics, are just one example of the many technological developments that will positively affect viticultural practices. Winemaker Julianne Laks is celebrating her 27th year at Cakebread – and 11 years as winemaker. Julianne also points to technological advances and improved winemaking practices as key factors in qualitative improvements in the wines. Techniques such as whole-cluster pressing of white grapes, harvesting at night and barrel-aging a portion of Cakebread’s Chardonnay (leading to the winery’s Reserve Chardonnay program) are a few of the significant developments achieved under Julianne’s direction. However, both Julianne and Toby acknowledge that the human palate is still the overriding faculty in assessing grape and wine character.

Working closely with cellar master Brian Lee (who is marking his 26th year with Cakebread), Julianne has seen considerable expansion. In 2000, Cakebread opened a red wine facility across the road from the original winery (now dedicated to white wines), which allows for better fermentation management. Over the years Julianne and Brian have fine-tuned the barrel-aging program – from working with different coopers to analyzing the effects of oak from different forests – so that they can now “spend a lot more time matching barrels with our wines [to] achieve a seamless blend of oak and fruit character.” Over the years Julianne and Brian have researched and experimented with many winemaking techniques and, in fact, many technologies have been discarded. For Julianne, and indeed the entire team at Cakebread, “our ultimate goal is to improve quality, vintage by vintage.”

The Pleasures of Wine and Food / The American Harvest Workshop

Ever since the early days of Cakebread Cellars, the winery has been recognized for its outstanding hospitality, provided by Dolores Cakebread, an accomplished cook and gardener. Long before “organic farming” or “farm-to-table” dining came into fashion, Dolores was creating fresh, healthy recipes for guests to enjoy with Cakebread wines. She and Jack, along with hotelier Bill Shoaf, also established the winery’s annual American Harvest Workshop, a four-day “boot camp” with master chefs and local purveyors, whose concept has remained basically unchanged since the first Workshop in 1987. Today, Cakebread is one of the few wineries with a full-time, in-house culinary department, dedicated solely to developing and executing educational programs, from wine-and-food pairing seminars and blending sessions, to the ever-popular, hands-on cooking classes. Culinary Director Brian Streeter, who joined Cakebread in 1989, has been drawing inspiration from a stunning array of Cakebread vintages, along with the finest ingredients Northern California has to offer. Brian manages the American Harvest Workshop (AHW), going strong in its 27th year, and heads up a culinary team that maintains a busy events schedule year-round.

Looking Back . . . and Forward

While a 40-year milestone is reason to celebrate, it is also a time to reflect. At Cakebread, many hallmarks have characterized the winery’s success, particularly striving for quality and innovative solutions – along with lots of hard work. Certainly, the family has always had a clear vision of success, which they’ve imparted to the dedicated Cakebread team. Indeed, the long tenure of the winemaking team has provided consistency in the wines, as well as a supportive environment that rewards achievement. Of course, Bruce and Dennis are well aware that good luck has also played its role, for which they are grateful. Each feels he has the best job in the world and looks forward to many decades ahead of memorable wines and cellar-worthy vintages!

Succession obsession / After fretting about which son takes over their winery, Jack and Delores Cakebread make the decision a family affair

The patriarch is pacing. His strides strike the asphalt and swallow up ground in the night. His mind is racing, as it has for two years, but he cannot see the future in the dark.

To which of his three sons will he bequeath the winery?

"If I give it to one, I'll alienate the others" pounds in his brain. In a few short years, Jack Cakebread's Napa Valley empire will reach its 30th anniversary. By then he will be 73. He needs a succession plan.

Cakebread walks the two miles between his home and Cakebread Cellars at 3 a. m. as he has for six days of every week for as long as he can remember. He lets himself into his office and flips the light switch, his head still pounding.

Within nanoseconds, a lightswitch flips in his brain. His big, silvery head rears up the eyes gleam laser-blue. "Hey. This is not my problem. It's theirs.

I'm going to hand it to them."

This revelation came in 2000 by late July of this year, a successor was chosen, and Cakebread Cellars celebrated its 30th anniversary with peace in the family, healthy coffers and a big party.

Situated in the heart of Napa Valley and among big and tradition-heavy Italiantes such as Mondavi and Martini, the upstart Cakebreads have thrived. Cakebread Cellars has been known for its complex and finessed wines from its earliest days. Restaurant sales show remarkable solidity, ranking Cakebread as the second most popular brand after Kendall-Jackson, according to a restaurant poll taken by Wine & Spirits magazine.

