When Larry and Maria Dondero purchased a home in Napa, they had no intention of getting into the wine business. The couple needed a place where Larry’s aging mother could live with them—a house with no stairs and an open floor plan. After looking all over the valley, they found one that checked all their boxes in the heart of Coombsville.

Larry and Maria Dondero in their home in Coombsville with their dog, Brooklyn

They weren’t expecting to stumble upon a hidden gem vineyard, but that’s exactly what happened. Suddenly, they owned almost eight acres of prime Coombsville vines. Naturally, they had to preserve and promote the land. 

Caldera's old vines

Caldera Vineyard, previously La Londe Vineyard, has a rich and intriguing history. The property, formerly owned by vintner Robert Craig, was home to vines used to make the brand’s Affinity label. These vines hold significant historical value to Coombsville. Legend has it that they are the French rootstock that local winemaking pioneer John Caldwell smuggled into the valley in 1983, the exact Bordeaux clones that have shaped Napa Valley's reputation.

The Donderos with last fall's harvest

With such a unique and famed vineyard, the Donderos wanted a name that reflected the AVA’s renowned terroir. Nestled into the Mt. George Foothills in the middle of the caldera, the Dondero's vineyard is a testament to Coombsville's volcanic soils and crater shape. 

Larry and Maria toast to their vineyard

The Dondero’s commitment to Caldera Vineyard is evident in their efforts to improve it. Their first challenge was water. While Craig's team allowed the vines to struggle, the Donderos were determined to see the grapes thrive.

Grapes growing at Caldera Vineyard

They secured a reclaimed water deal with Napa Sanitation District and the nearby Napa Valley Country Club. With this water source in place, the Donderos enlisted a vineyard management company to farm the property, ensuring the vineyard's continued growth. Last season was the best harvest yet, yielding 26 tons of grapes.

Caldera Vineyard

The Donderos are now seeking a partner to share in the success of Caldera Vineyard. They own seven and three-quarter acres of Cabernet Sauvignon and a quarter of an acre of Merlot, with room to double the plantings. They are hopeful that a local vintner will recognize the potential they see in their estate and are interested in establishing a long-term partnership. Could you be the one to join them on this exciting journey? 

Photography by Elan Villamor

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