Over 39 years ago, Jack Cakebread came to photograph the Napa Valley for a book and while here, 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.
Their first vintage–157 cases of 1973 Chardonnay–was sold to Phil Faight of Groezinger’s Wine Shop in Yountville. He in turn sold to a small audience of premium wine drinkers who primarily drove up from the Bay Area on weekends to visit the country. “Two or three cars an hour would be on the road and we would all stop and look to see who was coming,” said Jack as he thought of his original neighbors who became some of the “legends of the wine industry – Mondavi, Martini, Heitz, BV’s Tchelistcheff and Christian Brothers “Brother Tim.” Today, traffic is about 30 cars-a-minute as the world comes to visit the Napa Valley wine country.
“When we started out, we made a barrel and we sold a barrel. We made two barrels and sold two barrels,” Jack stated. “We are very grateful for our ability to sell the wines we make to such supportive customers.”
One thing that hasn’t changed in over thirty years is the family-members’ participation in all activities when it comes to growing, making or promoting their wine. “We didn’t know we were going to build a winery,” said Jack. “There was no strategic business plan like you have today. We just believed in our heart-of-hearts that it would work to bring our family here.” Today, a team of four Cakebreads leads Cakebread Cellars into the new millennium with a positive and enthusiastic outlook.
In spite of their ability to transform with the times in all aspects of the winery business and their continued success, they are still asked daily where the name of the winery comes from. The family forebears were bakers in England, primarily of a dense round loaf called a cakebrede.