Cakebread's Sauvignon Blanc ($22 retail), Chardonnay ($40) and Cabernet Sauvignon ($55) are among the top four in restaurant sales by wine type. Its Sauvignon Blanc ranks No. 1 in restaurant popularity. Although the wine differs by vintage, it is perenially full of melon and grapefruit tones, a blend of Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon and Sauvignon Musque, a Sauvignon Blanc clone. On a second sip, there is complexity suggested by hay. Crisp and refreshing, the wine dances lively on the tongue, almost spritzy.

Cakebread's reds have always strived for complexity rather than the full, in-your-face fruitiness and jamminess of other Napa Valley Cabernets. Its Vine Hill Ranch Cabernet Sauvignon and Benchland Select Cabernet Sauvignon are complex and silky with a firm structure. Such is its cachet that despite the recent economy, the Cakebreads say the winery sells all that it makes and the family has not brought down the price per bottle, usually in the $20 to $55 price bracket. Cakebread's select and single-vineyard wines sell for as much as $90 per bottle.

What happened between Cakebread's agonized black moments over handing over the reins and now is testament to the strength of the family. Jack and Dolores Cakebread, patriarch and matriarch, swung into action after Jack's epiphany. They gathered their clan and laid out a road map. "We had a family council. We told them they had to figure it out and that we would support whatever they decided," says Dolores, 73.

"Select this person and do it with love and trust - with no mitigation plan - and we would be behind it with 100 percent support," adds Jack, who finishes stories for Dolores. So it was that 18 months later, one of the three Cakebread sons, in a surprise choice, ascends as president and chief operating officer of Cakebread Cellars in Rutherford.

That is the story as Jack tells it. A master storyteller, he spins tales so grand and so tight that characters and listeners alike are sucked into the phenomenon that is Cakebread Cellars, in which business, farming and family, family, family are wound into a tight cocoon.

Whatever smooth transition to a successor Jack Cakebread prepares, he remains in control. He retains the title of chief executive officer. As he says, "We have rapport with each other and we're always able to talk. And then we do it my way."

A penchant for good punch lines and good humor mitigates the passion and work ethic that drives the family union. At a moment when many other American empires of the vine lurch through the generational passage and wobble economically, suffering through changes in management, sour grapes and the airing of dirty laundry, the Cakebreads seem to breeze through without a hiccup.

The secret of unity lies in the story, Jack's story. How the Cakebread family succeeded in its plan for succession lies in how the family stayed family.

Larger than life and something of a cross between Charlton Heston's Moses and Huck Finn, Jack Cakebread never tires of telling the history. In the early 1970s, he drove up from his home in Oakland, where he ran a garage with his wife, to do a freelance photographic assignment for Nathan Chroman's wine book on the Napa Valley (Cakebread studied with Ansel Adams). As he completed the project, he stopped to visit former neighbors from Oakland who had retired to a farm in Rutherford. In the flurry of goodbyes, he casually said, "If you ever want to sell this farm, give me a call."

The call came before he reached home: The owners would sell. Instantly, he knew he was in over his head. He and Dolores backpedaled. "We had two sons in college and one in high school and a garage to run. We had to go back and explain we made a big mistake," Dolores says. The following day, the couple drove to Rutherford with well-rehearsed, abject apologies.

"I explained that all I had was a $2,500 advance for the book. And they said, ÔThat'll do.' " With a look of wonder and a resigned nod of his head, Jack relives the finality and awe of that moment. Destiny had delivered him "a cow pasture and a couple of sheds" in an agreement written on a sheet of lined,

notepad paper. He was going to grow grapes and make wine.

Cakebread's Garage in Oakland already was a three-generation business, one in which Jack and Dolores' sons remember their grandparents woking at the gargage while the grandfather also farmed in Contra Costa County.

The story of the winery also is rooted in the love story of Jack and Dolores, childhood sweethearts and "partners for life in all meanings of those words," as one of the sons says. "She inhales, I exhale. She's the Chief Executive Officer, I'm the CEO," says Jack.

For the next 19 years, the pair commuted between Rutherford and Oakland, running Cakebread's Garage and growing grapes. "I would check in the customers (at the garage) in the morning, drive up to Napa, work the farm and be back by the afternoon to look over the work (of my mechanics) before handing the cars back to their owners," says Jack.

