HOME & HISTORY
What is now the 123-acre Caldwell Vineyard estate was originally owned by the Kreuzers, a Swiss-German family who purchased the property in 1876. Intending to start a new cattle ranch, the family built the original farmhouse in the traditional salt-box architecture. It was only four rooms to begin. In 1907 they added the second story and the dormer, making the farmhouse into more of a Victorian-styled home.
Around 1921, the Kreuzers decided to transition their farming from beef to dairy cows. They built a dairy barn and a redwood grain silo─situated directly below the main house─and shortly after built the cheese barn, as well as the rock wall and path that you see today. They made a decent living from the cheese, which was a semi-soft cow’s milk cheese, a bit like a soft Jack, made in large, square two-pound molds. They named the cheese Sugar Loaf after Sugar Loaf mountain, the highest mountain you can see from the main house.
Round about that same time the Kreuzers found that the little creek running below the barns wasn’t offering enough water, so they built the water tower – originally, just a concrete storage tank. By the 1930s they had added the guest house, and a horse barn which was situated where you see the gardens today. The ground was steep and mostly exposed rock, so they were forced to eke out whatever flat space they wanted to utilize around the main house.
By the time John bought the property in 1974, the main house was in bad disrepair. Alvina Kreuzer had moved to another property a short distance away on Kreuze Canyon Road, and had been renting out the main house to a group of five or six bona fide hippies. All the rooms were separated by tie-dyes … and the floors had rotted out so badly you could see most of the foundation.
By the late '70s, the dairy barn and the silo were also pretty much falling down, so John demolished them both. He reclaimed and used some of the redwood from the silo as a deck off the kitchen during the initial remodel of the main house.
John and his dad, Jack, started planting the vineyard in 1980. Since the ground was composed of thick soils and huge rocks, it was no easy task. Already in his 60s and retired, Jack used the area under the large palm tree as his shop, where he maintained all the rock picking machines and tractors by himself.
By 1983, John had the time to start remodeling the main house. It was logged in the historic registry of Napa by 1984.
John’s parents, Jack and Alma, moved into the main house around 1986, and the horse barn blew down in a storm in 1989. In 1993, Alma decided to remodel the cheese barn so she and Jack could move in there together and live on the property.
John married Joy on New Year’s Eve in 1996, and by 1997 had undertaken a larger remodel project. Their first son, J.P., was born the same year. Wanting a space to call her own, Joy asked John to turn the water tower into a loft space, which is the top room of the water tower you see today.
In 1997, John and Joy hired Philipe Melka to make their first wine, Caldwell “Silver” Proprietary Red, as a blend of the best blocks of fruit from the vineyard. Once he'd gotten a sense for the quality of the vineyard, John was finally ready to get serious about making wine, and so he dug a 20,000-foot wine cave in 2002.
We hired Marbue Marke in 2005 to take over the entire winemaking program, and the rest, as they say, is history.