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. Purchased as the site for 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 – which were situated directly below the main house – and shortly after built the cheese barn, as well as the rock wall and path that you see between the two 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 visible 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 which, at the time, was just a concrete storage tank. By the 1930’s 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 eek out any flat space that could be utilized 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 bonafide 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 70’s the dairy barn and the silo were 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 60’s 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 and started 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, John’s mom, 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. Having had a chance to really get a sense for the quality of the vineyard, John was finally ready to get serious about making wine and dug a 20,000 square foot winey cave, in 2002. The rest as they say, is history…