Did This: Cakebread Cellars wine dinner at Japengo

In 1972, hobbyist wine grower (and full time garage owner) Jack Cakebread acquired 22 acres of land in Napa and started his winery. Little did he know that 40 years later, the Cakebread name would be renowned for its cabernets and especially chardonnays and sauvignon blancs. His son, Dennis, was in town this week, and I was lucky to get a seat at the sold-out wine dinner at Japengo.

Executive chef Sven Ullrich addressed the group at the beginning of the meal and wisely noted that he’d describe everything up front, since we’d probably not be in any condition to pay attention by the end of the meal. He also explained that the Cakebread wines being showcased were so good, he had to carefully select every ingredient for each dish to ensure they brought out each other’s flavors. Not that he wouldn’t do that for any other wine dinner, but he had to really step up his game for this one.

I was interested in attending because I’d actually visited Cakebread winery several years ago. If you go, remember that you need to make an appointment and there is a fee. I don’t know if they still give you a souvenir glass for the tour, but I have mine! (In retrospect, I should have brought it to the dinner.) They give you a very educational tour, and the staff is well-trained in explaining things without being too technical. I didn’t realize Dennis would also be as down to earth, which was refreshing, and he was a lot of fun. A lot of times vintners tend to be more like scientists and “geek out” over their wines; he was more about helping us just enjoy each one and bringing out its special qualities.

I was also excited because it was my first time dining at Japengo. Although this was a special menu, I’m told the regular menu is good, as well. Here’s what we had:

Cakebread wine dinner

Picture 1 of 8

Before dinner, we had a little reception in the front of Japengo so we could all meet Dennis Cakebread and talk story. From left, Pua and Amber of Waikiki Menus, and Dennis.

Looks good? Japengo in the Hyatt Regency Waikiki hosts monthly sake and sushi dinners, so you’ll have more chances to try pairings like this.  For more information, call 808-237-6180.