Spottswoode Estate Vineyard & Winery is located at the edge of a residential neighborhood in the town of St. Helena. There are three portions to the property; the winery and offices, the vineyard and the Spottswoode Estate home and accompanying grounds and gardens. This family owned winery focuses on a select few wines including Sauvignon Blanc and two Cabernet Sauvignon wines. After moving up from northern San Diego County, Mary and her husband Jack Novak (a doctor who practiced in St. Helena) purchased the property in 1972 having no previous experience with wine; it was already a very historic property at this time and the vineyards contained a number of varieties not found in contemporary Napa Valley including French Colombard and Gamay. With 5 children the family was looking for a lifestyle change, needed a large house and as daughter and President of Spottswoode, Beth Milliken remembers, her father was “looking for a place where he could ride a tractor in the vineyard”. Jack is an alumnus of Notre Dame University in South Bend, Indiana. While in college he met Ray Duncan – remarkably another eventual Napa Valley Vintner (Silver Oak Cellars). Jack and Ray became friends – in 1969 the Novaks invited Ray to Napa and Sonoma (Ray’s first visit to the area). And it is their invitation and this introduction trip to the area – which ultimately led to Ray co-founding Silver Oak Cellars in 1972. Unfortunately Jack passed away prematurely at age 44 from a heart attack in 1977 leaving Mary and the 5 kids. Fortunately Mary had the perseverance and passion to do more than just sell the grapes. She founded the winery in 1982, the year they produced a single wine, their first vintage of estate grown Cabernet Sauvignon. In 1989 the Novaks purchased the old Kraft Winery, down the street from their family home. By the late 1990s, the family hired prominent wine country architect Howard Backen to design a new winery while rennovating the old stone winery building. The new winery and barrel room were completed in 1999. The property has changed hands a number of times over the years. Originally founded in 1882 by German immigrant George Schonewald – he bought 17 acres in this part of St. Helena and planted 17 of them to vines. He also built a Victorian home in 1885 and established formal gardens surrounding the house. He called the home Esmeralda, meaning Emerald in Spanish. In 1884 he sold several acres north of his home (the site of Spottswoode Winery) to Frank Kraft who soon built a farm house and a stone cellar – which he called Kraft Winery. It operated until the late 1880s. The property changed hands several times after Schonewald sold the rest of the property in 1906. At one point one of the owners renamed Esmeralda to Lyndenhurst in honor of the grove of Linden trees that grew on the grounds. Again the property changed hands in 1910 to the Spotts family and is the year the property received its final name, Spottswoode in honor of Mrs. Spotts’ deceased husband. The Novak’s used to own more land here but sold some off decades ago. During the Spotts ownership, the vineyard was planted to a number of what are now obscure varieties including Green Hungarian and French Colombard. These grapes were sold to the Christian Brothers and later to the St. Helena Cooperative. The winery is very much family run; for many years the winery was overseen by Mary (she died in 2016) and today her two daughters Beth and Lindy manage the operations. Long time local vintner Tony Soter (founder of Napa’s Etude winery and of Soter Vineyards in the Willamette Valley, Oregon) was their first winemaker. Tony also managed their vineyard and started farming organically. Spottswoode has a rich history of top winemakers coming through their doors – besides Soter, local well-known vintners Pam Starr and Rosemary Cakebread have crafted wines here. Their vineyards are planted across Madrona Avenue from the winery; grapes have continuously grown here since 1882. All fruit for their Cabernet Sauvignon come from these vineyards. This is some of Napa’s most northerly bench-land; the vines are planted on an old alluvial fan. Numerous wineries are located within the St. Helena appellation but very few are located within the city limits of St. Helena like Spottswoode. They are located both within the St. Helena city limits and within the St. Helena appellation. After the Novak’s acquired the property, they replanted the entire vineyard due to the great age of the vines and then sold the fruit for several years to Napa notables such as Heitz Cellars, Spring Mountain Vineyards, and Shafer Winery. David Abrue managed their vineyard for a number of years in the 1990s – today all vineyard management is in-house. Their total property is 45 acres of which 37 acres are planted to vines. They used to grow Merlot here but over time they found the site was slightly to warm for this variety and no longer grow this variety. Today the vineyard is planted predominantly to Cabernet Sauvignon along with smaller plantings of Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot and a single acre of Sauvignon Blanc. They vineyard is separated into 22 individual blocks. And along with Frog’s Leap and Tres Sabores their vineyard was one of the first certified organic vineyards in the Napa Valley (CCOF).
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