That work ethic was passed down to the three sons. On holidays and weekends,

Steve, Dennis and Bruce - now 51, 49 and 47 - worked the farm in an arrangement somewhere between conscription and volunteerism. They brought college pals who traded work for the legendary meals Dolores cooked. Row by row, they stripped out the old fruit trees.

By 1973, they bottled their first vintage, 157 cases of Chardonnay. Cakebread tells of walking into Groezinger Wine Merchants in Yountville and asking the manager if he wanted to taste his Chardonnay, but without bringing one because, being such a greenhorn, he had not yet bottled it. The manager came by the winery to taste the wine, offered to bottle it with him that very day and then buy the entire lot. By the end of the 1970s and after the Paris Judgment (in which an American wine bested a same-varietal French wine at a much-publicized tasting in Paris), Cakebread was making Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel and Sauvignon Blanc. Very quickly, Cakebread, like Stag's Leap Wine Cellars, developed a cult following.

To Dennis, the second-born, winemaking in those times "felt more like a hobby." To the sons, growing grapes and making wine was a reprieve from working in the garage. The parents say that the three worked as hard as they did at school and in the winery because they dreaded the garage.

With such fires lit under them, the two older sons, Steve and Dennis, graduated from UC Berkeley and went on to masters degrees in business and got certified as public accountants. The youngest, Bruce, studied pomology (fruit cultivation) at California Polytechnic University San Luis Obispo, but switched to viticulture and enology at UC Davis.

The winery business drove the entire family back to school. Jack, at 53, took the executive program at Stanford Graduate School of Business. Dolores attended the Cordon Rouge culinary school in Marin County, since closed, to complement what she was making out of the enormous organic garden she grew on the farm, and began developing a pioneering food and wine program at the winery. In October her book, "The Cakebread Cellars Napa Valley Cookbook: Wine and Recipes to Celebrate Every Season's Harvest" ($35, Ten Speed Press) will be published.

In Jack Cakebread's office, the three pieces of press he hangs are not from wine publications. They're from Money and Business, California CEO and the New York Times financial pages, and they document the success of Jack Cakebread as an executive, and the family as a model of family business ingenuity and success. He's a sought-after speaker and he's even brought a Harvard business school class to Cakebread Cellars to bring sharper minds to the wine business. That business, and not just farming and winemaking, becomes evident in the career choices of the sons.


While visiting Napa Valley, Cakebread Cellars is a must visit, but you just can't drop in. Because of its popularity and traffic, the tasting room is only open by appointment. Tours are available by appointment, as well. In fact, Cakebread Cellars offers several different experience by appointment including:

  • Select wine tasting
  • Red wine tasting
  • Reserve tasting
  • Wine and food pairing experience
  • Group tasting
  • In-depth educational tour and tasting

Dolores Cakebread, One of the Original Hosts of Napa Valley, Dies at 90

Dolores Cakebread, co-founder of Napa Valley's Cakebread Cellars, passed away peacefully in her sleep Oct. 2, at the age of 90. She and her husband, Jack, started their winery in 1973, and from the start, Dolores stressed the importance of great food paired with great wine, helping build Napa's reputation for hospitality.

In 1972, the couple were owners and operators of a successful automotive repair shop and parking garage in Oakland, Calif. They had both grown up there and started dating as teens. (The high school sweethearts celebrated their 70th wedding anniversary earlier this year.) Jack also worked as a freelance photographer and was hired that year to go to Napa to take images for the book Treasury of American Wines, by Nathan Chroman. Inspired, the couple ended up purchasing a 22-acre ranch in Rutherford, which would become the location of Cakebread Cellars.

Dolores Cakebread was instrumental in establishing Napa Valley's high standard of hospitality and was a leader in the culinary renaissance that took place in Napa in the 1980s. During the first Cakebread harvest, to thank their friends and volunteers, she made them dinner and poured Robert Mondavi wines (because they didn't have their own to share yet). It was the first of many big meals she would cook at the winery. She told Wine Spectator in 1998 that she had to give up cooking for crowds a few years later when she found herself preparing for 100 enthusiastic "volunteers" every weekend.

From that spirit, Cakebread Cellars started one of the first and most active food programs in Napa Valley, including public cooking classes and the American Harvest Workshop, which promoted wine and food as part of a healthy lifestyle.

