"We’ve come from pretty humble beginnings to where we are today in the wine business,” says Jack Cakebread, who founded Cakebread Cellars with wife Dolores Cakebread in 1973.
Jack likes to say that he followed a circuitous route to the vineyards. He originally worked as the head of his father’s Oakland car repair business and pursued freelance photography on the side—studying with Ansel Adams from 1957 to 1966. In 1972, Jack was hired to come to Napa Valley to help photograph what would become Nathan Chroman’s celebrated coffee table book, The Treasury of American Wines.
On that fortuitous 1972 visit, Jack stopped at a friend’s house for lunch and made a casual offer to buy their 22-acre ranch property, the current site of Cakebread Cellars in Rutherford. In addition to car repair and photography, Jack was no stranger to farming—he’d previously worked on his father’s Contra Costa County ranch, growing almonds, peaches, apricots, and walnuts. When the friend accepted his offer that very afternoon, Jack and Dolores used the $2,500 advance from the photography book as down payment. Jack continued working at Cakebread’s Garage in Oakland while he and Dolores planted and tended to grapes at the winery on evenings and weekends.
The next year they founded their Napa winery and sold their first wine, a 1973 Chardonnay. As production increased, Jack traveled throughout the U.S. and later the world to share celebrated Cakebread wines with distributors, retailers, restaurateurs, and consumers.
Jack holds degrees from the University of California, Berkeley and the Stanford Executive Program at the Stanford University Graduate School of Business. He has served as president of the Napa Valley Vintners Association and Winegrowers of Napa County; as president and on the board of directors of the Wine Service Co-op; and on the board of directors of the American Agriculture Credit Bank.
Dolores passed away peacefully in October of 2020 at the age of 90. She created the beautiful garden on property along with two cookbooks with Culinary Director Brian Streeter: The Cakebread Cellars Napa Valley Cookbook: Wine and Recipes to Celebrate Every Season’s Harvest, a collection of recipes and wine pairings from the Cakebread kitchen; and The Cakebread Cellars American Harvest Cookbook (also in collaboration with Janet Fletcher) featuring recipes and wine pairings from the long-standing winery workshops.
Dolores had also served as president of Les Dames d’Escoffier, San Francisco Chapter, and was a member of the Women Chefs and Restaurateurs, the International Association of Culinary Professionals and the San Francisco Professional Food Society. She was a graduate of the University of California Cooperative Master Gardeners Program. Dolores loved sharing her garden and welcoming so many into the Cakebread Cellars extended family.
Jack and Dolores were high school sweethearts and celebrated their 70th wedding anniversary in 2020. She was a beloved mother, grandmother and great grandmother. To our Cakebread Cellars winery team, she will be remembered as a co-founder, mentor and friend. While Jack and Dolores stepped back from the winery in 2005, her legacy of warm hospitality and welcoming spirit remain part of the core of our company values today as does Jack's quest for uncompromising quality.