Jack had developed an interest in photography, and while taking pictures of the Napa Valley for The Treasury of American Wines in 1972, fortuitously struck a deal to purchase the Cakebread ranch from family friends. The original property of 22 acres was primarily pasture, so needless to say, the undertaking required years of painstaking work. Sons Bruce and Dennis helped out on weekends, before joining full-time. Over the years, the family continued to acquire prime vineyards – all but one in Napa Valley. The original 22 acres has grown to 1,100 acres (560 acres under vine), in some of the most desirable locations in the Napa Valley, Carneros, Howell Mountain and Anderson Valley.
The early success of Cakebread wines – Chardonnay, Cabernet and Sauvignon Blanc – built a loyal following and enabled the family to continue acquiring top vineyards. The story behind their acclaimed single-vineyard Cabernet, Dancing Bear Ranch, is certainly a testament to the family’s dedication to quality, despite the long road required to reach that goal. In 1998 the Cakebreads purchased a dramatic 28-acre site on Howell Mountain in northern Napa, with elevations reaching 1600 ft. The team then spent the next 11 years of planting, planning and trial winemaking before releasing the 2006 vintage nationally. Ever looking ahead, Bruce and Dennis set their sights further north to Anderson Valley, and have been diligently developing the Pinot Noir “project” – now nearly 20 years in the making.