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In that 1998 interview, Cakebread said that their approach to food-and-wine pairing starts with the wine, not with the food. "Once you pull the cork, you can't change the wine," she explained. "It either works or it doesn't. But with food you can change the texture and the balance to make it better with the wine. That's what I do."

A graduate of the University of California Cooperative Master Gardeners Program, she planted her garden on the Cakebread grounds. She also published two cookbooks with Brian Streeter, Cakebread's culinary director: The Cakebread Cellars Napa Valley Cookbook and The Cakebread Cellars American Harvest Cookbook, in collaboration with author Janet Fletcher.

Cakebread was also president of the Les Dames d'Escoffier's San Francisco chapter, and was a member of Women Chefs and Restaurateurs, the International Association of Culinary Professionals and the San Francisco Professional Food Society.

Dolores and Jack stepped back from a formal role at the winery in 2005, but her legacy there lives on. She is survived by her husband, sons Steve, Dennis and Bruce, four grandchildren, one great-grandchild and her sister, Shirley Ann.

Earth Day in a Big Way: Wastewater Worms, 21 Million Trees and Cabernet All Day

Wine country has a knack for turning every occasion into a party, but with the world of wine going all-in on green practices, Earth Day is shaping up to be especially epic. The annual celebration of the environment falls on a Monday this year—April 22—but wineries in California are making a weekend of it, if not a week, month, or just an everyday jam going forward in recognition that this whole environment thing is pretty worth taking good care of, if you're a grapegrower/human!

"We don’t just think about the health of the vine for the next few vintages," Cakebread Cellars owner Bruce Cakebread told Unfiltered via email. "We think in terms of future family generations to come. Earth Day inspires us to work harder in our efforts to protect our precious resources and to preserve the land."

From concerts to pizza, drinking wine to befriending bees, here's how to get in on the Earth action in the coming days.

In 2015, Napa Valley Vintners set a goal of having 100 percent of members participate in the Napa Green certification program for ecological best practices by 2020. The organization recently announced 70 percent of eligible wineries are involved and "committed to elevating their farming and winemaking practices to further enhance the Napa River Watershed and conserve valuable natural resources, all while continuing to craft incredible wines," NVV associate director of industry relations Michelle Novi told Unfiltered.

  • Oxbow Commons: Earth Day Napa, Sunday April 28, all day. There will be crafts, games, learning about conservation, beer, pollution prevention, wine, watershed health education, and a musical lineup organized by BottleRock. All beverage sales benefit the Field Trip Bus Grant program run by the Environmental Education Coalition of Napa County.
  • Honig: They'll be running eco-tours, including ferrying visitors over to the winery's wildlife habitat area, home of the "Honig bees." Visitors on Earth Day (April 22) get a reusable wine cup and a taste of a usually-off-menu single-vineyard Cab while they learn about the winery's conservation work on the backyard Rutherford Reach of the Napa River. "[We're] creating a natural habitat in our vineyard for the right insects to thrive, dry-farming, using light-weight bottles, using electric vehicles and so much more," vintner Stephanie Honig told Unfiltered.

And over in Sonoma, sustainability is progressing apace as well: In fact, Sonoma County Winegrowers set a goal in 2014 of reaching 100 percent sustainability—by the end of this year. As of the end of 2018, 89 percent of vineyard acres were certified, which puts them well on track.

    DeLoach: On Saturday, April 20, from 10 to 4, it's wine and pizza day. The estate is showcasing its biodiversity, encouraging visitors to stroll around the beehive and vegetable and herb garden while sipping Vinthropic Chardonnay and Pinot. Net proceeds from those wines go to Redwood Empire Food Bank. "We wanted people to be in nature," said Jean-Charles Boisset, whose group of wineries includes DeLoach. "An Earth Day event among the vines is, of course, 'natural'!" Goes together like wine and pizza in our book.

So wherever you are, lift a glass this weekend to Earth—the best planet there is for making wine. That we know of.

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Winery Event Calendar

Thursday, May 27, 2021
4 p.m.

