BONJOUR WORLD: Cakebread Cellars American Harvest Workshop
Close your eyes and think about what comes to mind when you roll the word cakebread around.
Or, as you let the word roll off your tongue, I bet you aren’t sure what to think at all.
And I really bet you aren’t thinking wine, well, that is unless you have tasted it.
Because then you know – Cakebread Cellars, ah yes, that delectable little place in Rutherford, California in Napa Valley where California stands proud.
I have always been a fan of Cakebread Cellars so I was excited when I had the chance earlier this year to visit the Cakebread home and take part in the annual American Harvest Workshop.
Let’s get a lay of the Cakebread land first. Jack and Delores Cakebread are the ones who founded the place and that was after Jack studied photography with Ansel Adams. It was in 1972 he was asked to take photos of some Napa Valley winemakers for a book. He fell in love with the area and the idea of winemaking. Through a chance meeting he made while on his photo mission it eventually led to Cakebread Cellars today with 1,100 acres (more than half of the properties planted to vine) and 14 properties.
You will find Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon on the Cakebread lineup and there is even some Pinot Noir from the Cakebread property in Mendocino County. Overall, Cakebread has accumulated vineyards in 13 different sites around the Napa Valley area and the one in Mendocino. In Napa Valley you will find the footprint on Howell Mountain, in the Carneros region and in the Suscol Springs area of southeastern Napa Valley.
And all of this comes from the humble beginnings in 1973.
So with that as the buildup to Cakebread Cellars let’s talk about the American Harvest Workshop. It was the 30th Anniversary of the workshop that I attended this year. To say that this workshop has become a local tradition in these parts every September during harvest would be an understatement.
Basically, the American Harvest Workshop is a hands-on intensive, four-day affair with tastings, seminars and I even had the chance to get out and harvest the grapes. There were five leading chefs from around the country that joined us too.
While I was there we had the chance to engage in some great conversation, try the best wine Cakebread has to offer and I even took part in a beekeeping seminar (bee suit included).
We learned much about the Cakebread Cellars Culinary Program, which is led by the lovely Chef Brian Streeter who has been with the company for over 25 years. Some of the food used in the Cakebread kitchen comes from Dolores Cakebread’s garden planted on the grounds in a 3/5-acre plot. She is a master gardener and the garden boats 40 beds of ever changing, seasonal produce used in the winery’s kitchen.
The finale for the American Harvest Workshop was the fact that folks attending (including me) were paired with one of the chefs to cook a meal for dinner. The chefs along with the attendees help created a six-course dinner for the final nights served on the Pecan Patio at Cakebread Cellars.
Chefs who attended this year included Todd Hall from Utah/Colorado/New Mexico; Andrew Adams from Memphis, TN; Meredith Manee from Coronado, CA; Austin Fausett from Washington D.C.; Adrienne Grenier from Fort Lauderdale, FL and Thomas Sixsmith from Cakebread Cellars. The pottery used for the casual, but elegant evening was made available by the Napa Valley Potter’s Guild. On the plates, the meal included everything from squash blossoms to Alaskan Halibut to clam shells, duck breast, and even antelope loin with a variety of accouterments alongside and paired with Cakebread Cellar wine.
Final answer, the best dinner and pairing I took part in all year – good food, wine, company and atmosphere and it doesn’t get much better than that.
Cakebread Cellars unveiled a photo exhibit this year by Jack Cakebread showcasing photographs he took over the years in celebration of Ansel Adams, Jack’s mentor of sorts. The showcase is in honor of Adam’s 114th birthday. Visitors will be able to see 10 prints taken by Mr. Cakebread predating the origin of the Cakebread Cellars in 1973. His original Hasselblad Camera is also on display.
“Ansel taught me to see things differently,” Cakebread said. “How to think ahead and anticipate all the small details that go into making an exceptional print.”
The bottom line
Vineyards: 560 acres under vine
Oakville/Rutherford – 73 acres
Howell Mountain – 29 acres
Carneros – 180 acres
Napa – 135 acres
Calistoga – 33 acres
Anderson Valley – 110 acres
Since 2008, Cakebread Cellars has also been part of a small group of Napa Valley wineries with a green business certification through the “Napa Green Certified Winery” program. The winery has pledged to take part in ongoing sustainable and green business practices including water and energy conservation, reducing waste and preventing pollution.