Monday, July 16, 2018

Cakebread Cellars Reserve Tasting

Cakebread Cellars Reserve Tasting

We all know Cakebread Cellars with their wide distribution of their Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay. But, few realize that only three of their 25+ labels actually are in distribution. The rest of their collection of labels are available only at the winery or to wine club members. Hence, Cakebread was one of our shortlist targeted producers for this year's Napa Valley Wine Experience.

After forty years, Cakebread Cellars is still a family owned and operated business. It is one of the early pioneers in the modern era of Napa Valley wines, founded in 1973 by Jack and Dolores Cakebread. The first Cakebread Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon (’74 vintage) was released in 1976 from fruit at the Estate behind the house on Hwy 29 in Rutherford. 

Son Bruce Cakebread joined the family business in 1979 full-time as winemaker after graduating from UC Davis. That year, five fermenters were installed outside the front barn with refrigeration being hooked up the night before the grapes arrived. In 1982, Jack Cakebread purchased the 12 acre ranch adjacent to the original estate site and planted Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc. Son Dennis Cakebread joined the winery in 1986 and to this day is responsible for finance along with sales and marketing. That year, Julianne Laks’ 1st year as Assistant Winemaker..

Today, Cakebread Cellars has vineyard properties located throughout Napa Valley and a location in the Anderson Valley. The winery ranches surrounding the production facility in Rutherford are where it all began when the first 22 acre parcel was purchased in 1972.

Over the years, the Cakebread family has continued to acquire additional vineyard parcels throughout Napa Valley and the North Coast. Today, the winery owns 15 sites totaling 1617 acres, 584 of which are currently planted, which allows them to be fully vertically integrated, and to provide consumers with consistent supply of product for their growing array of labels, many vineyard and appellation specific offerings, each with their distinctive terrior.

Cakebread offer a range of tastings at the Estate Winery on St Helena Highway 29 in Rutherford. We chose the Reserve tasting so we could sample what they consider their signature, best wines.Notably, these Reserve or Select wines are only available at the winery or to wine club members.

Cakebread Cellars Dancing Bear Ranch Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon 2013

In 1998, Cakebread purchased 200 acres on Howell Mountain and commenced development of these hillside vineyards into what becomes Dancing Bear Ranch. The property got its name from Black Bears the roamed the site and 'danced' amonge the vines tearing them up during the night. The first vintage of Dancing Bear Ranch is released in 2002.

Dancing Bear Ranch is located on the upper slopes of Howell Mountain in the Northeastern Napa Valley at upper elevations ranging from 1450’ to over 1600’ above sea level and a near 360 degree exposure. The mountainous site spans 194 acres of which only 29 are planted. The varietals planted there are all Bordeaux varietals - Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc. The vines there are stressed, being rooted in shallow, rocky soils, ideal growing conditions for wine grapes. With its isolated mountainous locations, the site is home to a wide range of wildlife, including: turkeys, mountain lions, bobcats and of course, bear.

This vintage release is a blend of 93% Cabernet Sauvignon and 7% Merlot.

Robert Parker gave this wine 96 points.

Dense inky black purple color, full bodied, rich thick concentrated but nicely polished and integrated  flavors of blackberry and black raspberry fruits accented by tones of cassis, hints of tar, dark mocha and a touch of cinnamon spice on the lingering tongue coating finish.

RM 95 points.

Cakebread Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon Benchland Select 2014

Cakebread started producing Benchland Select with the 1995 vintage. This is named for the vineyard sources, two gently sloping western 'benchlands' of Rutherford and Oakville in the heart of Napa Valley.

Dark garnet colored, medium-full bodied, smooth polished, elegant, nicely integrated fruits of blackberry, blackcurrant and black cherry accented by a layer of mocha chocolate, hints of cinnamon spice and sweet, toasty oak turning to supple, polished tannins.

RM 94 points.

Cakebread Cellars Vaca, Red Wine Blend 2014

This was added to tasting flight based on my inquiries about Cabernet Franc in their wines. This is a blend of 96% Cabernet Sauvignon & 4% Cabernet Franc.

This is only the third vintage of Vaca, named for the vineyard sources, two of Cakebread's three Napa Valley hillside estates – Doggwood (52%) and Suscol Springs (48%) – on the western slopes of the Vaca Mountain Range, which forms the eastern boundary of Napa Valley. Both are high-elevation sites with steep, angled slopes that provide much sun exposures, and well-drained, rocky, volcanic soils that yield grapes with deeply concentrated flavors. Some of the fruit comes from their Suscol Springs Vineyard, east of the town of Napa. It is the coolest of our three Vaca Range estates. (Doggwood and Dancing Bear are the others.) Its vines are planted in rocky outcrops overlooking the Napa Valley floor. The Doggwood Vineyard is located further north above Conn Dam near Napa’s eastern ridgeline in a warm, bowl-like valley that provides multiple sun exposures. The elevation and thin, rocky soils of these sites naturally limit grape yields and produce small clusters with intense, powerful flavors.

