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Stephanie Jacobs
Stephanie Jacobs, Cakebread Cellars' winemaker since 2017, is only the fourth winemaker in nearly five decades to oversee all Cakebreads' winemaking operations. Courtesy photo
ColumnsFood & WineTaste of Wine

Taste of Wine: Cakebread turns 50; Gallo wine family grows

In 1972, while shooting photographs for the publication “Treasury of American Wines,” Jack and Dolores Cakebread casually offered to buy the Sturdivant ranch in Rutherford Napa Valley. When they returned to their hotel they found the answer to their proposition. The answer was YES!

In 1975, the Cakebreads crushed some cabernet sauvignon up at a friend’s place — the Keenan winery — and by 1976, their first cab was released, a 1974 vintage.

Next year will be the 50th anniversary of Cakebread Cellars, now one of the most respected in the wine community of Napa Valley, with the classic cabernet sauvignon right up there with the best of them. Setting the table for their golden year of cab is the 2018 entry ($70), classic red revealing aromas of ripe blackberry and boysenberry with hints of dark chocolate and sweet oak.

On the palate, the dark fruit is balanced by fresh acidity and lush tannins that carry to a lingering, elegant finish, with a kiss of minerality.

Cakebread’s executive winemaker Stephanie Jacobs has received high praise for 2018. Spring rains replenished the soils, clusters ripened evenly over a long, slow summer with no heat spikes, and our grapes reached full maturity right on time. The harvest was abundant and of very high quality.

Enjoy this wine now with food such as lamb, filet mignon or fire-roasted Portobello mushrooms.  Lay the wine down and watch it continue to develop complexity in the bottle for years to come.  Visit

Gallo’s wine family suddenly grows by 30 brands, plus 5 wineries

Who says there’s no profit in wineries!  Even in this Pandemic crisis, Ernest and Julio Gallo of Modesto (yes, the same jug wine family of yesteryear), paid $810 million dollars to acquire more than 30 wine brands, plus 5 wineries from Constellation Brands. The nearly 2 year negotiations closed on January 4.

Founded by the Gallo brothers in 1933 in Modesto just after Prohibition ended, E & J Gallo wines and spirits are now found in over 110 countries around the globe. With this latest acquisition, the Gallo portfolio now has grown to more than 100 brands including popular economy wines like Clos du Bois, Estancia, Franciscan, Manischewitz, Wild Horse and Luis Martini. Other upscale names include Orin Swift, Talbott and William Hill. For more visit

Artesa Winery
The super modern exterior of Artesa winery in the Carneros district of Napa Valley. Photo courtesy of Artesa Winery

Great Value Wines at $25 or Less

Everyone loves a deal. I watch prices very closely and occasionally I can snare a “Wine of the Week,” at a deep discount, or “buy 6 and get 40% off each bottle,” sale. But the best values are the everyday low prices from the wineries or wine shops at prices that can’t be beat. Look for the go-to top values listed below and you’ll see what I mean.

Artesa Pinot Noir Los Carneros Napa 2017: Refined flavors of cherry, red currant and plum tart, surrounded by ample toasty notes. $25.

Castello Di Arbola Chianti Classico It. 2016: Ripe cherry and strawberry flavors that are in harmony with tobacco and iron notes. $17.

L’ecole #41 Columbia Valley Wa. Merlot 2018: Supple and vibrant, offering expressive red currant, violet and spiced cinnamon flavors, with polished tannins $22.

Ferrari Carano Sonoma Siena Red Blend 2016: From the rich soil of the Geyserville district comes this Italian style blend of Sangiovese Malbec and Petite Sirah. Salute! $14.

South Coast Winery Temecula Valley Ca. Chardonnay Sans Chene 2018: A Chardonnay “Sans Chene” (without oak) that simplifies the wine’s flavor so that the grape expresses itself, brimming with tropical fruit aromas, luscious flavors and a crisp finish. $18.

Wine Bytes

  • Skip Coomber reminded me that his Coomber Craft Wines on Mission in Oceanside has live pop and country music 7 nights a week starting at 6 p.m. His “back yard” stage is state of the art with lots of outdoor seating and heating, with super quick wine and food orders.  Details at or call 760-231-8022.
  • Here’s a reported restaurant change to check out later in the year.  A long-time favorite of mine with fabulous ocean views is saying its goodbyes.  Charthouse, part of the Landry chain of luxury restaurants will be spiffed up to become Mastro’s Ocean Club at Restaurant Row along the Coast Highway in Cardiff. Charthouse goes back to the 50’s and was a casual surf and turf restaurant where surfers hung out with the money crowd.  Details like architectural upgrades, alcohol service times, dress code and entertainment are still being worked out according to press sources.

Frank Mangio is a renowned wine connoisseur certified by Wine Spectator. He is one of the leading commentators on the web.View his columns at under “Recent columns.”  Reach him at [email protected]