Spottswoode is a jewel for growing Cabernet Sauvignon in Napa Valley. The vineyard and its early adoption of organic practices, the beautiful grounds, the winery’s restoration, and attention to every detail, are in large part due to Mary Novak’s commitment and continuous steady hand. Her abundant energy, gentle mentoring, sense of humor, and sheer class are what I will remember most fondly about my winemaking tenure at Spottswoode.
In 1997, we began conceptualizing and planning for a winery addition to replace the need for custom crushing. It had been part of a long-term goal to bring farming through bottling under our control, at our own pace. In addition to replanting acreage due to the phylloxera epidemic in the late 90s, we took on the building of a permanent home for the winery. Perhaps it was a last ditch effort to get us out of Mary’s basement where we fermented Sauvignon Blanc, but nevertheless, I always thought it was brave to take on the risk given the youth of our small team.
Not many winemakers get an opportunity to design a dream winery—I got to watch my ideas and desires put onto paper by architect Howard Backen. I will remember 1999 fondly. With Howard often on-site and Andy Erickson as our harvest intern (read: fun), and one of my favorite vintages, 1999 was definitely a milestone vintage for me.