You can’t go wrong with a trip to Napa Valley. Every time I travel to California I feel as though I have been transported to Europe. The scenery is so vast, the culture so uniquely it’s own (as a comparison to The South where I hail from), and the food and wine culture outstanding. If you fancy a drive through the stunning mountain ranges that surround the valley and capping your day off with a Michelin star-worthy meal, then Napa Valley is the place to go. If, like me, you enjoy the hospitality of the South and the “cool” factor of California, then a visit to Cakebread Cellars vineyard is where you need to spend an afternoon.
Although I was born 20 minutes west of Napa Valley in a town called Petaluma, I am considerably a novice to “wine country.” The only thing I know is that I like Sauvignon Blanc, great scenery, gardens, and a cool estate to tour around in. When it was time to book our Napa Valley excursions it was a no-brainer that we had to check out one of my favorite Sauvignon Blanc houses on its home turf and experience a food and wine pairing.
When you pull up to Cakebread Cellars, you are greeted by a beautiful reception room made of hand-joined wood and floor-to-ceiling windows. A glass of Miss Dolores Cakebread’s (Cakebread’s Grand Dame if you would) favorite, a pour of Sauvignon Blanc is handed to you while you have the opportunity to snoop at the black and white photos Mr. Cakebread took in his earlier days. One such striking portrait is that of Ansel Adams (one of two known in the world to exist), amongst collections of travel and family photos that perfectly paint the picture of vibrancy and family care that goes into the vineyard itself.
If you are as lucky as we were to get one of the most gorgeous days of spring, you are given a tour of the immaculately kept garden and property before settling in for an exciting wine and food pairing. Their resident chefs source all the vegetables from Dolores’s garden in the back of the estate and prepare a four-course tasting menu for you to enjoy alongside some reserve wines.
Our menu started with a smoked sturgeon pate with pickled fennel (a dream condiment) and preserved lemon peel paired alongside a 2019 Chardonnay Reserve. We moved onto a Curried Provincial pumpkin and apple soup with crème fraiche which was paired alongside a 2015 Cuttings Wharf Chardonnay. Next, a Kale Malfatti (like gnocchi) in a vegetable Bolognese with a 2019 Pinot Noir. And finally, grilled flat iron steak with pickled mushrooms and fermented black garlic alongside a 2018 Suscol Springs Cabernet Sauvignon.
After finishing our meal my husband and I debated which course was the best. He proclaimed the sturgeon was the most outstanding (the pickled fennel and sturgeon combo was spectacular) whereas I, normally the “fish” person, couldn’t get over the black garlic and steak combo! A healthy debate that led us to googling and ordering both sturgeon pate and black garlic paste to be shipped home for future uses.
The entire tour was truly the highlight of the trip. Cakebread Cellars facilities were beautiful. The food pairing was the best we had the entire 5 days of eating in Napa Valley. The people were charming, fun and full of character, much like the wines you’ll find with Cakebread Cellars. If you’re one of the lucky ones to read this before you plan your trip to Napa Valley, I can guarantee you’ll have an enjoyable afternoon tasting and drinking like the Cakebreads do.
P.S. snag a bottle of their 2021 Vin de Porche Rose if you like dry, provincial style roses, it is our new house favorite rose and we’re already re-upping our order for this summer.