Cakebread Cellars Two Creeks Vineyard Pinot Noir 2017, Anderson Valley
I f you are looking for a good wine to share with your dad for Father’s Day, you won’t find any better than something from Cakebread Cellars. The winery has been a Napa Valley icon run by a father and his sons for 47 years.
I have loved their Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot for years, but recently I was blown away by their Pinot Noir. I specifically tried the 2017 Cakebread Cellars Two Creeks Vineyard Pinot Noir from Anderson Valley.
It has everything you could ask for in a Pinot, starting with sweet black cherry and raspberry aromas and luscious raspberry and bright strawberry flavors. The fruit flavors are balanced by silky tannins and a long, smooth finish that has a touch of minerality.
The grapes are 100 percent Pinot Noir grown in the Annahala and Apple Barn Estate vineyards in the Anderson Valley in Mendocino County. It is an ideal spot to grow cool-weather grapes such as Pinot Noir, only a few miles from the Pacific Ocean.
Ocean breezes have a dramatic cooling effect on the vineyards, allowing the grapes to ripen slowly and evenly. The two vineyards are planted with nine separate Pinot Noir Clones, giving the wine some complexity.
Grapes were harvested at night to preserve freshness, then hand-sorted and de-stemmed into small open-top tanks for a cold soak. Fermentation was initiated by native yeasts from the vineyard and completed after inoculation with a cultured yeast strain.
Each of 16 vineyard block lots are fermented separately, with a small percentage of stems to add spice and complexity. After fermentation, the free-run juice was transferred to French oak barrels, 41 percent new and 59 percent 1 to 3 year old barrels, for three months before blending. The blended wine aged another 10 months in barrel before bottling.
If you are longing for a wine tasting while we are practicing social distancing, Cakebread has two options for you. The first is the current release tasting. You buy a Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon for $220 and then schedule the virtual tasting on a Thursday through Monday.
The other option is a reserve tasting of the 2016 Chardonnay Reserve, Carneros; 2015 Benchland Select Cab, Napa Valley; 2015 Vine Hill Ranch Cab, Napa Valley; and 2013 Dancing Bear Ranch Cab, Howell Mountain for $520 and then schedule your virtual tasting. They even will give you a deal on a Coravin system is you are interested. Shipping on each kit is just $10.
Winery: Cakebread Cellars started out as a small, family-owned winery, and even though its production has grown to 200,000 cases a year, it has remained family owned. While other family wineries have sold to large corporations, Cakebread clings to the values that have made it successful.
While Jack Cakebread was shooting photographs for a wine book in 1972 (He studied with Ansel Adams for nine years.), he stopped at a friend’s house for a bowl of soup at lunch. He casually mentioned that if they ever wanted to sell their land they should let him know. The family called that afternoon and offered to sell Jack and Delores the Sturdivant Ranch in Rutherford, the heart of Napa Valley.
They had a tough decision, but used the advance Jack got from the photos for the wine book as a downpayment on the land. While Jack continued to work at his father’s car repair business in Oakland he and Delores planted vines and tended to them on evenings and weekends.
After two years of such work the initial winery was built and Cakebread Cellars released 157 cases of its first wine, a 1973 Chardonnay. They sold a few cases to a local wine merchant and as people tried their wine, the Cakebread reputation grew.
They released their first Cab and first Zinfandel in 1976. Now they produce Cabernet Sauvignon, Rubiyat (pinot noir/syrah blend), several Chardonnays, several Pinot Noirs, Sauvignon Blanc, Merlot, Syrah, several red blends including Dancing Bear Ranch Bordeaux Blend (Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc) and Vin de Porche rosé. Distribution is worldwide.
Over the years the winery has grown and been revamped. In 1980 a new winery building, designed by architect William Turnbull, won several awards. Sons Bruce and Dennis joined the family business and now run it.
In the early 1990s the family discussed new wine projects they could take on once they reached their Napa Valley goals. Dennis Cakebread explored Walla Walla, Washington, and realized there were opportunities. He made his first trip there in 2010, and soon the Mullan Road winery was up and running. They make a Bordeaux style red blend that is outstanding.
The winery has used many innovative techniques, including night-harvesting to ensure the grapes arrive at the winery in pristine condition; whole-cluster pressing of white grapes to enhance juice and wine freshness and varietal intensity; and aging Chardonnay in barrels on its spent yeast lees, a traditional French practice known as sur lie which produces a very rich, creamy style of Chardonnay.
Cakebread Cellars is a green-certified winery, and its vineyards are green-certified and either farmed organically or sustainably.
“Our approach to maximizing quality is to grow the very best fruit possible, so that every grape cluster and berry we harvest from a particular vineyard is the finest expression of that site,” said Bruce Cakebread, president and CEO. “Because our goal is to improve quality year to year, our wines undergo a slow evolution in style that ensures our longtime customers find them perennially delicious and intriguing.”
Today, the winery owns 15 sites totaling 1,617 acres, 584 of which are currently planted.
Goes with: I had this with dinner one night when Teri had a rare night out. We have been socially responsible and rarely go out except for grocery shopping. But this night she helped celebrate the retirement of one of her friends. (She assured me they maintained the safe social distance at all times.)
I had some lamb chops that I had been saving for just such an occasion because Teri doesn’t care for lamb. I often go to Merlot with lamb, but I thought I’d switch things up a little and try the Pinot. It was an inspired choice.
Lamb has a distinctive taste, more gamey and earthy than beef, so you need a bold wine to stand up to that flavor. But if you go too bold, the wine can overpower the lamb. The Cakebread Pinot Noir had plenty of muscle to take on the lamb, but it didn’t have the in-your-face punch that you often find with a Cab. (I think the Cakebread Cab would have been fine, but I’m happy I tried the Pinot because it is so mellow and balanced.)
I added a couple of Hasselback potatoes that made this a perfect grilled meal. I’ve been eating potatoes cooked like this since I was a teen, but I never knew they were called anything but potatoes roasted on a grill.
You start out with a russet potato and slice it thinly, leaving all the pieces attached at the bottom. I usually peel my potatoes first, but you don’t have to. (I even found a device that makes slicing the potatoes easy. Then you put a dab of butter between each slice, add salt and pepper and roll it up in a piece of foil.
You cook it over the coals for about 45 minutes, turning it over occasionally. When you unwrap it there should be some charred marks on the potato. You can dress it up in several ways: shredded cheese, bacon, sour cream, chives, pretty much anything you might imagine.
The folks at Cakebread recommend serving this wine with seared tuna or swordfish, pork or lighter red meats.
If you have questions about wine email them to email@example.com.
Cakebread Cellars Two Creeks Vineyard Pinot Noir 2017, Anderson Valley