The American Harvest Workshop at Cakebread Cellars is one of the best kept secrets in Napa, and this year’s 30th anniversary celebration pulled out all the stops. This unique vineyard, wine, and food experience gave participants an unforgettable long weekend.
Cakebread’s American Harvest Workshop wine club members and special guests were given the opportunity to attend the fun-filled and informative long weekend in Northern California’s wine country, managed by the winery’s Culinary Director Brian Streeter.
The four-day experience began with a Farmer’s Market on Cakebread’s Pecan Patio in Yountville. Various purveyors used by the winery for their events and dinners were on hand to talk about their products – and give out lots of samples. Among those displaying their wares at the event were: Broken Arrow Ranch of Central Texas, known for their production of antelope; Napa Valley College Potter’s Guild, who provided pottery for the workshop; Hog Island Oyster Company; Sparrow Lane Artisan Vinegars; and TCHO chocolate, whose chocolate was used for a scrumptious soufflé during one of the dinners. Cakebread Cellars proved they were still a family affair. Bruce Cakebread spent time with all the guests at the Farmer’s Market, as he did through to the last Harvest Dinner. Also making appearances were Dolores and Jack Cakebread.
The Farmer’s Market was not the only place American Harvest Workshop participants were able to learn about the purveyors Cakebread Cellars used. Guests were able to go right to the source, visiting Gourmet Mushrooms, Bellweather Farms, and Della Fattoria Bakery, all in nearby Sonoma. At Gourmet Mushrooms, a factory and farm tour included information on the many types of mushrooms which would be used for cooking throughout the four days. Chef Meredith Manee would create a mushroom filled meal that included mushroom bacon and a chardonnay porcini cream sauce for one of the Harvest Dinners. Bellweather Farms provided guests with a tour that included information on milking sheep, making ricotta, and storing cheese for aging. At the final stop, Della Fattoria, owner Kathleen Weber served lunch to the group in her beautiful and eclectic yard, and provided a tour of the bakery. Walker also explained how her business grew quickly when famed Napa chef Thomas Keller began requesting her bread.
Grape Seminars and Harvest
After a freshly cooked Mexican breakfast at the vineyard on day two, Bruce Cakebread led a walk through the vines as he explained the philosophy and system behind their grapes. Participants were able to pick grapes with Viticulturist Toby Halkovich for the harvest the following morning. One of the ways Cakebread is increasing sustainability and reducing water use, explained Bruce Cakebread, included keeping their fires smokeless and burning down to charcoal. They then mix that with compost and added back into the vineyard.
Cakebread Chefs and Cooks
For the 30th Annual Cakebread Cellars American Harvest Workshop, chefs from around the country were brought in:
Andrew Adams, Chef de Cuisine at Acre, Memphis, TN
Austin Fausett, Executive Chef, Proof, Washington, DC
Adrienne Grenier, Executive Chef 3030 Ocean, Fort Lauderdale, FL
Todd Hall, Acclaimed chef currently in Keystone, CO
Meredith Manee, Chef de Cuisine, 1500 Ocean, Coronado, CA
The chefs worked with nine “Cakebread Cooks,” wine club members who had signed up for the experience as well as the five writers attending. The chefs would put together a course each day and the Cakebread Cooks would help prepare and plate it.
Gardens and Bees
Anton Ginella, who was previously in charge of The French Laundry Garden, showed participants the massive Cakebread Cellar garden. Vegetables were used to cook meals throughout the event. Chef Todd Hall created a delicious course with baby red oak, arugula, lola rosa lettuces with friend squash blossoms, tomato, and green goddess dressing with sauvignon blanch syrup drizzle. Anton, along with Richard Kramer, also led discussions on Cakebread’s commitment to bees and showed off some of the honey the winery has been producing.
Wine and Dine
The first wine and food seminar at the American Harvest Workshop explained how different bottles and aging affects the same grape. While the place settings were all formal, dinners during the Cakebread Cellars American Harvest Workshop were fun and casual. Chef Andrew Adams put together an Alaskan halibut, ricotta dumplings, fried green cherry tomato, avocado oil, and buttered carrot tops with his helpers. Among the courses for the final Harvest Dinner, Chef Adrienne Grenier led her Cakebread cooks to make this Bruléed Goat Cheese with beets, plums, and arugula, in a pistachio pesto. Cakebread’s own chef Thomas Sixsmith finished off the last meal with an amazing Sheep’s Milk Yogurt Panna Cotta with French prunes, a Thai tea crunch, and seed cookies. Although Cakebread Chardonnay is the number one requested wine from the brand in restaurants throughout U.S., the biggest hits of the weekend were the 2012 Dancing Bear Cabernet Sauvignon, 2015 Vin de Porche Rose from Anderson Valley, and the 2015 Sauvignon Blanc.