By Chloe Gellar
Dolores Cakebread co-founded Cakebread Cellars, one of Napa Valley's most prominent wineries, in 1973 with Jack, her husband, and her high-school sweetheart. Having celebrated both her 90th birthday and 70th wedding anniversary shortly before her death this past October, Dolores leaves behind a legacy as a trailblazer in an industry in which women once took a backseat to men.
As early as the 1980s, Dolores was championing a culinary approach to wine, launching Cakebread's "American Harvest Workshop," one of the first initiatives in the United States to pair food and wine with a focus on local, seasonal ingredients. Further supporting the integration of food and wine, Dolores was the driving force behind the wineries' famous fruit and vegetable garden that still greets guests today. She also worked with Cakebread's Culinary Director Brian Streeter to create wine-pairing cookbooks.
The same year Dolores co-founded Cakebread, MaryAnn Graf became the first woman to be named head winemaker at a California winery. According to on-going research by Lucia Albine Gilbert and John C. Gilbert, in 2020, only fourteen-percent of the more than 4,200 wineries in California reported having a female lead winemaker, up from 10% two years prior. Speaking to these female professionals' proficiency, twenty-percent of the California wineries listed in Wine & Spirits Magazine's Top 100 Wineries were led by women winemakers in 2019 and 2020. The Gilbert's have published their research at womenwinemakers.com.
Family-owned Cakebread Cellars is among those who have selected a woman to lead the winemaking program, which encompasses 15 sites and 584 acres under vine across all of Napa Valley. As the head winemaker, Stephanie Jacobs has made sustainability a pillar in her practice. Just the fourth winemaker in the winery's history, she is the second consecutive woman to hold the position. Joining Cakebread in 2004 as an enologist, Stephanie has been integral in establishing and maintaining Cakebread Cellars' status as a "Napa Green Certified Winery" – a distinction the winery has held for over ten years. The winery is additionally certified as Fish Friendly and participates in the Certified California Sustainable Winegrowing program.
Stephanie is continuously finding innovative ways to practice sustainable winemaking. Continuing Dolores' legacy during the pandemic, Cakebread Cellars has devised a unique series of on-going virtual programming that allows fans of the winery to sip, click, and connect in lieu of in-person tastings. Participants order a cooking class tasting kit in advance of a live cooking demonstration via Zoom with Executive Chef Brian Streeter. For more information on upcoming events, visit cakebread.com/virtual.
To whet your appetite, Chef Streeter shared his recipe for Dungeness Crab Cakes, which he recommends pairing with a 2018 Cakebread Cellars Napa Valley Chardonnay.
Dungeness Crab Cakes Serves 4 to 6
1 lb. crabmeat, picked over for shells
1.5 c. fresh bread crumbs
1 stalk celery, finely minced (1/2 cup)
1 green onion, finely minced (1/4 cup)
¼ c. mayonnaise
1 T. fresh lemon juice
1 T. chopped flat-leaf parsley
2 tsp. Dijon mustard
½ tsp. Worcestershire
¼ tsp. Tabasco sauce
2 eggs, separated
Extra virgin olive oil
1 lemon, cut into wedges
Combine the crabmeat, bread crumbs, celery, green onion, mayonnaise, lemon juice, parsley, mustard, Worcestershire, Tabasco, and egg yolks in a large bowl.
In a separate bowl, whisk the egg whites until stiff peaks form.
Fold the egg whites into the crab mixture.
Shape 1/3 cup of the crab mixture into a 2-inch-wide patty.
Repeat with the rest of the mixture.
Add enough olive oil to fill a large nonstick skillet 1/4-inch deep. Heat over medium-high heat.
Add the crab cakes in a single layer, and cook for 3 to 4 minutes per side, until golden brown.
Arrange on a serving platter and serve with the lemon wedges.