Mary Weber Novak, winery proprietor, 1932-2016, was one of the first women to play a leading role in Napa Valley’s wine history. She came to be regarded as its matriarch, admired for her vision and tenacity. She loved the land and produced grapes at her Spotteswoode estate stretching towards the Mayacamas mountains with a vineyard dating back to 1882, to make wine as naturally as possible long before organic viticulture became widespread and fashionable.
Novak sought finesse and elegance in her wines and eschewed making big, fruit bombs with high alcohol. Originally a schoolteacher, Novak didn’t chase scores and was low key but also remarkable for her wisdom and integrity. Born Mary Weber on September 17 1932, she was brought up in Los Angeles and educated at Stanford. Her husband, Jack Novak’s untimely death at 44 years, meant she had to pick up the reins and manage her affairs singlehandedly. Read the full obituary by Jancis Robinson here.