Passion is something you can find around wine quite often. It can be the passion for a piece of special land where to grow grapes, passion for experimenting with different winemaking methods or the passion for pursuing your dreams. When all of them come into place, you find stories like this of Mary Novak.
In 1972 Mary and her husband Jack moved to St. Helena, California, to raise their family. They found an estate with vines growing and decided to plant more vines starting a new business. The estate they purchased, Spottswoode Estate Vineyard, was previously owned by four families dating back to its creation date, back in 1882. They were the fifth family running it and they soon were established as growers of great quality grapes. They began selling their production to famed winemaking people such as Joe Heitz and Chuck Wagner (Caymus Vineyards), and later to others, including Dan and Margaret Duckhorn and John Shafer.
In 1977 Jack passed away and Mary decided to take the reigns of the family company. Five years later, in 1982, arrived a time to change the direction of the business. Mary ceased selling their grapes and started producing their own wines. She officially founded Spottswoode Estate Vineyard & Winery, and made her first vintage of the Spottswoode Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, one hundred years after the estate was originally founded. The Cabernet is where they put all their passion and the variety that shows the soul of their terroir.
Since then, her daughters Beth Novak Milliken as now President and CEO, and Lindy Novak, as National Marketing Director, are in charge of the family winery.
The 45 acres of planted vineyards are devoted primarily to Cabernet Sauvignon, with small amounts of Cabernet Franc, Petite Verdot, and Sauvignon Blanc. They elaborate three main wines every year: one of the most iconic Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon: the Spottswoode Estate Cabernet Sauvignon. Its appellation is St. Helena, Napa Valley and it has an aging period of 20 months. The second wine is another Cabernet, produced in a limited number of bottles: Lyndenhurst Cabernet Sauvignon. 73% of its grapes are homegrown while the remaining 27% comes from Darms Lane, Oakville Ranch, Knightsbridge and Young Inglewood Vineyards. Its appellation is Napa Valley. Their third wine is a white one: the Spottswoode Sauvignon Blanc. The grapes come Spottswoode Estate Vineyard and also from Farina Vineyard, Hyde Vineyards, Ink Grade Vineyards, Pelkan Vineyards and Murray Vineyard. This wide array of vineyards makes the appellation to be Napa Valley 34% and Sonoma Mountain 66%.
The Field Book is their area for experimentation. Annually they produce a Syrah. The blend is Syrah 88% and Viognier 12% and the grapes come from Griffin’s Lair Vineyard. It is aged French oak barrels for 16 months. Its appellation is Sonoma Coast.
For the Spanish reader it has to be noted that one of the wines they produced in the Field Block in 2015 was an Albariño. The vineyards are in Rusty Gate Farm in Western Sonoma County and its appellation is Russian River Valley.
These Field Book wines are produced in very limited quantities, normally less than 1,600 bottles.
Spottswoode became one of the first wineries to introduce organic farming practices. In 1985 they embraced organic production methods and in 1992 they received the California Certified Organic Farmers (CCOF) certification.
In addition to being organic, Spottswoode also cultivates its vineyard biodynamically. Spottswoode’s holistic approach also embraces biodiversity as a method of ensuring the energetic health of the vineyard. To promote this biodiversity, the vineyard is farmed using cover crops and the estate includes owl boxes, bluebird boxes, green-winged swallow boxes, bee boxes, a raptor box, restored riparian areas and numerous year-round insectaries. The property is also home to chickens and goats, which further contribute to the vitality of the estate.
Since the Novaks decided to start producing wine, they have had six winemakers, each of them giving their expertise during their tenures to build on Spottswoode’s status as one of Napa Valley’s first female-run wineries. Tony Soter was the winery’s first winemaker and Spottswoode became an incubator for great women winemakers, including Mia Klein, Pam Starr, Rosemary Cakebread and Jennifer Williams. Thanks to all of these individuals, and current winemaker Aron Weinkauf, Spottswoode has stayed true to its trademark style.
Soon we will talk to Aron Weinkauf about his winemaking philosophy and what’s so special in Spottswoode to produce these wines.