Last Saturday evening, I visited the Packing House Wine Merchants in Claremont, California. They were holding a tasting of six wines by the legendary Cakebread Cellars. The tasting featured a Sauvginon Blanc, two Chardonnays (one regular and one reserve), a Syrah, a Merlot, and a Cabernet Sauvignon. After tasting them all, I thought that these wines deserved some attention, but since reviewing all of them would take far too much time to write and to read, I thought I would narrow it down to my top three picks.
For those who may not have heard about them, Cakebread is a well known and respected standard in the Napa Valley. They began producing wines in 1973, while Napa was still a fairly unknown destination. Today, through a combination of state of the art technology and a passion that spans several decades, Cakebread has become synonymous with Napa.
I do not typically drink many wines from Napa because I have found that many of them command the prices that they often do because of their appellation alone, and not necessarily their quality. I am also more of an advocate of smaller, lesser known wineries than I am of the large scale standards that everyone knows and the critics rave about. So that said, I was interested to see what it was about Cakebread that the wine world finds so special. Here were the results:
Wine #1: Cakebread Cellars 2007 Napa Valley Reserve Chardonnay
On the nose I detect a nice amount of butter and cream. There is also a baked good aroma, with a spiced pineapple cake and ginger preserves tone. There is a delicate floral note, something that is almost somewhat plummy, and a touch of lemon oil.
The palate opens sweet and caramel-like. There is something about this wine that absolutely, without a doubt, makes me think of flan. There is a lightly vanilla scented custard tone to it, but there is also this light caramel sauce tone that reminds me of flan exactly. I also pick up on a touch of lemon juice, a spiced apple crisp tone, and a good amount of almost peppery butter. There are subtle strawberry and melon tones mingling with some light citrus flower elements in the background as well.
Overall, this is a pretty well made wine. It is very smooth and almost somewhat oily, like taking a swig of petrol (in texture only.) I think it has good balance and it does not feel top heavy, despite the fact that the acidity is fairly mild. I like this wine quite a bit, but I do pick up on a good amount of burn from the alcohol on the finish, and I almost feel like I just drank a liqueur rather than a wine after I swallow it. That said, this is a nice chardonnay, but for the price, you can definitely find offerings that are just as good for less. That is one of the good things about Chardonnay, the market is so saturated with it that you can find comparable options almost anywhere. It’s that alcohol burn that keeps me from really liking this wine, and making it just…
Not Worth Drinking. 89 points.
Wine #2: Cakebread Cellars 2006 Napa Valley Merlot
The nose on this wine reminds me of strawberry ice cream; I get the ripe red fruit, combined with a creamy element as well. There is a somewhat peppered spice, some dried pomegranate, and a touch of dark chocolate covered cherry. I also pick up on some plum, a faint floral tone, and a touch of menthol. The nose on this wine is really pretty jammy and complex and I definitely would say that it’s inviting.
The palate is somewhat creamy, with a preserved quality that is reminiscent of plum, blackcurrant, and blackberry jam. I pick up on some soft mocha coffee tones, some spiced cream, and a touch of forest herbs. There is also a really dark raspberry quality and some delicate floral notes.
This wine’s texture may be its greatest asset. It’s silky and lush, with a great, highly refined, gripping tannins that give structure to the plush jammy fruit. This is a very well made wine, and I could see it’s perfectly balanced style appealing to a wide range of palates. However, I think that the price is just a little high at $60 something, I would happily pay $48 for this wine and I could probably go as high as somewhere in the low $50′s. That said, keep an eye out for this wine, if it goes on sale, or you can get a discount, it will definitely be a wine…
Worth Buying. 90 points.
Wine #3: Cakebread Cellars 2006 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon
The nose on this wine is lush and spicy. I get lots of peppered black currant preserves, a bit of concord jam, some pretty intense rose wood, and a nice touch of something floral. There is some dark stone, some very light vanilla cream, and just a touch of butter as well.
This wine opens very sweet, ripe, and rich with tons of creamy, almost jammy, blackberry and black currant tones. I then pick up on a bit of dried fruit, some coffee and cacao powder, and some fragrant wood aromas. The finish ends on just a hint of forest floor and menthol.
This is a really rich, lush, smooth, and complex wine. It has exceptional balance of really intense fruit and firm, gripping tannins, and it feels very refined and elegant. Clearly well made, and definitely an example of Napa Cabernet done right. I think the price is a little steep at just shy of $70, and I could see buying this wine at $50-55, but if you are looking for an elegant, nicely structured Napa Cabernet that you don’t mind paying a little more for, this could be a wine…
Worth Trying. 91 points.
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The Grapevine: What is your experience with wines from Napa?