John Caldwell - Napa Valley
John Caldwell's plan was to build houses on his Napa Valley property. With extraordinary views, a convenient location, and lots of privacy, the project seemed like a no-brainer. He submitted plans to the county, and even built the a fine road and fancy gate to impress prospective buyers. Unfortunately, a new crop of Supervisors, chanting a "no growth" mantra put an end to John's brief career as a real estate mogul. Sometimes things happen for the right reason.
With his hopes to build an upscale subdivision buried under bureaucratic red dirt, John turned his attention to grapes. Although there were few vineyards in his immediate area, he intuitively felt his picturesque site could produce superb fruit, comparable to the Valley's top appellations. While John had little prior experience with wine, the project wasn't entirely out of left field. The Caldwells, in fact, had been involved in the California winegrowing business for 120 years. The family originally settled in Cloverdale, California in the 1880s before moving to Napa Valley in the 1960s.
A trip to France and a chance to visit Château Haut-Brion inspired his interest in clonal research. He planted his first block (including a few vines smuggled in from Bordeaux) in 1982 and harvested Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc in 1985. Positive comments from some of the industry's most respected palates inspired John to expand his plantings. He also built a nursery to supply the State's top wineries with the latest clones and rootstocks from France.
In the early 1990s, the Caldwell property gained international exposure, thanks to the highly praised Chardonnay and Merlot vineyard-designate bottlings from Pahlmeyer Winery. Since that time, the acreage devoted to vines and the nursery have expanded dramatically, and the list of clients has grown to include Phelps, Muara, Maris, Neiman, and Viader.
The Caldwell label was launched in 1998 with 400 cases of a proprietary red wine, crafted from the finest blocks on the vineyard. The varietal composition of the Caldwell Proprietary Red is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, and Merlot. In May 2004, the winery released 750 cases from the highly anticipated 2001 vintage.