Mary Weber Novak, Founder
To many, Mary was the kind, energetic woman who zipped around St. Helena in her little electric red car, smiling at passersby. For those more familiar with the modern history of the valley and its wine industry, Mary also represented the spirit, graciousness, and vision that helped to build Napa Valley. As the founder of Spottswoode Estate Vineyard & Winery and one of the first women to run a major Napa Valley winegrowing estate, Mary was a vital part of the fabric of the valley and its wine community since 1972. Her intelligence, sense of humor, humility, and vivacious personality will continue to inspire us all at the winery. More
Through hard work, insight and perseverance, Mary was quietly instrumental in establishing Spottswoode as one of the valley’s great family-owned wineries and a first growth-caliber property. While doing so, she also helped to pioneer organic viticulture when she began farming the vineyard organically in 1985 (an approach that current Vineyard Manager and Winemaker Aron Weinkauf passionately embraces). Mary also played an integral role in championing women in the wine industry, in the example she set as a successful winery owner, by encouraging two of her daughters to work with her, and through supporting the hiring of several women winemakers throughout Spottswoode’s storied four-decade history, including Mia Klein, Pam Starr, Rosemary Cakebread, and Jennifer Williams.
Originally from Los Angeles, Mary earned a degree in education from Stanford before settling in North San Diego County with her husband, Dr. Jack Novak. On a trip to Napa Valley with their five children in 1970, Mary and Jack fell in love with the rural beauty and relaxed pace of the valley. There, they discovered Spottswoode, an idyllic 31-acre property in St. Helena with already long-established vineyards and exquisite gardens. “I’ve always been a person who loves the land,” said Mary. “Walking in the gardens and through the vineyards, I knew we could make our home here.”
In 1972, the Novaks sold Jack’s medical practice and moved to Napa Valley. They immediately acquired an adjacent 15-acre parcel of land and began to replant their vineyard, which had originally been established in 1882. Sadly, on November 14, 1977, Jack, then just 44, suffered a major heart attack and passed away. Recognizing that the best future for her family lay in following through on their shared vision for Spottswoode, Mary took over management of the Estate and successfully completed her first harvest, selling grapes to local vintners, including the Shafer and Duckhorn families.
In 1982, after earning Spottswoode’s reputation as a source for some of Napa Valley’s most sought-after grapes, Mary hired Winemaker Tony Soter, founded Spottswoode Winery, and made Spottswoode’s debut 1982 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon. Three years later, on Soter’s recommendation, Mary began farming the Spottswoode Estate Vineyard organically at a time when the notion of organic farming was just in its infancy. After numerous highly acclaimed vintages in the mid-to-late 1980s, including three consecutive years with wines on Wine Spectator’s coveted Top 100 list, Mary stopped selling grapes to other wineries in order to focus exclusively on Spottswoode’s own wines—a decision that helped to establish Spottswoode as a benchmark of quality for over three decades.
Along the way, Mary was joined at Spottswoode by her daughters, Beth, in 1987, and Lindy, in 1992. Working together, they realized Mary’s vision of establishing Spottswoode as one of Napa Valley’s most esteemed multigenerational family estates, with a reputation for making some of the finest Cabernets in the world. In a recent, historic tasting of all the Spottswoode Cabernets since 1982, Robert Parker of The Wine Advocate named Spottswoode “one of Napa Valley’s First-Growth Wines and Vineyards” — an amazing testament to Mary’s deep love of Spottswoode. Over the years, she has succeeded in passing this love and her indomitable spirit to her five children and to her grandchildren.
“I have had the honor of working alongside my mom for 29 years in helping her build Spottswoode into the incredible estate vineyard and winery that it is today,” says Beth Novak Milliken. “She had immense inner strength, an amazing spirit and love of life, and a dream that Spottswoode would continue through generations. This has become a part of me, and of my family, and together we embrace carrying her legacy forward by continuing to nurture this wonderful estate property, which we are so fortunate to be a part of. We are honored to continue the work which she and our dad started when we moved here in 1972.”
Mary and her daughters made a commitment to stewardship at Spottswoode, adopting solar energy, spearheading the restoration of Spring Creek, annually contributing 1% of winery profits to environmental causes through 1% for the Planet, and making notable contributions to the Land Trust of Napa County, Garden Conservancy, Yosemite Conservancy, and the Trust for Public Land. In addition, in 2010, Mary and Beth served as Honorary Chairs of Auction Napa Valley, which supports Napa Valley non-profits, including many that focus on healthcare and education.
