Spottswoode founder Mary Weber Novak dies

Mary Weber Novak, founder of renowned Napa Valley estate Spottswoode, has died aged 84 after a brief battle with cancer.

Mary with her daughters Beth and Lindy

Mary with her daughters Beth and Lindy

One of the first women to run a major Napa Valley estate, Novak established Spottswoode in 1972 with her husband Jack after chancing upon the 31-acre St Helena property during a family holiday to Napa.

The pair immediately acquired an adjacent 15-acre parcel of land and began to replant the Spottswoode vineyard, which had grown grapes since 1882.

Mary with her beloved black labradors

Mary with her beloved black labradors

Five years later Jack died suddenly of a heart attack aged just 44, leaving Mary to run the estate while bringing up their five children. Getting involved in the harvest, Novak sold grapes to the likes of Shafer and Duckhorn.

She moved from grape growing into bottled wine production in 1982 after hiring Tony Soter as chief winemaker, who made his debut the same year with Spottswoode Estate Cabernet Sauvignon.

US critic Robert Parker refers to Spottswood as “one of Napa Valley’s first growth wines and vineyards”. In 1985, LA-born, Stamford educated Novak began farming the estate organically when the concept was in its infancy and later installed solar power.

Encouraging daughters Beth and Lindy to work with her, Novak has also mentored the likes of Mia Klein, Pam Starr, Rosemary Cakebread and Jennifer Williams.

“She had immense inner strength, an amazing spirit and love of life, and a dream that Spottswoode would continue through generations,” said her daughter Beth Novak Milliken.

“Her kindness, energy, intelligence, sense of humour, humility and vivacious personality will be missed,” she added.

Novak is survived by her five children: Lindy, Kelley, Beth, Mike and Matt, and nine grandchildren.

A celebration of Mary’s life will be announced at a later date. Donations can be made in Mary’s name to The Land Trust of Napa County or The Trust for Public Land.

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