Cost: Free to watch, tasting kits available for purchase
It’s time to taste through the years with our May virtual series! Join us as we taste through three vintages of one of our most beloved PEJU wines, Fifty/Fifty. Our last wine in the series will be our new release, 2018 Fifty/Fifty. Click the link below to purchase our May.
full details

Clif Family's Memorial Day Weekend BBQ Menu

Friday, May 28, 2021 through Sunday, May 30, 2021
11:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Cost: $22/BBQ Plate
Kick off the summer with Clif Family and enjoy a special barbecue-themed menu over the weekend. Executive chef John McConnell has created a menu that is full of summertime grillin’ flavor paired with seasonal, farm fresh ingredient-driven sides that are sure to get you excited.
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Premiere Napa Valley Session with Jeb Dunnuck: First Look at 2020 Vintage Wines

Tuesday, June 1, 2021
10 a.m.

Cost: No cost
Napa’s newest vintage is indeed on the way and, despite the challenges, the 2020 vintage will not be absent from the history book. Please join founder Jeb Dunnuck and a panel of Napa Valley winemakers to go through the 2020 growing season. They will discuss the.
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Premiere Napa Valley Session with Lisa Perrotti-Brown MW: 2019 Vintage Preview - Rich, Plush and Fantastically Pure

Wednesday, June 2, 2021
10 a.m.

Cost: No cost
With just a few weeks to go before many of the 2019 Napa Valley Cabernets currently aging in barrels will be put to bottle, Robert Parker Wine Advocate wine critic and editor-in-chief Lisa Perrotti-Brown MW offers a preview of the 2019 vintage. An outstanding vintage in the.
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Premiere Napa Valley Session with James Suckling: 2018 - A New Benchmark for Neoclassicism and Harmony

Thursday, June 3, 2021
7 p.m.

Cost: No cost
Has Napa Valley winemaking reached a new era of neoclassicism harking back to the great vintages of the 1960s and 1970s, but with a very modern and more precise vision? The 2018 vintage is a fantastic year for reds, producing high quality wines that show a wonderful balance.
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Summer FriYAY! Weekly Social Hours

Friday, June 4, 2021
4 p.m. to 6 p.m. PST

Cost: $75, $45 Wine Club
Kick off your weekend with Cakebread Cellars! We'll serve up casual wine and food pairings amidst our lushly landscaped courtyards as live music and laughter fills the air. Try your hand at lawn games or simply take in the Napa Valley scenic views from one of our cozy lounge.
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Summer FriYAY! Weekly Social Hours

Friday, June 11, 2021
4 p.m. to 6 p.m. PST

Cost: $75, $45 Wine Club
Kick off your weekend with Cakebread Cellars! We'll serve up casual wine and food pairings amidst our lushly landscaped courtyards as live music and laughter fills the air. Try your hand at lawn games or simply take in the Napa Valley scenic views from one of our cozy lounge.
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Summer FriYAY! Weekly Social Hours

Friday, June 18, 2021
4 p.m. to 6 p.m. PST

Cost: $75, $45 Wine Club
Kick off your weekend with Cakebread Cellars! We'll serve up casual wine and food pairings amidst our lushly landscaped courtyards as live music and laughter fills the air. Try your hand at lawn games or simply take in the Napa Valley scenic views from one of our cozy lounge.
full details

Summer FriYAY! Weekly Social Hours

Friday, June 25, 2021
4 p.m. to 6 p.m. PST

Cost: $75, $45 Wine Club
Kick off your weekend with Cakebread Cellars! We'll serve up casual wine and food pairings amidst our lushly landscaped courtyards as live music and laughter fills the air. Try your hand at lawn games or simply take in the Napa Valley scenic views from one of our cozy lounge.
full details

Seven Culinary Wonders of the World: Paella & Jamón

Sunday, June 27, 2021
5 p.m.

Cost: $325
The third installment of our Seven Culinary Wonders of the World event series brings us an iconic Spanish cuisine

This delightful, hearty dish dates back to the 15th century and is a staple in the Spanish culture. It is meant to be shared and enjoyed with friends.
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Cakebread Cellars Chardonnay Day

Saturday, July 17, 2021
11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Cost: $175 per person, $105 Wine Club
Join us for a tour of the winery and a celebration of our most beloved varietal: Chardonnay! We've come a long way since our first vintage of Napa Valley Chardonnay was bottled in 1973, and we think it's high time we celebrate our roots. We've pulled out all the stops with delicious.
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Inaugural Cakebread Cellars Cabernet Release Day

Saturday, August 21, 2021
11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Cost: $175 per person, $105 Wine Club
New to the Cakebread Cellars cabernet portfolio this year is the 2018 Cabernet Franc, and we're welcoming it in style along with a celebration of our Cabernet Sauvignon that will have you painting the town red! Elegant reserve wine and food pairings, live entertainment, special.
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Carnivus Maximus

Sunday, September 5, 2021
12 p.m. to 4 p.m.

