Mary Novak, owner of Spottswoode winery and one of the leading lights of California wine since the 1970s, has died.

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Mary Weber Novak has died in St Helena aged 84 after a long and illustrious life at the beating heart of California wine’s rise to greatness on the world stage.

Novak was one of several matriarchs of California wine and one of the first women to run a winery in the area, following the death of her husband, Jack, in 1977.

Under her leadership, Spottswoode in St Helena has also risen to become one of the most highly regarded Napa Valley wine estates.

Novak is to be featured in an up-coming article in Decanter’s November edition on Napa Valley matriarchs.

In the article, Linda Murphy spoke to Novak about her history. ‘The wine craze was just beginning,’ Novak said of 1972, when she and her husband bought Spottswoode vineyard.

‘Robert Mondavi had opened his winery and others were following suit.

‘We knew very little about growing grapes or making fine wine, but we planned to study and learn by doing, and we were eager to embrace an agricultural lifestyle in a rural town.’

A full obituary will appear shortly.

Decanter magazine’s November issue is due on sale from Wednesday 5 October. Subscribe here.

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