Stephanie Jacobs

Stephanie Jacobs

Cakebread Cellars (Director of Winemaking)

Stephanie Jacobs first became interested in the culture of wine when participating in an exchange program in France as a high-school student. Even so, she initially enrolled in Fermentation Science at the University of California, Davis, with the intention of pursuing a career in brewing. However, her passion turned to wine when she took the required courses in winemaking. She characterizes the redirection of her interest by saying, “. . . I still enjoy sipping a beer or even home brewing. But wine is a constant-changing subject, since Mother Nature gives us so much growing variability from vintage to vintage. Being a winemaker tests your creativity and ability to adapt along the way, which I find intellectually rewarding, not to mention incredibly fun!”

She ultimately earned her degree in Viticulture & Enology in 2000, after which she started on the path to becoming a winemaker by taking a position at a small winery in the Sierra Foothills, where she learned about cellar operations and lab analysis. Stephanie then moved to Bogle Vineyards in 2001 as its enologist. She subsequently worked at Chalone Vineyard before accepting a position as enologist at Cakebread Cellars in 2004.

Under the mentorship of Julianne Laks, the winemaker at Cakebread for some 31 years, Stephanie was promoted to assistant winemaker in 2008 and became its Pinot Noir project leader in 2012. When Laks retired in 2017, Jacobs was named as her replacement, becoming only the fourth winemaker in the history of the winery.

She and her colleagues, many of whom have roots at UC Davis, continue to partner with researchers in the Viticulture & Enology program, exploring new innovations such as using state-of-the-art instrumentation and reintroducing historic techniques that are used less commonly, examples being fermenting in concrete egg tanks and using larger-sized puncheon oak barrels.

Stephanie’s experience with producing Pinot Noirs makes this varietal one of her favorites, and she continues experimentations on this grape by using native yeast and grape-stem fermentations. Her winemaking philosophy is engendered in the following quote, “ . . . I’ve learned that you have to figure out how to stay calm, stay flexible and constantly adapt.” As advice to aspiring winemakers, she says, “First and foremost [to be successful], it’s important to be passionate and interested in what you do.”

Outside of the winery, Stephanie is active in the Napa Valley Wine Technical Group and, when she finds time, can be found cooking or in her vegetable garden with her daughter Mae.