Their beginnings were humble, with the original winery building essentially a tractor shed! However, Napa Valley’s legendary Cakebread Cellars have come a long way since the 1970s. Director of Winemaking, Stephanie Jacobs, now oversees production from 16 different vineyards, upholding the winery’s style of complex, balanced wines that age gracefully.
Please tell us a bit about yourself. How did you end up working in the wine industry?
I first became interested in the culture of wine when participating in an exchange program in France as a high-school student. Even so, I initially enrolled in Fermentation Science at the University of California, Davis, with the intention of pursuing a career in brewing. However, my passion turned to wine when I took a few of the required courses in winemaking.
Who has inspired you, either within the wine industry or in your day-to-day life?
Working with Jack and Bruce Cakebread and then Julianne Laks (the head of winemaking at Cakebread before me) provided me a true north when it came to creating quality wines. It also fostered consistency from vintage to vintage at Cakebread, staying authentic to our style.
What is it like being a winemaker in your region and country? Are there any factors unique to this place that make it special or that you love?
Napa is home to diverse microclimates and soils uniquely suited to the cultivation of a variety of fine wine grapes. Cakebread Cellars has an incredible range of vineyards throughout the valley, from Carneros to Calistoga, that I am lucky to be able to craft wine from. As the first Agricultural Preserve in America, it’s also a region of incomparable natural beauty and winegrowing heritage being preserved for future generations through environmental leadership and community stewardship. Many wineries (including Cakebread Cellars) are family-owned businesses. The region’s established viticultural practices result in low yields of high-quality grapes, from which exceptionally skilled winemakers craft the Valley’s renowned wines.
What have been your greatest challenges in the industry?
Mother Nature. Wine is a natural, agricultural product, subject to Mother Nature’s challenges. We must be nimble, flexible, and ready to adapt to the changes of each season. In the vineyard, we rely on past experiences and vintages to “predict” how the seasons will develop, but we must be prepared to pivot as challenges and weather events occur. Even my winemaking techniques can change season to season to craft the highest quality wine from each vintage.
The winery is also working hard to better adapt to these shifts due to climate change. From becoming more efficient in our use of water and energy both at the winery and in the vineyards to creating carbon farm plans and composting, sustainability has always been a core tenet of Cakebread Cellars. We were the second winery to become Napa Green certified and last year, became an applicant member of the IWCA (International Wineries for Climate Action).
We are coming out of a long period of lockdowns throughout the pandemic. What have been your go-to wines to survive, and why?
My family and I frequently go camping, and we often enjoy a nice Napa cabernet by the fire.
What will we find you doing when you’re not in the vineyard or making wine?
Spending time with my family! My kids are heavily involved in sports, and I spend a lot of time at football, basketball, volleyball, baseball, and a new one this year, track.