The identity of some wineries can be expressed in a single word. For Spottswoode, that word is elegance. The theme of elegance resonates through the manicured landscape, the persona of its team and the wine in the bottle.
We visited with the family and the winemakers last week and they guided us through the organically farmed vineyard, the operation on the crushpad and a selection of wines from 1994 through the current releases.
Jennifer Williams, winemaker and director of vineyard operations, explained the keys to the elegance in the bottle, and how it begins in the vineyard.
The property is sited on some of the most northern benchland in the Napa Valley, just on the edge of residential St. Helena. There’s plenty of sunshine and the opportunity to ripen the Bordeaux grapes. On the day of our visit, a team of men was thinning the crop in one of the blocks, to further ensure full tannin development. Jennifer explained that this was the biggest part of creating great texture in a wine, letting tannins develop fully, then picking at the right time.
More steps followed. On the crushpad, a crew of men sorted the clusters before they were destemmed. The loose but uncrushed grapes then shook and vibrated their way along the line to seperate the better berries from the jacks and other mog.
Then the individual berries were inspected by a team five ladies who tossed aside any that weren’t up to snuff. From there the berries went into a bin where they were treated to a cooling and oxygen-inhibiting bath of dry ice. Mind you, all of this attention to the grapes occurs before they ever enter the winery.
Lastly the juice in the bottle:
Spottswoode, St. Helena, Napa Valley, Estate Vineyard, Cabernet Sauvignon 2006 The current release features a beautiful combo of vibrant black fruit and sweet toasty oak. In the mouth the texture is perfect, a sense of velvet. A bit of Cabernet Franc complements the Sauvignon. Grown, produced and bottled in St. Helena 14.1% $130 at the winery.
Spottswoode, St. Helena, Napa Valley, Estate Vineyard, Cabernet Sauvignon 2001 This release from the cellar also features sweet oak with the added complexity of leather and a touch of earth. In the mouth the fruit is on full display, as if a baby, a luscious wine whose texture again displays the consistently elegant theme of the estate. Grown, produced and bottled in St. Helena 14.1% $priceless.
Proprietors Mary Weber Novak and her daughters Beth and Lindy. Winemakers Jennifer Williams and Aaron Weinkauf with Rosemary Cakebread consulting. Unlike some of the icons in the Napa Valley you can visit Spottswoode if you plan in advance and make an appointment.