Since 1973, Cakebread Cellars has established itself as a forward-looking Napa Valley icon that blends trusted quality and a welcoming spirit into each bottle of wine they produce. The winery’s intimate tasting experiences, pioneering culinary programs and sustainable practices keep visitors coming back to their Rutherford, CA winery. This week, Cakebread Cellars, led by second generation family members Dennis and Bruce Cakebread, will celebrate their next chapter, as the family opens the doors to a new Visitors Center.
The new Visitors Center, situated on the original twenty-two acres on Highway 29 upon which Cakebread Cellars Founders Jack and Dolores Cakebread first fell in love with Napa Valley in 1972, will offer new spaces and experiences for longstanding fans and first-time visitors alike to enjoy the Cakebread family’s quality wines, educational programming, and entertaining traditions. Brought to life with the help of BCV Architecture + Interiors and building upon the master plan created by Don Brandenburger, the Cakebread family open the doors to a 10,000 square foot renovation and 36,000 square foot addition that immerses guests in the art of winemaking while embracing technology and design to offer an exceptional Napa Valley experience.
Second generation Co-Owner and Chairman of the Board Dennis Cakebread describes the multi-year project, “This new space is the culmination of our winemaking philosophy and emphasis on hospitality coming together. We’ve always felt that visitors to Napa Valley deserved an educational and personalized introduction to our wines. For the new Visitors Center, we wanted to maintain that same warm hospitality that has been a hallmark of the Cakebread visitor experience, while making it even better with inviting, lush spaces and an unparalleled view into the winemaking process. We’re thrilled that the new space will allow us even more unique ways to build a rich experience for our guests, from wine and food tastings to winemaking education, always in the same small, intimate groups.”
Exteriors of the new Visitor Center are sided with reclaimed Redwood wine tank staves, an homage to Napa Valley winemaking tradition in keeping with the classic wooden exteriors that clad the buildings of the original William Turnbull-designed winery facility. Visitors first enter the new space through an expansive reception area, awash in natural light from large windows and a sky-lit cupola. The reception building features a display of Cakebread’s history, with tokens and images telling the family winemaking story, including the original camera Jack Cakebread was using when he came to Napa on assignment, as well as a Jack Cakebread-shot portrait of mentor Ansel Adams. Restored midcentury-modern furniture imbues a rich warmth to the welcoming main room, where guests mingle under custom wine barrel stave light fixtures, fashioned from retired Cakebread wine barrels by Berland Design (Richmond, CA), as they enjoy a first taste of Cakebread Cellars wine and await their wine educator.
Experiences are personalized and special, with by-appointment tastings and activities taking place in nine new, carefully designed private tasting rooms. The project’s Principal-in-Charge, Hans Baldauf, explains, “Cakebread’s focus on providing an immersive guest experience and connection to the winemaking process truly sets it apart. The winery has long eschewed large tasting bars for more intimate experiences, so BCV was thrilled to create new spaces that offer an elevated and personalized visit.”
Each tasting room was designed with small format tastings in mind, with each space’s interior featuring its own distinct design, to ensure that each visit and experience is memorable. Names were chosen to represent seven of Cakebread’s 15 estate vineyards, with the Lab and Tank Room named for the distinct features.
* The Culinary Wing: The first three tasting rooms, Annahala Ranch, Suscol Springs, and Apple Barn, were created with Cakebread Cellars’ signature wine and food seminar programs in mind. These educational spaces offer 30+ year veteran Chef Brian Streeter, who helms the winery’s pioneering culinary program, ample opportunities to showcase produce from Co-Founder Dolores Cakebread’s estate gardens. The rooms’ bright windows overlook newly planted citrus trees and a new Sauvignon Blanc vineyard (coming Spring 2020), further immersing visitors in a wine and food paired haven.
* Window to the Winery: Four tasting rooms, Doggwood, Foster Road, Dancing Bear Ranch and Cuttings Wharf each offer educational wine tastings directly within the cellar itself. Built to give guests a window into the winemaking process, these rooms were crafted with specific tastings in mind. Foster Road and Dogwood are both nestled into the fermentation hall, looking out onto twelve newly custom-made concrete egg fermentation tanks that line the space. While similarly sized and located, each room retains a distinct privacy and host different tastings, with visitors to Foster Road tasting Cakebread’s white wines, and those in Doggwood tasting reds. The Dancing Bear room was designed to sit at the axis of the cellar, a club like room ideal for hosting the winery’s newly offered library tasting. Above, the second level Cuttings Wharf room also features wide windows giving guests a front row seat to the production facility, with winemaker and cellar crew in constant activity outside.
* In the Lab: The Lab was designed to be bright and practical — just like the space where Cakebread’s winemaking team perfects their 17 wine offerings. Looking out onto the bottling line, glossy white counter-height tables on a polished concrete floor create the perfect setting for technical tastings and workshops for guests who want to grow their knowledge of the nuances of winemaking.
* The Tank Room: The tank room is the largest tasting space, with enough room to comfortably host larger groups or special dinners. The space doubles as a live production space for the winery, with nine large, stainless steel fermentation tanks lining the walls and a sky-lit cupola overhead bringing daylight into the space.
Of the new tasting rooms, Co-Owner Bruce Cakebread explains, “At Cakebread, our dedication to producing quality wines has always been our top priority, so when we welcome guests to the winery, it’s important to us that we connect our visitors with the craft of winemaking. Here, we have created nine distinct indoor tasting experiences that tell that story, from the vines, to fermentation, aging and bottling.”
After enjoying a tasting, visitors are invited to the retail lounge where they can peruse the temperature and humidity-controlled, glass-enclosed wine library, featuring significant vintages and large format bottles in custom wood and steel cases. Careful consideration even went into the last steps of the guest experience, with the winery’s “green parking lot” in keeping with Cakebread’s longstanding sustainable practices. “We wanted everyone to know, from the moment they step out of their car, what Cakebread Cellars is about” remarks Bruce Cakebread, who helped oversee the project.
The new Cakebread Cellars Visitors Center opens to the public this week. Visits are by appointment only and experiences include the Current Release Tasting ($25), Reserve Tasting ($65/$40 for wine club members), White Wine Tasting ($35/$25 for wine club members), Red Wine Tasting ($40/$25 for wine club members), a new Library Tasting ($85/$60 for wine club members), Wine & Food Pairing ($55/$30 for wine club members) and more. Additional details and reservations can be made online at Cakebread.com.