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