In 1987, Beth Weber Novak joined her mother, Mary Novak, becoming the first second-generation family member actively involved in guiding Spottswoode Estate Vineyard & Winery. In the more than three decades since, Beth has played a pivotal role in establishing 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 visionary leader in the Napa Valley community, advocating on behalf of the wine industry and the social and environmental causes she values.
Moving to Napa Valley with her parents in 1972, Beth and her four siblings grew up surrounded by the vineyards. Their chores included tasks such as suckering the vines and cleaning out the emitters. While her youth in Napa Valley may have planted the seed for her future, 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, Pine Ridge and Saintsbury.
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, she has overseen the replanting of the estate in response to phylloxera, the vineyard’s pioneering 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. In 1998, Beth was elected president of the Napa Valley Vintners, becoming the first woman, and the youngest person to hold the position. A believer in leading by example, Beth and Mary worked with four female winemakers in a row at Spottswoode, before promoting current winemaker Aron Weinkauf. In 2000, Beth also began establishing herself as a powerful voice for the environment, when she spearheaded a grassroots, community-driven restoration of Spring Creek, which defines the southern boundary of the estate vineyard.
Over the next two decades, Beth charted a course for Spottswoode that has earned the winery regular comparisons to the great First Growths, while also establishing the Spottswoode Estate as perhaps the greenest winery in America. “We are farmers first, and as we look to the future of our multi-generational, agriculturally based family winegrowing business, we recognize climate change as an existential threat.” says Beth. “From organic farming practices, carbon sequestration, and solar power, to significant investments that decrease our water usage and carbon footprint, we are passionate about doing our part to promote a healthy environment and climate.”
In practical terms, this commitment has taken many forms. Since 2007, Spottswoode has been a proud member of 1% for the Planet, annually donating a minimum of 1% of Spottswoode’s gross revenue to nonprofits that support a healthier world, such as Center for Biological Diversity, Land Trust of Napa County, the Natural Resources Defense Council, National Forest Foundation, Sierra Club, and many more. Spottswoode is solar powered, certified organic through CCOF and biodynamic through the Demeter Association, Napa Green Vineyard and Winery Certified, B Corp Certified, a California Benefit Corporation, one of the first members of International Wineries for Climate Action, a signatory to the Porto Protocol, and a CarbonFund.org partner.
On a personal level, Beth has embraced her position as a leader and tireless environmental advocate within the Napa Valley community. In 2010, Beth and Mary were honorary chairs of Auction Napa Valley, an event that raised more than $8,500,000 for Napa Valley nonprofits. Beth is also on the Board of the Napa Valley Vintners, the founding chair of its Environmental Stewardship Committee, and serves on its Community & Industry Issues Committee. Independent of the NVV, she is a member of both the Growers/Vintners for Responsible Agriculture Board and the Wine Service Co-op Board, and serves on the Napa County Groundwater Sustainability Plan Advisory Committee.
Above all else, Beth sees herself as a steward of her family’s winegrowing estate, carrying on the legacy begun by Mary, who passed away in 2016. “Our family has a five-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, and a testament to our love of this place. 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 in the beautiful, balanced style of our wines.”
Throughout her career, Beth has helped to build an awareness of one powerful fact—that being passionately green is entirely compatible with making some of the world’s greatest wines. In acknowledgment of this transformative idea about the relationship between the wine industry and the environment, in 2017 Spottswoode was honored with the California Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance Green Medal Environment Award, and in 2020, Beth was named one of Wine Industry Advisor’s “Most Inspiring People,” both for her dedication to environmental stewardship, and for her lifetime of service establishing Spottswoode as one of the world’s great estate wineries.