Our focus this month turns to one of our most loved wineries – Cakebread Cellars from California. Bruce Cakebread talks about his passion for winemaking, their organic kitchen garden and updates us on some recent challenges facing the Californian wine industry.
Q) Tell us about the Cakebread estate, the family history and the different wines you make for C&B?
Cakebread Estate: In 1973, our original winery building was basically a tractor shed for farm equipment. In 1976, we enlarged it to accommodate more fermentation tanks and work areas, but soon outgrew it. So, in 1978, we converted a century-old barn near Highway 29 into a barrel aging facility with room for a few tanks. In 1980, William (Bill) Turnbull, a nationally acclaimed architect, designed the winery, creating more needed space for fermentation and barrel aging. Then in 1995, we expanded to accommodate production while maintaining the winery’s architectural style. Over time we have continued to add on to the original building. In 2019, we just completed the new visitor’s center which immerses guests in the art of winemaking. Without losing the original architectural style, the space is comprised of warm, inviting spaces, reclaimed wood awash in natural light. Our winery is the coming together of our winemaking philosophy and warm hospitality that has been a hallmark of the Cakebread visitor’s experience for almost 50 years. We hope you feel that same welcoming spirit when you visit!
Family History: The Cakebread’s story starts with Jack and Dolores in Oakland, California, Jack and his father ran an auto repair business together, Cakebread’s Garage that was established in 1927. One of Jack’s passions was Black and White photography. In 1972, Jack was hired to take portraits of Napa Valley winemakers for a book titled The Treasury of American Wines. While in Napa on assignment, he stopped in for coffee with some family friends who owned a quiet, 22-acre farm in Rutherford. Captivated by the valley, Jack expressed an interest in eventually settling down in the wine country and asked that the family give him a call if they ever wanted to sell. By the time Jack returned home later that day, a message was already waiting with Dolores that they wanted to retire from farming. Cakebread Cellars first vintage was 1973, producing four barrels of Chardonnay. The second generation, Bruce and Dennis started working at the winery in the late 70’s and mid 80’s. The family-owned winery has evolved over 50 years from the original twenty-two acres and a small barn to farming 640 acres of estate vineyards up and down Napa Valley and Anderson Valley.
Cakebread Cellars wines distributed by C&B:
Our Napa Valley wines include Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Merlot and Sauvignon Blanc. Wines from our estate vineyards in Napa Valley include Chardonnay Reserve – Carneros, Dancing Bear Ranch Cabernet Sauvignon – Howell Mtn. and Benchland Select.
Our Two Creeks Pinot Noir comes from our estate vineyards in Anderson Valley and the Bakestone Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon is from various North Coast vineyards of California.
Q) What is your favourite part of the wine making process and why?
I enjoy pruning. If pruning is done correctly, the rest of the season, all the way through harvest, goes smoothly. We prune our vines in the middle of winter, the days are short, the hills are green, and the pace of life slows down a bit. The wines from the previous harvest are settled down in barrels. Pruning is the first step of a new vintage, a new journey.
Q) As well as making wine, we know you run your famous organic garden kitchen, can you tell us more about this and the passion behind it?
Dolores first planted our 3/4-acre organic, bee-friendly garden so that the winery could prepare the freshest foods possible to pair with our wines. Most of the produce goes straight to our winery kitchen where our chefs build menus around what is in season – truly farm to table!
Brian Streeter, our Executive Chef, has been managing our winery kitchen for over 30 years. His recipes are meant to enhance the wine and everything is created from scratch. From cooking classes, wine & food tastings to celebratory events, the family has always had a passion for entertaining because it provided an opportunity to introduce our wines to people around the table – the best way to showcase the relationship of wine & food.
Q) We obviously saw the devastating news of the wildfires in the last couple of years, can you tell us about the impact this has had and what has been done since to help support those affected?
Wildfires have been a challenge in many different regions around the world and California is no different. They are devasting to our forests and can have an enormous impact on the community and the vintage. The Napa Valley community has come together to start the rebuild process again. We are fortunate to be part of our local trade organization, Napa Valley Vintners. As a group, we have come together to support our local community who have been impacted the hardest by the fires.
Q) What are your plans for the Cakebread Estate over the next 5 years?
It is an exciting time to be in Napa Valley, our focus is to continue our efforts towards mitigating the effects of climate change. This includes tracking the impacts from the vineyard to the wine shop shelf.
A few examples would include reducing our winery and vineyard Carbon Footprint through renewable energy sources, electrifying our tractors and vehicles, adapting our vineyards practices to meet challenges of a changing climate, expanding our own composting and vermicomposting processes to improve our soil health in our vineyards, and be part of the industry efforts to reduce the carbon footprint of wine packaging and how wine goes to market.
Q) When you are not making wine what might we find you doing?
While Napa Valley is known for its world class wineries and vineyards, great restaurants, and hotels we are also fortunate to have some beautiful local parks in our area with trails amongst the oaks and grasslands with magnificent views and easy access, so I enjoy hiking and Mountain Biking these various parks.