When Mary stepped back from daily winery operations, she continued to walk in the vineyard every day with her black lab, Riley, and tend to the estate’s historic gardens, as she had since 1972. Visitors to the legendary Spottswoode garden parties, held at Mary’s home, always received a warm welcome as she poured each a glass of her favorite Sauvignon Blanc. Her hospitable spirit, love of wine, land, and family will continue to guide her children and grandchildren in the most special legacy called Spottswoode. Less
Beth Novak Milliken, President & CEO
In 1987, Beth Novak Milliken joined her mother, Mary Novak, becoming the first second-generation family member to become actively involved in guiding Spottswoode Estate Vineyard & Winery. In the more than quarter century since, Beth has played a key role in establishing the Spottswoode Estate Vineyard as one of the world’s great winegrowing sites, and Spottswoode as one of Napa Valley’s most iconic and respected wineries. She has also quietly built a reputation as a leader in the Napa Valley community, advocating on behalf of the wine industry, and the social and environmental causes she holds dear. More
Moving to Napa Valley with her parents in 1972, Beth grew up surrounded by the vineyards. Like her four siblings, Beth’s chores included tasks like suckering the vines and cleaning out the emitters. While her youth in Napa Valley may have planted the seed for her future, ironically, it was a year spent studying abroad in Europe that made her begin thinking about a career in wine. After earning a degree in economics from UCLA, Beth joined a San Francisco-based wine brokerage representing clients like Caymus, Joseph Phelps and Pine Ridge.
When Mary asked Beth to help out “a little” at the winery, it didn’t take long for a few days a week to become a permanent way of life. “Back then, we were on our third release, and we were still in the red,” says Beth. “Two things became immediately obvious to me: this was a full time position, and I absolutely loved being a part of the winery!” One of Beth’s first major decisions was to acquire the historic adjacent Kraft property to expand the estate and establish a barrel room and offices in its beautiful buildings. Since then, Beth has played an integral role in the thoughtful evolution of Spottswoode. During her tenure, Beth has overseen the replanting of the estate in response to phylloxera, the vineyard’s CCOF organic certification in 1992, and the building of the Spottswoode Estate Winery in 1999.
In addition, Beth has been a strong and effective voice for the Napa Valley wine community. Reflecting the high regard she’s held in by her peers, in 1998, Beth was elected the youngest president of the Napa Valley Vintners, becoming the first woman to hold the position. A believer in leading by example, Beth and Mary worked with four women winemakers in a row at Spottswoode, before promoting current winemaker Aron Weinkauf. Beth also spearheaded the restoration of Spring Creek, which defines the southern boundary of the estate vineyard. In 2010, Beth and Mary were honorary chairs of Auction Napa Valley, a hugely successful event that raised more than $8,500,000 for Napa Valley nonprofits, and in 2007, Spottswoode joined 1% for the Planet, donating 1% of Spottswoode’s gross revenues each year to nonprofits that support a healthier world.
Above all else, Beth sees herself as a steward of her family’s winegrowing estate. “Our family has a four-decade relationship with this land that now spans three generations. I grew up here, along with my four siblings, and now the third generation is enjoying the property. When you own a family winery like ours, the cellar is like a photo album, each vintage of our Spottswoode Estate Cabernet is a picture of a year in our family’s life. This is why it has always been so important to us that our wines reflect who we are, and what we believe in, both in terms of the way we farm our vineyard and the balanced style of our wines.” Less
Lindy Novak, National Marketing Director
In 1992, Lindy Novak joined her sister, Beth, as part of a dedicated second generation working alongside their mother, Mary, to guide Spottswoode Estate Vineyard & Winery. In the more than 20 years since, Lindy has brought her own unique touch to her role as national director of marketing, by building loyal and lasting relationships with Spottswoode’s distributor, restaurant and retail partners. Known for her warmth, humor and thoughtfulness, Lindy oversees Spottswoode’s sales program in 47 states, and is an eloquent ambassador for Spottswoode and the Novak family at tastings, dinners and other key trade and consumer events throughout the country. More
The eldest of the five Novak children, Lindy was 15 when she moved to Napa Valley with her family. A part of the emerging Napa Valley wine community, Lindy’s friends included the children of the Shafers and Chappellets, and she occasionally babysat the Duckhorn children. Summers were spent helping out around the Spottswoode Estate Vineyard with her siblings, playing tennis, and going to concerts at the Mondavi Winery.
After earning a degree in geography from UC Berkeley, Lindy worked extensively in the clothing industry, first as part of the buying program, and later as a manager, at Macy’s. Following Macy’s, Lindy began representing several high-end clothing lines, including Christian Dior, Henry Grethel, John Henry and Gottex swimwear.
In 1992, Lindy began working at Spottswoode part time. She soon discovered that she enjoyed working with her mother and sister, and contributing to the development of Spottswoode. Lindy also found that her honest, engaged approach to sales was the perfect fit for their family-run winery. After a number of years building distributor and retail relationships throughout California, Lindy took on the role of national marketing director. In this capacity, Lindy travels frequently, supporting Spottswoode’s distributor partners in all American markets. “I try to bring the same values to our relationships that we bring to our wines,” says Lindy. “They should be authentic, thoughtful and enduring.”
Lindy’s other interests include reading, writing, gardening, athletics, maintaining friendships, taking care of her menagerie of pets, and volunteer efforts with animal and environmental organizations. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her husband, Jeff. Less
Riley, Chief Greeter
Riley is number six in a long line of black labradors who have lived at Spottswoode. Although he is now sporting a greying muzzle, Riley acts like a puppy, bouncing with enthusiasm and greeting visitors up close with his wagging tail and hello woof. All part of his unique charm!