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Interview: The Cakebread Cellars Napa Valley Cookbook | Dolores and Jack Cakebread

Dolores and Jack Cakebread with Brian Streeter

THE BOOK The Cakebread Cellars Napa Valley Cookbook: Wine and Recipes to Celebrate Every Season's Harvest by Dolores and Jack Cakebread with Brian Streeter (Ten Speed), $35, 228 pages, color photos.

THE GIST A look at daily life at a Napa Valley winery, with appealing recipes and lots of useful wine information.

THE IDEAL READER The cook who enjoys serving wine with meals.

THE EXTRAS Behind-the-scenes photographs of the winery.

BACKGROUND Jack was born in Oakland, California; Dolores was born in Sheboygan, Wisconsin and moved to California when she was nine. They live at their winery in Rutherford, in the Napa Valley. "Jack and I started dating when we were 14 and got married at 19," Dolores says. "We've been married 53 years."

WINERY EXPERIENCE "I'm basically a car mechanic and photographer by trade," Jack says. Dolores adds, "We got into the Napa wine business 32 years ago. For the first 19 years we worked at our garage in Oakland during the day and would come up to the winery on nights and weekends. We started with just 22 acres of vineyards and we made 157 cases of wine a year. Now we have 300 acres of vineyards and we make 95,000 cases of wine a year."

COOKING EXPERIENCE Dolores says, "I have three sons and Jack, and when you have four men in your house with a name like Cakebread, there's a whole lot of eating going on! I didn't know how to cook when I first got married, so I studied Joy of Cooking. My favorite dish was pork chops with tomato and bell pepper sauce, which Jack says I made for dinner all the time. I started taking some cooking classes locally. Then I prepared all the family holiday dinners and cooked for our church and even for the Oakland Camera Club."

ON COOKING FOR A CROWD "When we started out in Napa, we didn't have a kitchen at the winery, so I'd make meals in Oakland and bring them up. I'd cook dinner for 20 people every Friday night at home and serve it the next day to everyone who helped out at the winery. People who had tasted our wines and wanted to pitch in would come to the winery and help bottle the wine or weed the grounds or do construction on the buildings. I never knew beforehand how many people would come, so if there were 10, we'd have a feast, and if there were 30, we'd have to skimp."

WHAT DOLORES COOKS MOST OFTEN FOR JACK "Jack travels a lot, and his favorite comfort meal when he comes home is mashed potatoes, meat loaf and fresh carrot salad. He doesn't eat potatoes anymore, so I use pureed celery root or cauliflower instead—the recipe's in the book. On our 50th wedding anniversary, Jack got bottles of 1976 Krug Champagne, 1980 Cakebread Chardonnay and 1974 Cakebread Cabernet from our cellar, and we drank them with that very meal."

HOW "THE CAKEBREAD CELLARS NAPA VALLEY COOKBOOK" CAME TO BE "Some of the recipes are from our annual American Harvest Workshop. Each year we invite chefs from across the country to come here to learn about wine and, along with our resident chef, Brian Streeter, develop new dishes using ingredients from local farmers and food artisans. The bulk of the recipes in the book, however, are ones that I've prepared at the winery for the past 30 years for meals with wine distributors, restaurateurs and other visitors."

HOW THE COOKBOOK RECIPES WERE TESTED "We gave out the recipes to our staff at the winery—home cooks with ordinary kitchens—and got their feedback. Then we incorporated any changes we felt were needed."

HOW TO PAIR FOOD WITH WINE "The main thing to remember is to match like flavors. And always keep in mind that pairing wine with food is all very subjective. People in the wine business can sometimes make choosing wines too complicated. Wine is meant to be enjoyed—and you don't have to be a connoisseur to enjoy it."

FAVORITE FOOD AND WINE PAIRINGS "We love lamb or salmon with Pinot Noir and, with Zinfandel, osso buco—or peanut butter."

TIPS FOR COOKING WITH WINE "Always have a glass of wine while you're cooking and toss some into the pan. For instance, if you are serving an off-dry wine with dinner, be sure to add some to your sauce—this will help bridge the flavors. Never cook with wine you won't drink. Food and wine go together like husband and wife; they're natural complements."

TASTE SENSATION "We served Sauvignon Blanc the other morning at 7 o'clock with scrambled eggs. They're delicious together."

TOP FOOD-FRIENDLY WINES Dry wines with medium acidity. "Wines with a very low acidity are flat. Wines with medium acidity add that tang, zippiness or zing to your food."

Published August 2004
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