Owned by the Novak family since 1972, with a storied history going back to 1882, Spottswoode Estate lies on the western edge of St. Helena, with the vineyard (located near other extraordinary sites such as Dr. Crane, Las Piedras, Madrona, and Hayne) spanning 37 acres broken int0 24 blocks of classic Napa alluvial soils. The oldest vines today go back to 1991, when the estate undertook extensive replantings due to phylloxera, and the vineyard has been farmed organically since 1985.

From their first vintage in 1982, production has been overseen by a talented succession of winemakers, starting with Tony Soter in 1982, followed by Pam Starr (1992), Rosemary Cakebread (1997), Jennifer Williams (2002), and today Aron Weinkauf (2011). Aron started as the assistant winemaker in 2006 under the guidance of Jennifer Williams and also became Spottswoode’s assistant vineyard manager in 2009. In 2011, Aron became the fifth head winemaker for this incredible estate.

I was lucky enough to take part in this retrospective, which took place at the estate late in 2020 and included every vintage from 2000 to 2017. Despite the different winemakers and vintage profiles, the quality and style here have remained remarkably consistent. These are wines of incredible class, balance, and elegance that still bring gorgeous California fruit and opulence. In addition, these are long-lived, age-worthy wines, and not a single wine was over the hill or tired. Production levels are generally around 1,000 cases, and alcohol levels range from the high 13s to the mid 14s, which in today’s uber-charged and tiny production world of Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon makes Spottswoode unique. As I hope these reviews show, Spottswoode is undeniably one of Napa’s greatest estates, and I was honored to take part in this tasting.

Jeb Dunnuck