Wines That Taste Like Cakebread (but cost less)

Thursday, September 16, 2010

A few weeks ago I was drinking a 2007 Cakebread Chardonnay and tweeted something along the lines of it being one of the few white wines I look forward to tasting.  As much as I try to broaden my wine drinking horizons, red wine consumption continues to outpace white wine consumption in our house 4 to 1.  What can I say?  I like to think I'm going to drink white wines most of the summer but I end up running back to my comfort zone of domestic red wine.

Mike Reardon from the Wine Cellar of Stoneham (@WineCellarsMA on Twitter) mentioned that he thought Landmark Chardonnay might be a better play than Cakebread (he sells both) so I thought it would be an interesting opportunity to not only compare these two wines but to answer a question I know a lot of people ask:

"What are some wines that taste like Cakebread but cost less?"

It's well documented by now that Cakebread Cellars is one of my favorite wineries.  They were the wine that got me into wine,  I've enjoyed visiting their tasting room in Napa a number of times over the years, and it's consistently one of the most popular restaurant wine brands in the US.  It is a great wine brand.

It's debatable whether Cakebread is more known for their Chardonnay or their Cabernet.  Like Napa in general, perhaps it depends on your perspective and what you're looking for.  I love their Cabernet Sauvignon for its distinctive presence.  It's got this great combination of being delicious on the nose and elegant/reserved on the palate.

Their Chardonnay is similar in that it presents itself on the nose as this big caramel apple but again shows amazing refinement on the palate.  It's quite amazing actually and, for my preferences at least, seems to be a calling card across their entire lineup.

In thinking about which wines to consider viable substitutes for Cakebread, we'd be remiss if we didn't consider the whole package.  You know- the bottle, the label, the brand, the place.  The whole thing that goes into the enjoyment of a bottle of wine.

For a while, I've wondered whether I was under the spell of the label.  However, after tasting their wines in several blind tastings across a few grape varieties they consistently came out at or near the top.  I love their label -and- I love what's in the bottle.

With that said, here are a couple more affordable alternatives to Cakebread in case you can't find their wines -or- don't want to pony up the asking price.  One alternative for their Chardonnay and one alternative for their Cabernet...

2007 Landmark Overlook Chardonnay
18,000 cases produced
92 Wine Spectator
$29 release price/$19.99 if you shop around

Very similar to the Cakebread Chardonnay with its caramel nose and overall delicious first impression.  Shows restraint on the palate which lends itself well to enjoyable consumption.  Elegant yet friendly stuff.

89/100 WWP: Very Good
(Compare this to the 88 WS/$39 release/high-$30s street 2007 Cakebread Chardonnay)
Sample for review.
2006 Groth Cabernet Sauvignon
19,000 cases produced
88 Wine Spectator
$55 release price/$35-$40 if you shop around

Dense and chewy. Fruit forward and accompanied by savory herb aromas and flavors. High-ish alcohol but well integrated.  The label is similarly elegant like Cakebread's as well.  The flavor profile is more similar than not too.  Quite a reasonable substitute at a more approachable price point with wider availability. 

89/100 WWP: Very Good
(Compare this to the 88 WS/$64 release/$60 street 2005/2007 Cakebread Cabernet)  

Conclusion:  Brands are hugely important in wine selection and for my money Cakebread is one of the best.  If you enjoy the style of their wines and are interested in more wallet-friendly options these from Landmark and Groth are two I recommend.

Further Reading: A visit and in-depth look at what makes Cakebread special

Did I get it right? What wines would you recommend as value substitutes for Cakebread when unavailable or trying to keep costs down?

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