The SOMM Journal

August / September 2016

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32 { THE SOMM JOURNAL { pacific northwest } MULLAN ROAD CELLARS DRAWS ON WASHINGTON STATE TERROIR—AND DENNIS CAKEBREAD'S LONG EXPERIENCE by Tim Gaiser, MS A Road Less Traveled Soil at Lawrence Vineyard in the Columbia Valley. PHOTO: ANDRÉA JOHNSON Mullan Road Cellars is the new Columbia Valley Bordeaux-style project from veteran vintner Dennis Cakebread. PHOTO: TIMOTHY MURRAY HARD TO BELIEVE, BUT NAPA VALLEY WINERY ICON Cakebread Cellars turns 43 this year. I first came across the Cakebread wines in the early 1980s when I was in graduate school in Ann Arbor bartending at a local eatery called the Earle. The 1978 Cakebread Cabernet on the restaurant's list at the time was one of my first great California Cabernet experiences. I clearly recall the wine being opulent and powerful, yet polished and impeccably balanced. Since that time, I've kept track of the winery and used Cakebread wines in any number of different programs I've either overseen or consulted. Earlier this year, I spoke to Dennis Cakebread, who offered insights about the established winery and its history as well as his personal new Washington State project, Mullan Road Cellars. He told me that in the early 1990s, when Cakebread Cellars' current winery was built, he and the Cakebread team set limits in terms of the winery's maximum production. In 2005, they hit that mark and did something completely un-capitalistic; they decided not to grow further and compromise the winery's reputation for consistent high quality. He said they had worked for decades to achieve that reputation and didn't want to lose it. Instead, he decided to look outside California to pursue a new, exciting project. After an extended search, he settled on Walla Walla Valley in Eastern Washington. Dennis told me that the area reminded him of Napa Valley 25 years ago as far as a great wine culture that was still developing. "There are some great wineries and talented winemakers here," he said, "some who've been in the area for 30 years. They've really set the stage, and there's a great camaraderie and spirit among the winemaking community here." His new Washington project was named Mullan Road Cellars after the first

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