"We’ve come from pretty humble beginnings to where we are today in the wine business,” says Jack Cakebread, founder, chairman and CEO of Cakebread Cellars.
Jack could also say he followed a circuitous route to the vineyards.
His father started a car repair business in Oakland in 1925, so Jack spent much of his time growing up at the shop. In 1939, his father bought a ranch in Contra Costa County where Jack learned about growing almonds, peaches, apricots and walnuts.
After becoming a partner in his father’s garage in 1948, Jack took up photography in 1950 and studied with Ansel Adams from 1957 to 1966. Photography led Jack indirectly into the wine business.
Jack came to Napa Valley in 1973 to photograph what became the renowned coffee table book, The Treasury of American Wines. While there, he stopped off at a friend’s house for a bowl of soup at lunch and casually mentioned that if they ever wanted to sell their land to let him know. They called that afternoon and Jack and Dolores faced a tough decision with ongoing expenses, including two sons in graduate school and one in high school. They decided to use the advance from the book Jack was photographing as the down payment on the land. A deal was struck that very day on a single piece of paper and Cakebread Cellars was born.
Although Jack had become president of Cakebread’s Garage and was working full time, he and Dolores immediately began to develop the new property, planting and tending to the grapes on evenings and the weekends.
Jack sold his first wine, a 1973 Chardonnay, to one store in Napa Valley. As their production of wine increased, Jack traveled throughout the U.S. and later around the world to meet with distributors, retailers, restaurateurs and consumers to share their love of Cakebread wines.
Jack studied at the University of California, Berkeley and completed the Stanford Executive Program at the Stanford University Graduate School of Business in 1983. He also served as the president of the Napa Valley Vintners Association in 1990; as president and on the board of directors for the Wine Service Co-op from 1986-90; and on the board of directors for the American Agriculture Credit Bank from 1986-2000. He currently serves on the board of directors for the Wine Market Council and Wine Vision and as the president of Winegrowers of Napa County.