Picture: Dennis Cakebread and Christian G.E.Schiller
Picture: Gary Gondelman, Chef Driss Zahidi and Christian G.E.Schiller
My down-the-road bistro when I am in McLean, Virginia - EVO Bistro - was the site of a fun vintner dinner hosted by Dennis Cakebread. Chef Driss Zahidi of EVO offered a delectable menu paired with the fabulous Cakebread Cellars wines. Gary Gondelman from Kobrand Corporation led skillfully through a very enjoyable evening. Kobrand Corporation is a marketer of fine wines and spirits, such as Cakebread Cellars; in addition, the firm owns many of the brands in its portfolio.
Cakebread Cellars is a small producer of top wines in the Napa valley, where America’s finest wines come from.
The US is the fourth largest wine producing country in the world following France, Italy, and Spain. The US has produced wine for over 300 years. It is the home of several native species of grape, but it was the introduction of the European Vitis vinifera that led to the growth of the American wine industry. Today, all 50 States make wine, although not all States grow their own fruit.
California accounts for nearly 90 percent of the American wine production. Here are the main wine regions:
Picture: The Wine Regions of California
The first wineries were established by missioneries in the South of California. The Gold Rush in the mid-19th century brought waves of new settlers to California. The wine industry moved to the northern parts of California and took hold in the Sonoma and Napa regions. The late 19th century saw the advent of the phylloxera epidemic which had already ravaged European vineyards. Fortunately the remedy of grafting resistant American rootstock was well known and the Californian wine industry was able to survive. At the turn of the 20th century, nearly 800 wineries existed in California and worldwide recognition seemed imminent, when Prohibition hit the industry in 1920. By the time that Prohibition was repealed in 1933 under President Franklin Roosevelt, only 140 wineries were still operating in California.
Californian re-entered the international stage at the 1976 Judgment of Paris wine competition, when Californian wines beat out French wines in both red and white wine categories. Today, there are more than 1,200 wineries in the State, ranging from small boutique wineries to large corporations. In general, by German or French standards, American wineries are large.
Napa Valley is widely considered to be the top wine region in America and one of the best in the world. By the end of the 19th century there were already more than 140 wineries in the area. Of those original wineries several still exist today including Charles Krug Winery, Chateau Montelena and Beringer. In 1965, Napa Valley icon Robert Mondavi broke away from his family's Charles Krug Estate to found his own. This was the first new large scale winery to be established in the valley since Prohibition. In addition to large scale wineries, Napa Valley's boutique wineries produce some of the world's best wines. Today Napa Valley features more than 300 wineries.
Cakebread Cellars is one of the smaller, fine wineries in Napa valley, founded by Jack Cakebread, just a few miles north of Robert Mondavi. At age 43, Jack Cakebread embarked on a new career, winemaking, when he bought the Rutherford ranch from family friends. His first pursuits were on his family's orchard ranch and as partner with his father in Cakebread's Garage. While in the Air Force in North Africa, he developed an interest in photography. He undertook photographic studies under the master of landscape, Ansel Adams, and established Cakebread Photography. A 14-year photographic career followed, pursued simultaneously with the family auto repair business.
Picture: Gary Gondelman and Dennis Cakebread
To Cakebread Cellar's original 22 acres, an additional 12, adjacent to the original property, were added in 1982. In 1985, 11 more acres in the Rutherford area were acquired. In 1987, the purchase of the 25-acre River Ranch brought total acreage to 75, all of which in the Rutherford appellation. In 1999, an acquisition added substantial vineyard acreage on Howell Mountain. In addition, Cakebread draws on 400 acres of vineyards over which the Cakebreads exercise full control.
Dennis Cakebread is a UC Berkeley graduate. He started his working career doing audits at banks. He ended his banking career as an EVP/CFO before starting work at his family winery in 1987. He is now a co-owner and SVP Sales and Marketing.
