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Jennifer Williams

Jennifer Williams

Jennifer Williams during the Spottswoode harvest, 2005

I dreamt about this property long before I worked here. When I first came to Napa, I lived about a block from the estate. The iconic Spottswoode sign and home became a part of my everyday comings and goings. From the outside, it was clearly a jewel of the Napa Valley—a stately Victorian mansion surrounded by lush gardens and carefully cultivated vines. But stepping inside and managing the vineyard brought deeper meaning. The site with its well-drained but varied soils, its slope falling from the base of the Mayacamas mountains, and the renowned “Spottswoode” Cabernet clone are a winemaker’s dream. This unique vineyard is pliant to the care and whim of each of its winemakers while staying true to itself. Perhaps that is its finest attribute—that it makes brilliant wines with each transition: from one winemaker to another, from its original plant material to newly cultivated rootstocks, and from classic to modern winemaking techniques.

The vineyard imparts a vibrancy, an energy that in the best-made wines still resonates after decades. The structure and juiciness of its fruit provides longevity. It is equally savory and sweet: with baking spices like cinnamon and anise, and crushed savory herbs like lavender but also jammy fruits, ripe and heavy on the vine.

My time in the vineyards at Spottswoode was one of transition. The vineyard underwent a dramatic viticultural change largely marked by bringing our vineyard management in-house. We implemented reduced tillage programs, individualized cover crops, and irrigation and canopy management programs to target each varietal and each unique soil type. During this time, we learned a lot about what was possible.

Centuries of wine producers have recognized the link between soil and wine quality—the concept of terroir-driven wines. When it comes to high quality wine, the thoughtful and responsive organic farming that Spottswoode practices helps express this site’s unique and natural flavor. Organic farming insures long-term life to the soil for the future of the estate. Organic farming is “traditional” and wine is ultimately a traditional and natural product.

Mark Twain’s “all ideas are second-hand,” is especially true in winemaking and farming. Every vintage I craft is a reflection of all the winemakers that preceded me and a conglomeration of current farming and winemaking ideas (either consciously or subconsciously). In this way, every wine is a product to one degree or another of collaboration.

Philosophically, I would say my efforts as a winemaker are more heavily weighted to the vineyard. The footsteps of the farmer are her best fertilizer.