Caldwell Vineyard

270 Kruezer Lane
Napa, CA 94559


Open: Year Round

In the mid-1990s, a prominent national American law journal featured on its cover a photograph of a well-known Napa Valley winemaker. He was seated in an elegant chair, a glass of red wine in his hand and a self-satisfied smile on his face. Inside was an interview in which he recounted how he had worked with the French in the mid-1980s to import special wine-grape clones with which he established a vineyard upon which his reputation rested. It was quite an enchanting tale and somewhat true. A bit of fact-checking would have revealed, however, that it was not his story and, in addition, that the one he provided was incomplete. The true tale is told below, in all its deceptive detail, publicly for the first time. Some names have been changed to protect privacy; Caldwell's is not one of them.

When John Caldwell stepped into his mother's boutique one day in 1968, his eye was caught by a pair of Danish clogs, then an exotic new style of footwear that instantly tweaked his sense of adventure and activated his entrepreneurial genes. As any loving and aspiring son might, he quickly wrested the clog distributorship from his mother and opened a shoe store in the town of Yountville, in the Napa Valley. Over the next few years he would add four more, a retail micro-empire that sold everything from sandals to stilettos in grades that ranged from cheap, stiff Korean to butter-soft Italian. Business grew, and the money poured in. Caldwell drove a black Cadillac Seville while wearing tailor-made shirts open to the navel to show off his gold chains. Life was good. But as any young, ambitious, affluent, and flamboyant entrepreneur might do, he got restless.

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