The first wine produced by Cakebread Cellars was a Chardonnay from the 1973 vintage, and this varietal has become the most widely appreciated of its range. Grapes are sourced from Napa's best Chardonnay microclimates: the southernmost section of the Napa Valley, and the Carneros region, cool-climate areas recognized for the superb quality of the Chardonnay and Pinot Noir they produce. These vineyards, which Cakebread directly manages, are planted in a variety of clones which lend the wine depth and complex aromas. Because the different clones ripen at different rates in different vineyard sites, harvest may begin as early as the first of September and last until mid-October. The grapes are harvested at night or in the early hours of the morning, when the fruit is coolest. Fermentation can then begin with very little, if any, cooling.
Cakebread Cellars' Napa Valley Chardonnay is light straw in color with a glint of gold. Its aromas are reminiscent of green apples and the faint scent of apricots with a clean scent of mineral suggestive of flint. These impressions are repeated on the palate with a very slight buttery finish and a subtle hint of French oak vanillin in the background. Good depth with an ideal balance of fruit and crisp acidity lead into a fresh, silky finish.
Over 30 years ago, Jack Cakebread came to photograph the Napa Valley for a book and while there, he casually mentioned his interest in one day owning a vineyard to some family friends who had a ranch in Rutherford. When he returned home that afternoon, the phone rang and it was the family friends offering to sell their property. He headed back up to the valley that same afternoon to make his best offer, and Cakebread Cellars was born.
As the Cakebread family reflects upon the many profound changes in the wine industry over the last 33 years, such as innovative farming techniques and new methods of reaching out to consumers, they note that their key values have remained the same. Dedication to making the highest quality wines and a commitment to family has followed a continuum as their first small vineyard has grown into a thriving internationally distributed wine company.
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It's hard not to think of Napa Valley when thinking of California wines. The region is, after all, the one that brought world recognition to California wine making. The area was settled by a few choice wine families in the 1960's who bet that the wines of the area would grow and flourish. They were right. The Napa wine industry really took off in the 1980's, when vineyard lands were scooped up and vines were planted throughout the county. A number of wineries emerged, from large conglomerates to small boutiques to cult classics. Cabernet Sauvignon is definitely the grape of choice here, with many winemakers also focusing on Bordeaux Blends. Whites are usually Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc.
Within the Napa Valley lie smaller sub-AVAs that lend even more character specifics to the wines. Furthest south is Carneros, followed by Yountville, Oakville & Rutherford. Above those two is St.-Helena and finally, just granted an AVA, Calistoga. These areas are situated on the valley floor and are known for creating rich, smooth Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Chardonnay. There are a few mountain regions as well, nestled on the slopes overlooking the valley AVAs. Those include Howell Mountain, Stags Leap and Mount Veeder. Wines from the mountain regions are often more structured and firm, benefiting from more time in the bottle to evolve and soften.
It's not rare to see a wine's country of origin listed as "California." A country into itself in the wine world, California makes enough varieties and styles to match many European wine countries. It produces a diverse range of wines that span the quality spectrum.
The most famous of the California wine regions is Napa Valley, and these wines are certainly outstanding – but it's not as broad and diverse as its larger neighbor, Sonoma County. Down south, Santa Barbara's Santa Maria Valley is well-known for its Rhône blends, as well as cool-climate varieties like Pinot and Chardonnay. The Central Coast, the largest California AVA, has many different microclimates that lead to a wide range of wines with many sub-AVAs.
I asked my husband to help me write a review of this wine, and all he could say was, "Oh my God!" We aren't big fans of Chardonnays, but this one stole our hearts. After our first bottle, we immediately went online and bought 3 more bottles. Smooth, not overly acidic, with a nice, creamy finish. A great value for the $$$.
Most wine ranges from 10-16% alcohol by volume. Some varietals tend to have higher (for example Zinfandel and Cabernet Sauvignon) or lower alcohol levels (Pinot Noir and many white varietals), but there is always some variation from producer to producer. Some wine falls outside of this range, for instance Port weighs in closer to 20%, while Muscat and Riesling are usually a bit below 10%.
Wine Style Guide
Light & Crisp
Light to medium bodied wines that are high in acid and light to medium fruit. Typically no oak.
Fruity & Smooth
Light to medium bodied wines with lots of juicy fruit, typically medium acid and medium oak.
Rich & Creamy
Full bodied wines that have typically undergone malo-lactic fermentation and/or spent time in oak.