We’ve got 65 acres planted to 10 varieties and 26 clones, which is incredibly unique. The 10 varieties we have here at Caldwell include the following:
Sauvignon Blanc at Caldwell is a bit like the American Calvin Klein model sunbathing in a white bikini next to a rocky pool on the coast of southern France (the original place from which this variety hails). We make a version that’s supple, lithe and voluptuous, with just enough layered complexity and flavor to keep things interesting regardless of the continent you’re drinking it on.
The most widely planted white wine grape in the world, Chardonnay is as diverse as the people who make it and drink it. From the austere versions in France to the buttery versions more typical in California, it’s a chameleon of a varietal that creates a divide among wine drinkers like none other. Our latitude and proximity to the bay let us get ripe fruit without compromising acid, and although we ferment our Chardonnay in oak, you don’t have to be a Chanel-clad country clubber to appreciate it. Anything but butter, ours is beautifully balanced with big, ripe citrus-y fruits, supple structure, hints of oak and pretty acid – all of which add up to something sophisticated and full flavored.
If Cab is king in California (which it is), then make no mistake that Cabernet Franc is queen, showcasing a more lovely, charming and aromatic pleasure than her rough and tumble counterpart. In reality, Cabernet Sauvignon is the progeny of Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc, which means that the Queen is sleeping with her son and that the Borgia family’s got nothing on this. Digression or transgression aside, our Cabernet Franc is beautiful. Oftern ripening fully a week or more before Cab Sauv, its always full flavored, layered and complex with currant and bramble and integrated tannins, even cooler or earlier harvest years.
Throw everything you think you know about Merlot out the window. Then taste this. Generally known as a lighter, red-fruited beauty often used to blend with bigger reds to round out the midpalate, Merlot at Caldwell identifies more as the beast than the beauty in this particular tome. It really is in a class all its own (though not totally unlike its cousins in Pomerol). Our hillside Merlot is round, thick, dense and structured. Move over Marilyn Monroe, we’ve got Marilyn Manson here.
This is one hell of an interesting grape. Not just because no one else seems to grow it, or because it’s delicious, but also because it’s the only grape variety whose leaves naturally turn red in the autumn. Originally cultivated on the Iberian peninsula in Roman times, and now most notably from Bordeaux, many folks are surprised to find out that Chile in fact is the country that holds the dubious distinction of having the most acres planted to it in the world. As for the U.S., it appears we’re among a very small handful of folks making a pure version. And I’m glad we are. Surprisingly lean, even in ripe years, with softly hued strawberry rhubarb and light spice character, it’s a bit like a marathon runner─great bones, great body and fit enough to go the distance for whatever you’re running to or from.
One of the most widely planted varieties in the New World (though originally made famous in Châteauneuf-du-Pape and Côtes du Rhône) we’re on board with the New World trend with a fair bit of Syrah planted here ourselves; four different clonal selections on 13 acres, to be exact. Often thought of as the boxer of varietals─strong and meaty without a lot of dimension─Syrah here looks a bit more like a well-mannered sophisticate who’s not afraid to show his bad boy side after the sun goes down. Big and balanced without being muddled or overly extracted, our Syrah never has that smoky bacon thing going on, because although Syrah is super susceptible to the influences of American oak, we don’t have any American oak (or boxers) here.
Cabernet from Coombsville is a horse of a different color than a lot of other Cabs coming out of Napa. With a slightly cooler climate, we get extended hang times and more phenolic development overall. We’ve got 10 different clones of Cab planted here, which gives us a lot of things to play with in the way of flavor and texture, but mostly we get dusty cocoa tannins, loaded red fruits, and a compelling anise, peppery spice which make all of them unique, and capable of aging with style and grace─just like Jack Caldwell – 93 and still delivering Cabernet.
Malbec in California stands out as something a little unusual and unique. You know, like the one outed gay guy at the Republican convention in Mississippi, it’s not easily missed. And because of just how unique it is, I’d give my eyeteeth to have more of it in a good vintage, because of how delicious it really is. Caldwell Malbec is a bit like a shape shifter. At first glance all you see is something deep, dark, heavy and brooding. But then you take a sip and you realize it’s not really any of those things. It's actually defined by minerals, pretty lifted fruit and surprisingly silky tannins. Though we do blend it on occasion, it’s a lovely wine all on its own─perfect for Republican or shape-shifter conventions alike.
A huge wine with incredible density and palate weight, and tannins you can actually chew… this is PV, Caldwell style. A finicky grape originally from Bordeaux─though grown in tiny amounts there these days, given it’s intolerance for cool or rainy weather─it actually does beautifully here at Caldwell. We give it cool enough weather, with enough sunshine to bring out its best. Some folks grow it just to blend with Cabernet Sauvignon, get this… to “stiffen” the mid palate, but here, PV is more than just the fluffer. It’s a warrior of a wine, fit for battle, or dinner, or fluffing, whichever you decide.
Uruguay’s national grape, Tannat actually comes from the southwest of France, and grows in relative abundance in both places. But here in California, it’s rare as hen’s teeth. According to our research, up until the year 2005, there were only 140 acres of Tannat planted in the entire state of California. We’re certain that’s increased by now, not because we’ve done a census on the stuff, but simply because we love it. It’s all inky black and blue and always delivers substantial tannins that are surprisingly rich and complex in their own right. Dark, svelte and complex Caldwell Tannat is sort of like the world’s greatest female ninja.