POSTED ON July 7, 2017 | IN Napa Valley | BY Joe Becerra
Caldwell winery

Fantastic views on the way to Caldwell

Coombsville, Caldwell Vineyards, and the Legendary John Caldwell

Napa Valley travelers, take heed: Don’t miss out on the Coombsville AVA and its wineries.  The Coombsville AVA is just east of the town of Napa at the foot of the Vaca Mountains. It is part of the Napa Valley, but easy to miss because it is far from Highway 29 where most visitors start their wine tasting journey.  We picked up Coombsville Road just off the Silverado Trail in the town of Napa. We had been to parts of Coombsville previously, but this was mostly new territory for us.  We headed up scenic backroads in Coombsville to the Caldwell Winery. The beauty is spectacular.

Caldwell has to be one of the more interesting and unique wineries in Coombsville as well as the entire Napa Valley. John Caldwell purchased the land in 1974, hoping to make a bundle on sub-dividing the area for housing. When the County nixed the idea, John decided to become a vineyard farmer and set out to make wine. Not just any wine, but great wine! For that, he needed the best Bordeaux grapes money could buy. The only problem: none of the grapes were available here in California. Off John went to Bordeaux and ended up smuggling some 6000 cuttings of Bordeaux varietals into the US. It is best that you hear the full saga of the smuggling adventure with your cave tour and tasting at Caldwell Vineyards. Bryan Toy usually hosts guests and spins a fascinating tale of John Caldwell’s smuggling escapade.


Not only do you need the best grapes for making great wine, but you need the right barrels. When John Caldwell visited Bordeaux, he was inspired by the nuances in Grand Cru wines. These characteristics came from the aging barrel. And so John Caldwell sought out his own Cooper and aging barrels made specifically for his wines. Ramiro Herrera, a Master Cooper, makes the barrels in France and ships them to the Caldwell Winery. Ramiro can manufacture 300 barrels a year. To our knowledge, no other winery in the Napa Valley has its own personal Master Cooper.

We were treated to some delicious and fantastic-tasting wines. This is the same tour and tasting that regular visitors to Caldwell receive. The current fee is $65 per person and well worth the price.  The wines vary at each tasting. They are selected from twenty-one different labels produced. Have you tried Tannat or Carmenere? That is what is so unique about Coombsville. The soil, climate, and terrain enable many different wine varieties to flourish in Coombsville.

Caldwell produces 5000 cases a year. The wines are not distributed, sold at wine shops or available at restaurants. The wines are sold to wine club members, online or at the winery. Check the Caldwell Website to book a wine tasting.  Check the informative Coombsville Wine Association Website to learn more about the AVA and to see what other wineries are ideal for your wine tasting adventures in Coombsille.

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  1. Mike Beltran says

    Looks very high tech with respect to the caves and bottling line. Great description of the varietals that they grow. Will check out their website.