Cost: $225
Voted Top Harvest Party in Napa! It's our annual celebration on Sunday before Labor Day with outrageously fun games, an amazing bounty of food, and of course wine!
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Members Only: Secrets of the Cellar Reserve Library Dinner

Saturday, September 18, 2021
6 p.m. to 10 p.m.

Cost: $225 Wine Club
Harvest is a magical time of year in Napa Valley. Late-night lights illuminate the vineyards as precious fruit is gathered, pampered, and set on its journey into the world of winemaking. Trucks carrying their precious cargo line the highway, adding to the hustle and bustle of.
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Cakebread Cellars Family Harvest Festival

Saturday, October 16, 2021
10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Cost: $175 Per Couple, $105 Wine Club, Children Complimentary
Bring the whole family down to the home ranch to breathe in the crisp fall air and enjoy the sights and sounds of the season! We will have interactive learning opportunities for children, along with light bites and wine pairings for the adults. Fun for everyone!
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Winery Events

Events by Month

Open The Cellar

Join us September 8th to 10th when our wineries pre-release their newest vintage of Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon.

Napa Valley Sessions

Explore Napa Valley through a series of online presentations covering a broad range of topics, and hear first hand from Napa Valley's producers.

New Release Sauvignon Blancs

Sauvignon Blanc begs to be enjoyed in the summer time. Explore the latest offerings from the vintners of Napa Valley here.

3. Cakebread Cellars combines innovation with tradition to continue enhancing quality

Cakebread does produce many of the traditional varieties that Napa Valley is known for, but the benefits it offers buyers go beyond the bottles in its portfolio. Sandy Block, a Master of Wine and the vice president of beverage operations at Legal Sea Foods in Boston, says there are a variety of reasons he keeps Cakebread in the wine program at Legal Sea Foods restaurants.

“Cakebread’s strengths,” he says, “are its reliability vintage to vintage, compatibility with our seafood, [and] great consumer trust and recognition.” He adds that Cakebread’s production of half-bottles is also an asset, since, as he points out, this format is “not always available for wines of this quality and reputation.” Block also emphasizes that family ownership of the brand and Cakebread’s long-term vision are important factors that have resulted in “a continuity of direction [and a] dedication to vineyard terroir expression—and finally, the production of wine in a style that complements food rather than bowls you over with extraction.”

Cakebread’s concrete egg fermenting tanks. Photo courtesy of Cakebread Cellars.

Consistency is one of Cakebread’s top priorities, but that doesn’t mean the winery rests on its laurels. Cakebread strives to stay at the forefront of innovation. “We haven’t really changed the style over the last 45 years,” says Stephanie Jacobs, Cakebread’s winemaker. She attributes the consistency of Cakebread’s wines, in part, to the fact that the company has had just four winemakers in its history. She adds, “We’re always looking at things to maintain quality and be more sustainable.” For example, Jacobs has been experimenting with new techniques in the cellar, including using concrete eggs for fermenting Sauvignon Blanc.

On the viticulture side, Asimont employs an array of technologies, including aerial imagery and data from sophisticated weather stations. The stations can measure up to 30 different environmental variables, from temperature and humidity to wind speed and vine stress. “This web-based information is updated continuously,” Asimont says, “and is instantaneously available to our vineyard personnel so they can respond quickly to any potential problems—all the while preserving our environment for future generations.”

Finally, because Cakebread is very selective with its distribution, which is focused within the restaurant community, the brand tends to stand out in wine programs, says Jaeger. “A restaurateur has the confidence not only that the wine style and quality is consistent year in and year out,” he says, “but also that it’s not readily available [to all].”

Photo courtesy of Cakebread Cellars.

Cakebread Cellars is one of the most known names in the Napa Valley and celebrated its 40th anniversary in 2013. It is a family-owned winery, which has generated remarkable success. This is due to the quality of their wine and the quality of their people. This is a winery that has grown and evolved over that time period, adding vineyards and expanding its facilities.

Cakebread is known most broadly for their white wines – Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc. But this is only the beginning of their portfolio. You will find quality throughout their offerings from Syrah, Zinfandel, and red blends to their Cabernet. In fact, their most recent vintage (2012) of Dancing Bear Ranch Cabernet was given a score of 99 points – that is nearly perfect.

