Spottswoode Founder

To many, Mary Weber Novak was the energetic woman who zipped around St. Helena in her little electric red car, smiling at passersby. For those familiar with the modern history of the area, Mary represented the spirit, graciousness, and vision that helped to build Napa Valley.

Through hard work 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. She helped to pioneer organic viticulture when she began farming the vineyard organically in 1985. Mary also played a role in championing women in the wine industry by encouraging two of her daughters to work alongside her, and through the hiring of women winemakers throughout Spottswoode’s storied four-decade history.

Originally from Los Angeles, Mary earned a degree in education from Stanford before settling in San Diego with her husband, Dr. Jack Novak. On a trip to Napa Valley with their five children, Mary and Jack fell in love with the rural beauty and relaxed pace of St. Helena. There, they discovered Spottswoode, an idyllic property with exquisite gardens and a long-established pre-Prohibition vineyard. “I’ve always been a person who loves the land,” said Mary. “Walking in the gardens and through the vineyard, I knew we could make our home here.”

In 1972, the Novaks sold Jack’s medical practice and moved to Spottswoode. Soon after, they acquired an adjacent 15-acres and began to replant the vineyard, which originally was established in 1882. Sadly, on November 14, 1977 at the age of 44, Jack suffered a major heart attack and passed away. With the encouragement of her winegrowing neighbors, Mary took over the Estate’s management and completed her first harvest, selling grapes to local vintners, including the Shafer and Duckhorn families.

Ten years later, after building Spottswoode’s reputation as a source for highly sought grapes in the valley, Mary hired Winemaker Tony Soter and founded Spottswoode Winery, events marked by the debut of the 1982 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon. With Tony’s support, Mary began farming the vineyard organically, and after highly acclaimed vintages in the mid-to-late 1980s and three consecutive years on Wine Spectator’s coveted Top 100 wines list, Mary began to exclusively produce Spottswoode’s own wines.

Looking back, I couldn’t have imagined what a beautiful future we were planting then, along with that very first vineyard.

Mary Weber Novak

Two daughters joined the winery: Beth, in 1987, and Lindy, in 1992. Together they established 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 vertical tasting of every Spottswoode Cabernet since 1982, Robert Parker of The Wine Advocate named Spottswoode “one of Napa Valley’s First-Growth Wines and Vineyards.” 

“I had the honor of working alongside my mom for 29 years and helping her to build Spottswoode into the incredible estate vineyard and winery that it is today,” says Beth Weber Novak. “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 – we embrace carrying her legacy forward by continuing to nurture this wonderful estate property, which we are so fortunate to be a part of.”

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. Mary’s hospitable spirit, love of wine, land, and family continue to guide her children and grandchildren in the most special legacy called Spottswoode.

Looking Back

The Novak Family’s First Years at Spottswoode