By Beth Novak Milliken
The year 2007 marked the 125th anniversary of the Spottswoode Estate. To commemorate this special occasion, my family and I have captured all that we have come to love about the property in a book. As part of our research we combed through turn-of-the-century newspaper articles, personal letters, and other historical memorabilia. Five generations of families—including ours—have lived at Spottswoode, and all have left their individual mark upon the estate. As we reflected upon these families, their unique personalities and contributions and their struggle to hold onto the land—often against great odds such as Prohibition and the Depression—we found much to celebrate and be thankful for. The estate’s heritage binds us together and deepens our understanding and appreciation of Spottswoode.
Our estate came to be in 1882 when German immigrant George Schonewald purchased thirty-one fertile acres at the foot of the Mayacamas mountain range. He planted seventeen acres of wine grapes and designed and built the elegant Victorian home—complete with formal gardens—which he christened “Esmeralda.” In 1884, Schonewald sold several acres north of his estate to Frank Kraft, who constructed a Victorian farmhouse and a beautiful sandstone wine cellar that served as the Kraft Winery until the late 1880s.
In 1906, Schonewald sold the property to Joseph Bliss who resided at the estate he called “Stonehurst” for two years before selling the property to Dr. George Allen. In honor of the garden’s majestic linden trees, Dr. Allen renamed the property “Lyndenhurst.” He and his wife eventually returned to San Francisco and sold the estate to Mrs. Albert Spotts who renamed the property “Spottswoode” in memory of her late husband. The property was owned by descendants of the Spotts family until its purchase in 1972 by the Novak family.
As a family, we feel very fortunate to be stewards of such a remarkable piece of land. When we first moved here, my parents were excited about the prospects of growing grapes and making wine in the rural community of St. Helena. When my father died in 1977, my mother carried their shared vision forward. She kept her family in St. Helena, immersed herself in the art of winegrowing, and produced Spottswoode’s first estate Cabernet Sauvignon in 1982, exactly 100 years after the estate’s founding. The year 2007 marked not only our estate’s 125th anniversary, but also the 25th anniversary of Spottswoode Vineyard & Winery and the 75th anniversary of my mother, Mary Weber Novak. That such a momentous birthday coincides with these other events is truly amazing, as the Spottswoode we know today is the direct result of my mom’s commitment to and passion for the property.