Our visit to Cakebread a few weeks ago was a special day. Along with some friends, we were “redeeming” an auction lot from Taste of Howell Mountain 2015. Our day began with a tour of the grounds starting in the garden. The Cakebreads may have “invented” the wine and food experience in the valley. Very early on, they began hosting events featuring the pairing of food and their wine. Today, they have a full time gardener who tends the garden to support their wine and food events. More than that, they employ a full time culinary director who leads cooking classes and does special events for the winery. Definitely check out the “culinary” page on the website as a resource for recipes (including videos) and pairing of wines. It is a real stand-out reference for building delicious meals matched beautifully with their wines.

On our visit, we were greeted with a glass of Sauvignon Blanc and shown around the facilities. We strolled past the fermentation tanks and into the barrel room. The grounds are very lovely and provide a great backdrop for learning about and enjoying their wine. This set our day off to a relaxing start.

We then hopped on a bus and were driven to the Dancing Bear Ranch vineyard on Howell Mountain. This was a special event as there are no regular tastings on this mountain vineyard. When we arrived at the vineyard, Dave Griffiths, Cakebread’s sales and marketing manager, greeted us. While the day was chilly and overcast, the lovely wine warmed us. We stood out on the patio – gazing across the valley below. It was a gorgeous view as the vineyard sits at 1600 feet above the valley floor.

It was tough to go inside – away from the vistas of the valley, yet a beautiful lunch awaited us. We were seated at a large table, while each course was paired with Cakebread wines. The chef for that day was none other than Brian Streeter, the culinary director for the winery. He has been with Cakebread for 25 years and loves to share the art of pairing food with wine. The pièce de résistance that day was the pairing of Dancing Bear Ranch Cabernet with a steak – delicious.

Cakebread Cellars is a class operation producing quality wine with a wide portfolio of varietals and blends. Next time you are in the valley, stop in and taste. They are by appointment only and offer many different venues to taste their wine. You also do not need to wait – you can readily find Cakebread wines at your local store or fine wine shop as they have wide distribution. While you may not be able to visit the Dancing Bear Ranch on Howell Mountain, you can visit their website and build your own fabulous meal paired beautifully with Cakebread wines courtesy of Brian Streeter.

Napa Valley is in high spirits this weekend, doing what it does best – throwing a four-day party.

This one, hosted by the Napa Valley Vintners, has attracted 2,000 guests, most of whom attended today’s Barrel Auction.

Tomorrow, about half these guests will attend – and bid at  -- the weekend’s central event, a live auction featuring 45 one-of-a-kind, wine-and-travel-themed lots.

Shari, daughter Shannon, and Garen Staglin, chairs of this year’s Wine Auction. Why do they call them “chairs” when no one in this family, including son Brandon, not pictured, ever sits down!?

Given the nature of the auction lots, and the hard work of the Staglin family, who are chairs of Auction Napa Valley this year, napaman predicts that this year will be the largest fund-raiser ever for the annual event, which, in 32 previous years, has raised more than $110 million for community services and health care.

Despite cutbacks in social services at the federal and state level, community programs in Napa Valley continue to excel, thanks to funds raised at this annual charity auction.

The Staglins have worked diligently for more than a year, traveling the globe to implore past auction winners to return once again to raise their paddles.

“There are many lots to tempt attendees this year,” Garen Staglin told napaman. “We’re looking for the irrational generosity of bidders to fund Napa Valley charities.”

Bruce Cakebread, president of Napa Valley Vintners, said that how much is raised is not the concern, “it’s raising enough to be able to continue to fund community projects we’ve undertaken – things like children’s health care, and English language training.”

Given the Staglins’ skills at fundraising, Napaman confidently predicts that under their stewardship, this weekend’s charity auction will zoom past the previous high-water mark of $10.2 million raised at a single wine auction. Napaman predicts that the event will raise $12 to $13 million.

An ooooh. the lots!