EVO Bistro is both my down-the-road Wine Bar in McLean, Virginia, and my favorite Restaurant and Bistro in the Washington DC area. It combines an unpretentious French-Mediterranean atmosphere with top wines from around the world, both the old and the new world, and delicious French, Moroccan and Spanish tapas, prepared by Chef Driss Zahidi, who I know from the days of the tiny Corner Bistro on Old Dominion.
Picture: Chef Driss Zahidi and Christian G.E.Schiller
Picture: Zakaria Echchami
One thing I like in particular is the automated wine tasting station, in the picture behind Driss Zahidi and me, where you can serve yourself from a range of about 40 wines. You pick a glass, select a wine, place your glass under the spout corresponding with the wine you want to enjoy, press a button, and out comes a perfectly-metered one, three or five ounce pour. EVO's eno-system always includes a couple of top wines that cost several hundreds of dollars a bottle; at one or three ounces, they become affordable.
What Dennis Cakebread and Chef Driss Zahidi Served
Passed hors d'oeuvre
Mini crab cakes with lemon aioli
Ahi Tuna in mini fillo cups
Scallops, sesame seeds & passion fruit
2008 Chardonnay, Napa Valley
Technical notes: Grape variety: 100% Chardonnay; Alcoholic Content: 14.5%; Vineyards: 100% Napa Valley; Total Acidity: 0.63g/100ml; pH: 3.65; Harvest Dates: September 4 - October 1, 2008; Fermentation: 92% French Oak & 8% stainless steel; no Malolactic; Barrel-aging: 8 months in French oak, 36% new, with periodic stirring of the lees.
Winemaking notes: After night-harvesting and whole-cluster-pressing the grapes, 92% of the juice was fermented in French oak barrels and 8% in stainless steel tanks. Because the 2008 vintage produced fruit with tremendous varietal intensity and exceptionally well-balanced flavors, the only winemaking intervention required was to select the right barrels to highlight the wine’s lovely natural attributes. The Chardonnay spent eight months aging in French oaks barrels, 36% new, with periodic stirring of the yeast lees to further enrich texture and flavor.
Tasting notes: medium gold in the glass, butter, green apple and spices on the nose, a medium- to full-bodied wined, moderate acidity, creamy, not too oaky, ripe apple and pear flavors on the palate, long, crisp, finish, an elegant California Chardonnay.
Blue Point Oyster trio; Raw with pomegranate sorbet,
fried with Crabmeat & blood orange aioli,
Baked with Orgonzola blue cheese
2008 Sauvignon Blanc
Technical notes: Grape variety: 90% Sauvignon Blanc 6% Semillon 4% Sauvignon Musque; Alcoholic Content: 14.4%; Total Acidity: 0.62g/100ml; pH: 3.43; Harvest Dates: 8/12/2008 through 9/15/2008; Fermentation: 82% Stainless Steel, 18% French Oak; Barrel-aging: 85% Aged 5 months in French Oak.
Winemaking: The Sauvignon Blanc grapes were night-harvested at cool temperatures to preserve their fresh, vibrant flavors and achieve an ideal balance of sugar and acidity. After the grapes arrived at the winery, the whole clusters were immediately pressed to maximize varietal character while minimizing the extraction of astringent compounds from the skins. In 2008, 67% of the juice was tank-fermented and aged in neutral French oak barrels; 18% was fermented and aged in barrel; and 15% was tank-fermented with no oak aging.
Tasting notes: medium gold in the glass, attack of ripe pomelo, pineapple, melon and apple on the nose, a medium- to full-bodied wine, good structure, grapefruit and kiwi on the palate, long finish. A dry, crisp and fruity wine that paired very well with the wonderful trio of Oysters prepared by Chef Driss Zahidi. More on Oysters and Wine here.
100% all natural quail breast wrapped in apple wood smoked bacon,
fresh foie gras, vanilla sea salt and black berry sauce
2007 Pinot Noir, Anderson Valley
Technical notes: Grape Variety: 100% Pinot Noir; Alcohol Content: 14.9%; Appellations: 100% Estate Anderson Valley; Total Acidity: 0.55g/100ml; Harvest dates: September 18-27, 2007; pH: 3.68; Barrel Aging: 15 months in French oak, 45% new.
