Interview with Beth Novak, President of Spottswoode Estate Vineyard & Winery

By Published On: June 27th, 2024

Their winemaking legacy is built on passion and shared vision.

Spottswoode is a family-owned winery that has been producing exceptional wine for nearly four decades. With a commitment to being stewards of the land, they have created an elegant and balanced style of winemaking that captures the unique character of each vintage and showcases the complexity of their legendary vineyard. We interview President and CEO Beth Novak to learn more.

Share the story of your winery.

Beth Novak, Spottswoode Estate Vineyard & Winery CEO and President: Since 1972, when my parents, Jack and Mary Novak, moved to St. Helena and acquired the Spottswoode Estate Vineyard, two generations of my family have been dedicated to stewarding this historic property. First planted in 1882, the mindful and environmentally aware farming of our estate vineyard is at the heart of what we do.

Mary and Jack Novak in 1997. Photo Courtesy: Spottswoode Estate Vineyard & Winery.

We have cultivated our land organically since 1985, and today we are certified organic, biodynamic, and regenerative organic, we are solar-powered, IWCA Gold Members, and B Corp certified, to name just a few of the environmentally conscious approaches we apply. .

Historic sign. Photo Courtesy: Spottswoode Estate Vineyard & Winery.

What type of wine do you specialize in?

Beth Novak: Using the extraordinary grapes from our own estate, and through long-term partnerships with a handful of like-minded growers, we make just five wines each vintage, our Spottswoode Estate and Lyndenhurst Cabernet Sauvignons, our Spottswoode and Mary’s Block Sauvignon Blancs, and the Field Book Estate Red Wine

Sauvignon Blanc grapes. Photo Courtesy: Spottswoode Estate Vineyard & Winery.

Beth Novak: Our tastings are different than many wineries. We only host a maximum of 10 guests a day (so it’s good to book early), and we only offer tours and tastings Monday through Friday. Because of this, every visit is very personal and intimate.

While the highlight is always the opportunity to savor our Cabernets and Sauvignon Blancs in the place where they were made, we always strive to make sure our guests leave with a deeper connection to our estate, and its wines. With this in mind, we host outdoor tastings when the weather allows, as we love to share the vineyard and our beautiful grounds with our guests. 

Tasting room. Photo Courtesy: Spottswoode Estate Vineyard & Winery.

What makes your wine unique?

Beth Novak: Because we view viticulture and winemaking as part of one continuous process, the role of vineyard manager and winemaker at Spottswoode are performed by Aron Weinkauf, who is incredibly talented at both. Because there is no disconnect between the two, Aron really starts making our wines in the vineyard with the farming choices he makes.

Aron Weinkauf, winemaker and vineyard manager. Photo Courtesy: Robb McDonough

I also believe the longevity of our vineyard is a key aspect of Spottswoode. Grapes have been continuously grown here since 1882. It’s a vineyard with greatness in its DNA, and that complexity and character shine through in our wines. 

What’s one thing you wish more people knew about your winery?

Beth Novak: One of the things that I take the most pride in is the fact that we have shown that being great stewards to our vineyard and the environment goes hand in hand with making some of the finest wines in the world. There is no greater threat to our work as winegrowers, and to our society, than the climate crisis, and we think about the impact on the environment with every decision we make. We aspire to inspire change.

Spottswoode Winery’s CCOF sign in Vineyard. Photo Courtesy: Robb McDonough.
Molly Sheppard Assistant Winemaker and Environmental Manager. Photo Courtesy: Spottswoode Estate Vineyard & Winery.

How did you get started in the wine industry?

Beth Novak: My siblings and I grew up here at Spottswoode, and whether it was cleaning out the emitters or suckering the vines, there were always chores that needed doing. Interestingly, it wasn’t until I spent a year studying abroad in Europe that I really began to think about a career in wine.

Following university, I worked for a Bay Area-based wine broker, but it wasn’t until 1987 that my mom, Mary, asked me to come help out “a little” at Spottswoode. “A little” quickly became a full-time position. As for who inspired me, that’s my mom too. In 1977, when my dad, Jack, passed away unexpectedly, my mom took on the challenge of raising five children on her own and running a vineyard. She kept the dream going, and today, my sister Lindy and I carry it on.

(L-R) Beth, Mary and Lindy Novak with their beloved pets, who greet guests. Photo Courtesy: Spottswoode Estate Vineyard & Winery
Mary Novak drives the bus with her children Lindy, Kelley, Beth, Mike, Matt, and her grandchildren. Photo Courtesy: Spottswoode Estate Vineyard & Winery.

Do you remember the first time you fell in love with wine?

Beth Novak: I was lucky enough to be raised among vines and to be exposed to and taste wine along the way. I came to love it through osmosis, more than via a singular event. 

Their vineyard has been farmed organically since 1985 with biodynamic farming introduced in 2010. Photo Courtesy: Spottswoode Estate Vineyard & Winery.

Describe the winemaking approach at Spottswoode.

Beth Novak: Over the years, I believe that we have shown an ability to look beyond convention, and what others are doing, to find our own path. This has certainly been the case in the way we have combined environmentalism with the highest standards of viticulture and winemaking.

I also believe that we have been very consistent in our approach. Our wines reflect the vintage and vineyards they come from. They are refined, thoughtful and age-worthy in a way that is both sophisticated and timeless.

Cabernet Sauvignon. Photo Courtesy: Spottswoode Estate Vineyard & Winery.

Do you have a favorite story about working at your winery?

Beth Novak: It might be the time, in the early 1990s when we were custom crushing at Rombauer. I used to tow our grapes from the vineyard to the winery, and then I would use the forklift to weigh and move our bins. Koerner Rombauer parked his car on the crush pad without my knowing it. Driving the forklift with the bins allowed for little forward vision, and I drove right into the back of his car. He watched the whole thing. I was happy to be female at that moment, or he just might have lit into me!

What do you love about the winemaking process?  

Beth Weber Novak: Every vintage is a new opportunity to learn and grow, and that is especially true of challenging vintages. Every year, we get better at what we do.

Their winemaking legacy is built on passion and shared vision.
Kraft Cellar Barrel Room. Photo Courtesy: Spottswoode Estate Vineyard & Winery.

Do you have any winery traditions with your team? 

Beth Novak: For me, there are two highlights each year – our annual harvest party, where we invite our growers and all our suppliers to join us for a wonderful lunch and an absolutely amazing array of wines from our personal cellar; and then our annual Champagne tasting and White Elephant gift exchange in December. Both are immensely fun and bring us even closer together!

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