In addition to bringing in bidders, the Staglins have also encouraged exceptional individuals to donate exceptional gifts. As a result, at tomorrow’s auction, guests will be able to bid on:

+ A plane trip to London with the San Francisco 49ers

+ A first-class trip to Tokyo with Naoko Dalle Valle, and dinner at the best sushi restaurant in the world, Sushi Jiro

+ Trips to Scotland, to South Korea, to France or to Italy, the latter hosted by Baroness Philippine de Rothschild and Marchese Piero Antinori, who are respectively co-owners of Opus One and Antica wineries in Napa Valley

+ A trip to China where you will meet retired basketball star/vintner Yao Ming and then see a Shanghai Sharks basketball game

+ A cruise on the world’s largest mega-yacht

+ A chance to drive a McLaren 12C Spider racing car -- with an option to buy it, of course as well, a trip to the US Grand Prix with access to the McLaren suite

Rick Jones, of Jones Family Vineyards

 + Take a group of 12 to a Giants ballgame in San Francisco – and watch from the luxury box of the Giant’s President and CEO, courtesy of Jones Family Vineyards

+ A vertical tasting of 20 vintages of Harlan Estate for you and seven pals

+  A cruise to the Arctic Circle

Cars seem to be a common theme at this year’s auction

+ Lamborghini Gallardo track driving experience for four – and then private jet to Emilia–Romagna for a week of private touring with Beth Nickel of Far Niente

+ And there is even one lot with nothing more than a single bottle of wine. But what a bottle and what a wine: a 12-liter Balthazar of Screaming Eagle

But that’s what’s on the auction block tomorrow. Today’s party – thrown amidst blocs of Cabernet vines at Raymond Vineyards – was all about the Barrel Auction.

Jean-Charles Boisset, host of today’s event, held at Raymond Vineyards

The host of today’s event was Jean-Charles Boisset, who purchased the famed Raymond Vineyard four years ago and who has sculpted it into a prized property.

At today’s barrel auction, bidders competed for highly prized cases of (mostly) Cabernet they made as much noise and hoopla as fans at a San Francisco 49ers/Oakland Raiders game. Only no one painted his face orange today, or dressed up in a pirate’s outfit.

To attend today’s barrel auction and food/wine Showcase, guests paid $500 each.

Tim Mondavi pours his fabled Continuum wine, one of 100 vintners pouring barrel samples of their next-vintage wines

Wines that I tasted, which stood out from among 100 different barrel offerings, included the 2011 O’Shaughnessy Estate Petite Verdot, the 2012 Ovid Cabernet Sauvignon, and the 2012 Continuum from Pritchard Hill, which Tim Mondavi calls a “red table wine,” which is like calling a Maserati “a car for running errands.”

Between placing bids for cases of wine that won’t be bottled for one-to two-years, guests today enjoyed the fare of more than 40 top Napa Valley restaurants and food purveyors.

Shar Hills presents scrumptious mozzarella arancini, served with a basil aioli, from Cindy’s Backstreet Kitchen.

Napaman loved the Vietnamese-style, Roast Chicken Banh Mi sandwiches served by Kitchen Door (in Oxbow Market, Napa)

Greg Cole, chef and owner of Celadon, prepares delicious ahi poke salad, served on a crispy won ton chip.

Napa Valley Vintners, which hosted the weekend wine auction, is the non-profit, trade association that promote and protects the Napa Valley wine appellation. The association represents more than 450 local wineries.

Besides all the barrel lots, the online E-lots, and tomorrow’s live lots, there was one other gaming opportunity for guests: the could buy a raffle ticket for $1000 and win this $130,000 Audi R8 Spyder. Only 500 tickets were made available and by the end of today, more than half were sold.

Do not despair if you live out of town, or missed today’s barrel brouhaha you can still participate in the bidding fun.

Wine lovers around the world can still bid for more than 170 unique wine lots on the web at the event’s E-Auction. The action is LIVE – go to

The E-Auction runs until 6 pm PDT Sunday, and ends in four consecutive waves separated by minutes.

Odds and ends

Unusual shots I liked from the day:

Sweetie Pies, in Napa, makes some of my favorite sweets in the valley. I was amused by the sign above, promoting the sensuous dessert they were serving.

As I walked up to Kristen Spelletich, who was pouring her family’s wines, her back was to me and I couldn’t help but notice two different messages tattoo’d on her calves.

I don’t know the key to success but the key to failure is trying to please everybody.

“I got it from the marketing guru Bill Cosby, not the TV comedian,” says Kristen.

Success is the ability to go from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm.

In terms of wisdom and sagesse, this winemaker's got a leg up on others.

Watch the video: Alok u0026 Vintage Culture - Party On My Own feat. FAULHABER VIP MIX touring memories (February 2023).