Winemaking: Each of the six Anderson Valley Pinot Noir clones were fermented separately to optimize their distinctive personalities, using a proportion of native yeasts from the vineyard (22% in 2007) to foster additional complexity. Prior to fermentation, each lot received a three-day cold soak to gently extract color and tannin while accentuating Pinot Noir’s fruit-forward personality. In true Burgundian fashion, the juice fermented in open-top tanks with gentle, manual punch-downs of the cap. Once fermentation was completed, the wines macerated on the skins for another two weeks, with daily assessments of color and tannin development. After draining the wines from the skins, they were transferred to French oak barrels, 40% new. The component wines were blended in the spring, 2008 and the blend was barrel-aged for another seven months.
Tasting notes: light ruby in the glass, a shower of lovely floral notes on the nose combined with notes of black cherry, earth and chocolate, a full-bodied wine, good acidity with seamlessly integrated tannins and dark berry, plum and currant fruit on the palate, long, chocolate-y finish, a feminine wine.
Wagyu beef with Morel mushrooms, grilled pineapple,
Moroccan couscous and truffle sauce
2006 Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
Technical notes: Grape Variety: 78% Cabernet Sauvignon 16% Merlot 4% Cabernet Franc 2% Malbec; Vineyards: Napa Valley; Alcohol content: 14.2%; Harvest dates: October 3 through 27, 2006; Total acidity: 0.65g/100ml; Fermentation: Stainless Steel; pH: 3.71; Barrel aging: 20 months in French oak, 35% new.
Winemaking: After crushing and cold-soaking the grapes for 24-36 hours to enhance extraction, the juice from each vineyard lot was fermented separately in temperature-controlled stainless steel tanks, at warm temperatures, to fully extract color and flavor. Typically, fermentation completes in seven days, with the new wines left to macerate on the skins up to three additional weeks to maximize color and flavor extraction. Cool years like 2006, however, can result in Cabernet Sauvignons with elevated tannins; so evolving tannin levels were closely monitored during fermentation, using both quantitative and sensory analysis to determine the optimum maceration time for each lot. In 2006, each component of our Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon aged six months in French oak barrels, 35% new, with the lots chosen for the final blend aged another 14 months in barrel before bottling in July, 2008.
Tasting notes: clear purple red in the glass, attack of cassis, blackberry and boysenberry coupled with cedar, black tea and sweet oak scents on the nose, a big, concentrated wine, good structure, black fruit and lots of black pepper with hints of black tea on the palate, long, savory finish.
Poached pear in red wine with raspberry sorbet and chocolate sauce
2006 Zinfandel, Red HIll, Lake County
Technical notes: Grape Variety: 100% Zinfandel; Alcohol Content: 14.7%; Vineyards: Red Hills - Lake County; Total Acidity: 0.61g/100ml Harvest dates: September 1- 7, 2006; pH: 3.84; Fermentation: stainless steel tanks; Barrel Aging: 15 months new & seasoned French oak barrels.
Winemaking: Each of our three Zinfandel clones at Snow’s Lake was harvested and fermented separately. After a short, warm fermentation in stainless steel tanks to fully extract color, flavor and tannins, the wines remained on the skins for another two weeks to further enhance color and flavor extraction while softening tannins. After pressing the wines off the skins, the lots were transferred to French oak barrels, 37% new, where they aged before the final blend was assembled in May, 2007. The wine then aged another eight months in barrel before bottling in January, 2008.
Tasting notes: dark red in the glass with never ending legs, a lavish nose of black plum and blackberry fruit with licorice and vanilla notes, a full-bodied intense wine, smooth tannins, chocolate and black pepper notes on the palate, hot finish.
EVO Bistro, McLean, Virginia
Cakebread Cellars, Napa Valley
Kobrand Corporation, New York
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In the Glass: 2007 Rheinhessen with Oysters at the Ten Bells in the Lower East Side in Manhattan