This was dark inky purple colored , medium full-bodied nicely balanced, rich blackberry, black cherry and plum fruits predominate, notes of leather, tobacco leaf and herbs with hints of soft oak, with fleshy but smooth soft tannins on the lingering finish.

RM 91 points.

Cakebread Cellars Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2012

Cakebread Cellars Chardonnay Reserve 2016

Scenes of Cakebread Cellars and Estate, Rutherford ...

Cakebread Tasting Table

Cakebread Cellars Barrel Room

Cakebread  Cellars estate grounds

Jack and Delores Cakebread's original homestead cottage,
on the grounds of the Estate

Whitehall Lane Cellars Winery Visit and Tasting

Whitehall Lane Cellars Rutherford Winery Visit and Tasting

We hold Whitehall Lane Napa Valley wines dating back to the turn of the century - Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, Estate and Reserve. We've passed by the Estate and Winery on St Helena Highway in Rutherford dozens of times during our trips to Napa Valley so this trip we decided to visit there during our Napa Valley Wine Experience 2018.
We try to support the family owned and operated producers and Whitehall Lane has been such since Tom Leonardini acquired Whitehall Lane Winery in March of 1993 and has been a hands on active proprietor every since with his wife and their five children. Tom was joined by son Tom Leonardini II in 1994. Tom had the Estate vineyard replanted and bought four additional vineyards including the Leonardini Vineyard. Tom II is responsible for distribution and has been instrumental in increasing sales from 15,000 cases to almost 50,000 cases today. Sister, Katie Leonardini oversees direct sales and hospitality at the winery after college and a career in the financial services industry. They are joined by eldest sibling Kristin who opened the Napa Valley Winery Exchange, a premiere retail wine shop in San Francisco. She assists Katie in public relation and hospitality events at the winery.

Whitehall Lane wines have been recognized in Wine Spectator Magazine's year-end ranking of wines, having been honored an unprecedented three times in five years for producing wines rated among the top five in the world. The winery has also been voted Winery of the Year from the Quarterly Review of Wines and Wine and Spirits Magazine.

The estate and winery in Napa Valley's historic Rutherford appellation consists of approximately 140 acres in seven prime vineyards that include the Whitehall Lane Estate Vineyard, Millenium MM Vineyard and Bommarito Vineyard in the Rutherford Appellation, the Leonardini Vineyard and Fawn Park Vineyard in St. Helena, Oak Glen Vineyard in the Oak Knoll District and Rassi Vineyard in Sonoma.

The flagship and main Estate Vineyard at adjacent to the winery is 25 acres of "Rutherford Dust" and is planted in Merlot and Sauvignon Blanc grapes. The Millenium MM Vineyard is Cabernet Sauvignon fruit while the Bommarito Vineyard is planted to Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon. The Leonardini Vineyard is 14 acres of gravely soil yielding powerful Cabernet Sauvignon fruit and elegant yet intense Merlot grapes that go into the "Leonardini Vineyard" vineyard-designated wine. The Fawn Park Vineyard is on a gentle slope of Eastern hillside and produces intense Cabernet Sauvignon. The 25-acre Oak Glen Vineyard produces flavorful Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet Sauvignon grapes.

We wanted to focus on Estate and Vineyard Designated Select wines so we had a private estate tasting. This also allowed us to taste some of their limited release vineyard designated select wines as well as some of their flagship signature wines.

The Tasting Flight:

Whitehall Lane Napa Valley Rutherford Sauvignon Blanc 2016
Whitehall Lane Napa Valley Chardonnay 2016
Private tasting, shown left:
Whitehall Lane Las Brisas Carneros Vineyard Pinot Noir 2016
Whitehall Lane Napa Valley Merlot 2014
Whitehall Lane Mancino Lanciatore Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2014
Whitehall Lane Napa Valley Syrah 2014
Whitehall Lane Napa Valley Petit Verdot 2014

Wineflight labels:

Scenes from Whitehall Lane Estate Winery and Vineyards, Rutherford

Whitehall Lane tasting room
Whitehall Lane Barrel Room

REDD Napa Valley Wine Pairing Tasting Dinner

REDD Napa Valley Wine Pairing Tasting Dinner

We dined at REDD in Yountville and had their Pric Fixe tasting dinner with wine pairing. While there
were six courses with six different wines, they prepared a different course with different wine pairings so we go to sample twice as many pairing selections!

REDD is the project of chef Richard Reddington, formerly of Masa’s and Jardiniere in San Francisco, and Auberge du Soleil in Napa Valley. His dishes feature an what he calls 'wine country cuisine' with influences from Asia, Europe, and Mexico. The atmosphere is contemporary elegant yet casual and relaxing, unpretentious for such sophisticated and serious cuisine. REDD is on Washington Street the main street in Yountville with an outdoor court, bar, the dining room and a semi-private dining room.

Our entree courses are pictured below:

Tuna Tartare

Sishimi Hemachi
Diver Scallops

Duck Confit
Alaskan Halibut

Pork Belly
NY Strip Steak