125th Anniversary of Spottswoode Estate
Celebrations Begin with 25-Year Retrospective Tasting
at the Winery
Spottswoode Winery is celebrating the 125th anniversary of the estate with an array of events, which began on February 19 with a 25-year vertical tasting of Cabernet Sauvignon with the winemakers held at the winery in St. Helena.
More than 60 distinguished guests from the U.S and Canada were present at this event. Winery Owner Mary Novak welcomed the attendees and President Beth Novak Milliken then discussed Spottswoode’s history, its commitment to making wines that are true to the estate vineyard, and its vision of establishing this wine estate as among the most respected in the world. As moderator of the tasting, Beth then introduced Spottswoode’s winemakers, who anecdotally discussed the wines they made in a panel format: Tony Soter (1982–1991), Pam Starr (1992–1996), Rosemary Cakebread (1997–2005) and current winemaker, Jennifer Williams (2006 on). She also introduced David Abreu, who has worked with the winery since 1985, first as vineyard manager and now as a consultant.
Sommelier Lisa Minucci of VinTrust directed the elaborate wine service, aided by sommeliers from Napa Valley—Chris Blanchard of Redd, Shelly Curt of Tra Vigne, Traci Dutton of Greystone at the Culinary Institute of America, Jared Heber of Bouchon, Paul Roberts of French Laundry and Scott Tracy of La Toque; and from San Francisco—Jason Alexander of Gary Danko, Gillian Balance of PlumpJack, Christie Dufault of Quince and Debbie Zacharias of Ferry Plaza Wine Merchant.
After the tasting the group moved to a luncheon at the Victorian home on the estate prepared by Cindy Pawlcyn. Pawlcyn is the chef-proprietor of Mustard’s Grill, Cindy’s Backstreet Kitchen and Go Fish, and the author of several cookbooks—the most recent being Big Small Plates.
Beth Novak Milliken offered the guests an overview of Spottswoode’s unique aspects:
- A true family wine estate
- A winery which makes wines ‘of a place,’ honoring its vineyard by consistently producing wines of elegance, structure and balance
- A winery solidly figuring in Napa Valley history because of its early commitment to organic farming, as well as to the stewardship of its estate property and the restoration and preservation of its historic buildings
- A winery whose vineyards illustrate the changes and refinements in Napa Valley viticulture over the last 25 years—one example is moving from a vineyard initially planted entirely to AXR-1 and today a blend of various rootstocks and clones.
“Our vision from the outset was to produce wines which accurately reflect their grape origins in a distinct and refined style. Our goal is to establish Spottswoode as one of the most highly respected wine-growing estates in the world,” she said. Beth also honored her mother, Mary Novak, as the true heart and soul of Spottswoode. “Upon the death of my father in 1977, my mother’s strength and resolve allowed her to carry on their shared vision, and my siblings and I all feel incredibly fortunate to be a part of this legacy.”
The anniversary celebration continues to five other cities: Los Angeles on March 20, San Francisco on April 10, London on April 27, Chicago on October 15 and Manhattan on October 17. The anniversary is also being commemorated in Spottswoode’s live lot in Auction Napa Valley on June 9 (the lot includes an electric car similar to the one Mary Novak drives and five bottles each of 25 years of Spottswoode’s Cabernet Sauvignons—125 bottles total) and in an open house at the winery in July.
The winery has produced a book which is a compilation of historic and present-day photos and the in-depth history of the estate and the winery. It gathers recollections by Mary Novak and her children—Lindy, Kelley, Beth, Mike and Matt—as well as extensive photos and historical reminiscences and documents.
The winery has launched a redesign of its website, www.spottswoode.com. Along with celebrating the 125th anniversary of the estate this year, the Novak family will be celebrating the 75th birthday of founder Mary Novak and the 25th anniversary of Spottswoode Winery.
Today’s Spottswoode Estate came to be in 1882 when German immigrant George Schonewald purchased 31 acres at the foot of the Mayacamas mountain range in what is today the town of St. Helena. He planted 17 acres of wine grapes and designed and built an elegant home with formal gardens, which he named Esmeralda. In 1884, he sold several acres north of the estate to Frank Kraft, who built a farmhouse and sandstone wine cellar which served as the Kraft Winery until the late 1880s. In 1906 Schonewald sold the property to Joseph Bliss, who called the estate Stonehurst. In 1908 Dr. George Allen bought the property and named it Lyndenhurst in honor of the linden trees in the gardens. In 1910 Allen sold the estate to Mrs. Albert Spotts, who renamed it Spottswoode in honor of her late husband. The property was owned by her descendants until Mary and Jack Novak bought it in 1972, moving with their five children from southern California to enjoy rural life in Napa Valley.