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Wine of the Year: 100-Point Spottswoode Cabernet Sauvignon
By Robert Whitley
Dec 29, 2015
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When Jack and Mary Novak moved their five children from San Diego to the quiet wine country village of St. Helena in 1972, the goal was a lifestyle change.

Jack sold his medical practice and the family purchased a 30-acre wine estate in the heart of the Napa Valley, which at that time was little more than a sleepy farming community north of San Francisco that probably had as many prunes planted as grapes.

Jack died an untimely death of a heart attack at age 44, but Mary carried on with the plan to grow grapes and sell them to local vintners. The estate, known as Spottswoode, quickly gained acclaim for the remarkable quality of its cabernet sauvignon and sauvignon blanc.

Duckhorn Vineyards was one of the earliest clients and it was Dan Duckhorn, the proprietor, along with legendary winemaker Tony Soter, who encouraged Mary to make an estate wine under the Spottswoode banner.

The first vintage of cabernet was 1982. Soter made the wine and the rest, as the saying goes, is history.

The 2012 vintage, 30 years later but only recently released, was the finest fine wine I tasted in 2015 and hence I have chosen it to be my Creators Syndicate Wine Talk Wine of the Year. It is but one of only a handful of wines from the past 25 years that I have awarded a perfect score of 100 points, though it is the second time I have given a Spottswoode Cab that accolade. The first was the equally remarkable 2004 vintage of this estate's cabernet.

The winemaker for this brilliant effort from Spottswoode is Aron Weinkauf, who also oversees the vineyard side of the Spottswoode operation. Weinkauf is but the fifth winemaker in the history of the fabled winery and deserves kudos for his part in the making of this wine.

But it must be said, the brilliance of Spottswoode is the vineyard, and were it situated in the Medoc region of Bordeaux, there would surely be a movement to declare it a first growth.