Polymath Jack Cakebread, who ran an auto-repair business in Oakland and was a professional photographer, bought land in the Napa Valley in 1971. Located in the Rutherford area on Hwy 29, the winery is surrounded by many of the valley’s best-known vineyards and wineries. The first vintage for Cakebread was in 1973, a total of 157 cases of chardonnay. Jack Cakebread’s sons, Dennis and Bruce, now operate the winery, with Dennis as director of sales and Bruce as president and COO. Cakebread is chiefly known for a range of cabernet sauvignon wines, sauvignon blanc and several chardonnays; the winery also produces merlot, pinot noir, syrah and zinfandel, and a syrah/grenache rosé that I would love to get my hands on.
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The Cakebread Cellars Dancing Bear Ranch 2006 hails from Howell Mountain and vineyards that range from about 1800 to 2200 feet elevation. Howell Mountain, the site of a variety of excellent cabernet and merlot vineyards, pioneered by Randy Dunn and La Jota, stands over the Napa Valley north of St. Helena and east of Calistoga. The wine is a blend of 70 percent cabernet sauvignon, 17 percent merlot and 4 percent cabernet franc. The wine spent 26 months in French oak, 60 percent new barrels. This is a cabernet of absolute integrity and authenticity; you feel at once the heft, the dignified austerity of dusty mountainside tannins and granite-like minerality, elements that serve to buttress the uplifting notes of black currants, black raspberries and plums, cedar, tobacco and mint, with a stringent high-tone of iodine. Vibrant acidity melds all of these qualities in a package that’s resonant and resolute, darkly brooding without being truculent, a column of pent energy patiently waiting to be elegant. Black fruit flavors are deep, ripe and spicy, and they benefit from a grounding in touches of bittersweet chocolate, potpourri, ancho chili, graphite and loamy earth. The wine gets more rigorous as the minutes pass — we spent an hour with it and a medium rare steak — and you feel the slow, irrevocable tide of finely-milled tannins and burnished oak filling all the spaces. The wine was terrific with the steak, but it should be drinking best from about 2012 or ’14 through 2018 to 2020. Alcohol content is 14.8 percent. Production was 2,200 cases. Winemaker was Julianne Laks. Excellent. About $106.
A sample for review.
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