By Rick Riozza
One of the easiest wines to recommend for the up-coming holiday tables are those from the famed Cakebread Cellars. Most of you California wine lovers know well of the renowned Napa Valley winery, and truth be told, Cakebread has a huge fan base here in the desert. Our shelves at the store run out of the Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay on a regular basis. Note to self: Order extra cases for the holidays!
Although this column attempts to enlighten our wine folk to wines that are under the radar and can use some coverage, from time to time it’s great to talk about a wine that’s great! Further the Cakebread story is a true family winery story: the family has been involved in every aspect of farming, wine production and hospitality. And breaking news! After almost 20 years in planning and building, Cakebread has just announced the opening of their new Napa Valley Visitors Center.
Well—we’ve just tasted through their current line-up and this column will do its share to inform our readers of the opportunity to treat themselves to some fantastic quaffs! And that’s with the especial attention to the word “treat”. Most of us drink wine on a regular basis, and, that translates to seeking practical deals all the time. No one’s been naughty here, so it’s time to be nice and enjoy one of California’s premium wines.
To briefly bring you up to speed, over the course of more than 45 years, since its founding in 1973, two generations of the Cakebread family have created one of the most successful and respected wineries in America. As I just mentioned above, it has everything going for it: owns world-class estate vineyards; the winery and tasting room are known for their warm hospitality, and, there’s a determined focus on sustainable vineyard and wine making practices in their continual pursuit to produce premium wines.
Kind of a funny side note: more than a few people have come into my wine department asking for “Cakebread” when they mean to say “Cupcake”. I’ll show them the bottle and they shake their heads and say, “no—that’s not the label and that’s not the price I’m used to either!” (Cupcake wines sell for an average of $7 a bottle). No one desiring a bottle of Cakebread has made the mistake of asking for “Cupcake—go figure.
Let’s now discuss Cakebread’s flagships wines on the shelves right now standing ready for your holiday tables:
Cakebread Cellars Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc ($29.99)
You Sauv Blanc fans generally form into two different groups. One enjoys the zippy Kiwi stuff primarily but can cross-over to the rounder fruits of California as long as it’s not cloyingly sweet; the other group seems to detest New Zealand Sauv Blanc and drinks only the California white.
If one of each group shows up at your holiday meal, you’ll make them a very happy pair! For all of the fanfare Cakebread continually receives for its Sauv Blanc, we are still surprised by their fresh, vivid aromas of white flowers, ripe melon and citrus fruit. Next, we have rich flavors of zesty pink grapefruit, melon and guava, that leads to a long, crisp finish of bright acidity and refreshing citrus mineral tones.
It’s a perfect starter for the varied Thanksgiving table that will also work as a cleanser between dishes. We recently enjoy this Sauv Blanc with an array of Vietnamese plates inundated with so many fresh herbs—the pairing was the bomb!
Cakebread Cellars 2018 Napa Valley Chardonnay ($39.99)
This wine was bottled just a few months ago, so you Chardonnay devotees are in for a delicious treat. The wine opens with aromas of ripe golden apple, white peach, orange blossom and notes of oak. That’s a winner already! On the palate, there’s a marvelous balance between a mild buttery & toasty mouthfeel, apple pie, pear & lemon notes, and fresh acidity of stone fruit flavors. The finish is clean, with appealing mineral notes. Full disclosure: this Cakebread Chard will be on our Thanksgiving table.
Cakebread Cellars 2016 Two Creeks Vineyard Pinot Noir ($49.99)
Last year, if I were to gauge the sales of a red wine prior to Thanksgiving, Pinot Noir would win hands-down. The news is out that a soft Pinot serves well the Turkey dinner and all the trimmings and fixtures. And when one thinks about it, there is that cozy harvest smell & flavor to that wine.
This Two Creeks Vineyard opens with a bouquet of strawberry, black cherry, raspberry, rose petals, lavender and wet straw. The same fruits move to the palate with all their fresh notes; it’s medium-bodied with layered complexities, with a nice dry finish. Again, full disclosure: this Cakebread Pinot will be on the table.
Cakebread Cellars 2016 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon ($79.99)
We just enjoyed this Napa California Cab last night with a rare-cooked New York and sautéd mushrooms atop. It was as good as it gets!—that classic match of steak and red wine. And as you California Cab lovers know, Cakebread has always been one of the best that you’ve tasted.
It’s classic stuff! It’s what brought you that epiphany wine moment. You’re tasting a big, boldly structured Cabernet with deep concentrated black fruits with intriguing dusty, loamy, and mineral-y accents in the mix; particular blackberry, dark cherry, cassis, Mission fig, all plush and proper. I treat myself to a Cakebread Cab, probably only once or twice a year, and I’m still a happy camper!
As mentioned above, Cakebread Cellars have just opened the door to a new re-built Visitor Center. So many of us get up to Napa once and a while and this center will be on your schedule. Their recent press release states: “Cakebread’s focus on providing an immersive guest experience and connection to the wine making process truly sets it apart.” There are various tasting rooms, winery rooms, lab rooms, and tank rooms for every visitor to enjoy. cakebread.com/visit-our-napa-winery. Cheers!