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Garden Visit: At Home with Winemaker Rosemary Cakebread in St. Helena, CA

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Garden Visit: At Home with Winemaker Rosemary Cakebread in St. Helena, CA

March 19, 2019

Soon after graduating from college, winemaker Rosemary Cakebread and her husband, Bruce, planted a tiny cabernet sauvignon vineyard in St. Helena, California. Three decades later, after a small expansion (they bought the property next door), Rosemary’s organic vineyard, Gallica, is located on what she calls “two gravelly acres” and produces 1,000 cases of much-sought-after wine each year.

That’s the short version of the story. In the longer version, Rosemary worked her way up from early cellar jobs to a winemaking position at Spottswoode Vineyard before founding Gallica. Meanwhile, Bruce joined Cakebread Cellars and over the decades the family business grew exponentially, earning international accolades for its wines.

By the time the couple was ready to transform their two gravelly acres into a modern headquarters—and new garden—for Gallica, they had learned “exactly where the sun rises on the property and exactly where it sets,” she says. To take advantage of the site’s setting and the property’s 360-degree views of the surrounding Napa Valley, the Cakesbreads built a strategically oriented barn and guesthouse. Let’s take a tour.

Photography by Mimi Giboin.

At the Gallica vineyard, what looks like a compound actually is only two buildings: a \1,\200-square-foot white barn designed by St. Helena–based Daniel Hale Design and a \1,700-square-foot corrugated guesthouse with one bedroom designed by San Francisco–based architect E. B. Min of Min Day Architects and built by St. Helena-based Team Built Construction.
Above: At the Gallica vineyard, what looks like a compound actually is only two buildings: a 1,200-square-foot white barn designed by St. Helena–based Daniel Hale Design and a 1,700-square-foot corrugated guesthouse with one bedroom designed by San Francisco–based architect E. B. Min of Min Day Architects and built by St. Helena-based Team Built Construction.

A dry creek serves a dual purpose: It directs the flow of rainwater and creates a striking visual element in the landscape. In the background a redwood tree, which was on the site when the Cakebreads bought the land, is the property’s tallest tree.

A gravel driveway and parking area connects the Gallica vineyard to a nearby road.
Above: A gravel driveway and parking area connects the Gallica vineyard to a nearby road.

The property also has another, larger house but “every time we come over to the guesthouse, we think maybe some day we’ll come to live in this smaller setting,” says Rosemary. The barn houses her office and equipment for the vineyard.

Landscape architect Jonathan Plant created an environmentally friendly garden with low-water plants (which thrive in the dry Napa climate) and Raul Hurtado Landscaping oversaw the garden’s construction and planting.

 Before the new garden was installed, &#8\2\20;we really didn&#8\2\17;t realize how big it was because there were these trees that had been there, and big foundation plants, and although they weren&#8\2\17;t doing well, they took up a lot of space,&#8\2\2\1; says Rosemary. &#8\2\20;Sometimes you don&#8\2\17;t realize how much space you have until you eliminate things and take a good look.&#8\2\2\1;
Above: Before the new garden was installed, “we really didn’t realize how big it was because there were these trees that had been there, and big foundation plants, and although they weren’t doing well, they took up a lot of space,” says Rosemary. “Sometimes you don’t realize how much space you have until you eliminate things and take a good look.”
Edging the dry creek are grasses (clumps of Carex comans &#8\2\16;Amazon Mist’) and deep purple drifts of Teucrium cossonii &#8\2\16;Majoricum&#8\2\17;.
Above: Edging the dry creek are grasses (clumps of Carex comans ‘Amazon Mist’) and deep purple drifts of Teucrium cossonii ‘Majoricum’.

“We made our little creek bed to make a place for the rainwater to go,” says Cakebread. “In 2017, when we had a lot of rainfall, we learned that it works well.”

Bluestone pavers connect the buildings and miniature butterfly bushes (Buddleia &#8\2\16;Blue Chip&#8\2\17; and &#8\2\16;Ellen&#8\2\17;s Blue&#8\2\17;) attract hummingbirds &#8\2\20;in abundance,&#8\2\2\1; says Rosemary.
Above: Bluestone pavers connect the buildings and miniature butterfly bushes (Buddleia ‘Blue Chip’ and ‘Ellen’s Blue’) attract hummingbirds “in abundance,” says Rosemary.
The plants are watered via a drip irrigation system to conserve water.
Above: The plants are watered via a drip irrigation system to conserve water.
  A coastal oak, the biggest tree on the property, has a younger twin (half its size). &#8\2\20;It&#8\2\17;s a wonderful tree,&#8\2\2\1; Rosemary says.
Above:  A coastal oak, the biggest tree on the property, has a younger twin (half its size). “It’s a wonderful tree,” Rosemary says.

Landscape lights are Tiki Path Lights by WAC Lighting. “We bought those ourselves,” Rosemary says. “We’ve lived on the property for a long time, so we knew how we would be coming and going, especially at night.”

A shaded, poured-concrete patio is furnished with chairs and an ottoman from Janus et Cie and overlooks the garden.
Above: A shaded, poured-concrete patio is furnished with chairs and an ottoman from Janus et Cie and overlooks the garden.
At either end of a patio are sliding screen doors from Sacramento-based Western Windows.
Above: At either end of a patio are sliding screen doors from Sacramento-based Western Windows.
Other plants in the landscape include succulent Senecio vitalis (narrow-leaf chalksticks), the low-growing shrub Cistus cobariensis (white rose rock), and the California lilac Ceanothus &#8\2\16;Concha&#8\2\17;.
Above: Other plants in the landscape include succulent Senecio vitalis (narrow-leaf chalksticks), the low-growing shrub Cistus cobariensis (white rose rock), and the California lilac Ceanothus ‘Concha’.
The overall effect of the garden is to lure visitors outdoors, says Rosemary. &#8\2\20;We just wanted it to be very relaxed and simple.&#8\2\2\1;
Above: The overall effect of the garden is to lure visitors outdoors, says Rosemary. “We just wanted it to be very relaxed and simple.”

If you’re designing a low-water landscape or want to make an existing landscape more environmentally friendly, start with our curated Hardscape 101 guides for Decks & Patios, Gravel Gardens, and Succulents & Cacti 101. For more of our favorite drought-tolerant gardens, see:

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