Mother's Day is Sunday, May 13. In honor of the holiday, we spoke with members of three wine families—one in South Africa, two in California—in which mothers have the pleasure and privilege of working with their children.And we've provided a list of recently-rated red wines for the Mother's Day table.
Mary Novak and daughters Lindy Novak and Beth Novak Milliken
Spottswoode Estate Vineyard and Winery, St. Helena, Calif.
Wine Spectator: What are your respective roles at Spottswoode?
Mary Novak: I'm the owner of Spottswoode.
Beth Novak Milliken: I run the company, day-to-day.
Lindy Novak: I oversee national sales and marketing.
WS: What are some of the benefits and drawbacks of working with your mother, your sister and/or your daughters?
MN: I think it's great when someone shares your vision and goes ahead with what has to be done to keep it there. … The only problem is that sometimes we don't have time to talk about anything nice, like children, or where we've been … but I would say we have a pretty good relationship, and it's worked out very well.
LN: It's enabled me to spend more time with family than I might otherwise. I think the stores and restaurants that we deal with, and the distributors, they like the fact that we're a family business, a team that works well together. When you're part of a family business, it enables you to be more honest than you might otherwise be, which can be a good and a bad thing.
WS: What has your mother taught you about the wine business?
LN: A sense of modesty and almost humility. … I draw parallels between her and Katherine Hepburn. She has a strength that's required to carry on when necessary, and that's what she did after my dad died, which gives you this sense of "You can do it." She's not lost her sense of perspective.
BN: My mom has set the tone in the way we operate, in terms of being, I hope, completely honest and gracious in our approach, being appreciative about what we have and truly caring about people and our property.
WS: Do you foresee the next generation of your family carrying on at Spottswoode?
BN: I have two little boys—Sean is seven and a half and Liam is five and a half—and if they have the aptitude and the interest [when they're of age] then we would certainly welcome them. We've actually created a family employment policy that says you have to get a certain level of education, and then have outside experience, and then if you're truly interested and there is room, then you have a position. The goal is not to make anybody feel like they have [an] obligation or some sense of entitlement. There has to be a real drive and a desire to be involved.
|Mike Ratcliffe and his mother, Norma.|
Wine Spectator:What are your respective roles at Warwick?
Mike Ratcliffe: I am the managing director, responsible for overall management, finance and marketing.
Norma Ratcliffe: I tell Mike what to do.
WS:What are some of the benefits and drawbacks of working with your mother and your son, respectively?
MR: You can always rely on family for honest advice and support. Separating work from family is always a challenge, but part and parcel of the family business.
NR: It is such a privilege to work with a young person who clearly sees trends and has the energy to act on these trends immediately. I do love having my family so close to me but we do have to have rules about after-hours privacy. It works.
WS: Mike, do you hope that your children will continue the family business?
MR: The oldest is only three years old, and not showing much promise in the wine tasting so far, but some impressive spitting—which bodes well for the future.
WS:What has your mother taught you about winemaking and the wine business?
MR: The value of maintaining strong personal connections. Also, that the wine industry is a small place and that everyone always knows everything about everyone's business. The most important lesson has always been that wine is a beverage of pleasure and that overcomplicating wine in the mind of the consumer is always counterproductive.
WS:What are your plans for this year's Mother's Day? And what will you be drinking?
MR: We have a family lunch planned at my mother's home.
NR: We always bring exotic wines to family gatherings and play the "guess what it is" game—great fun. We all try and bring something old, exotic or rare. My new son-in-law has caught on very quickly and almost always stumps us.
|Mary Colhoun, Damaris Ethridge and Mike Colhoun.|
Wine Spectator: What are the benefits of working with family?
Damaris Deere W. Ethridge: When they first started, I thought, "What have I wrought? Is the shoe going to fit?" [Laughing] They were very involved in the east, in their own jobs, but I went to the family because, I said, "I really can't do this alone anymore." They [Mary and Mike] were the ones that spoke up and said, "We want to try it." So they did long-distance for about a year and a half and learned as much as they could. When they moved out [to California] I was really very concerned that I had maybe pushed them into something they didn't want to do, but they just took off, and it's been wonderful. … They really took the winery up to a new level. … My grandson, at the point that they moved, was nine years old, and had a lot of friends, and he said, "I'm not moving. I'm looking for foster parents." [Laughing] Now he's completely Californian … and he helps the winery as much as he possibly can.
Mary Colhoun: Our son is in San Francisco, and he's in the real-estate business, but he does some account calls for us in the Bay area, which is great. I think having knowledge of the real estate world frankly is something that never hurts you in the wine business. We see a family tradition continuing, which is something we're very excited about, and look forward to down the road, when the time suits.
WS: Mike, what has your mother taught you about the wine business?
MC: She's got a very big-picture view of what she's looking for. … She's always looking forward. You've got to understand, she really got this thing going. She started in '74, as a partner, and she took it over 100 percent in '89. … Somehow she hoodwinked Mary and I into coming out here, which I should be giving her a hug for every day for the rest of my life. All our friends thought we were nuts, and now they show up wanting a tour. [Laughing] She has a very elegant visual sense, an incredible artistic sense. She can talk to the Queen of England and the truck driver at the same time.
WS: Damaris, what has your son taught you about the business?
DE: He doesn't let his ego, or anyone else's ego, get in the way.
The following is a list of recently-rated, food-friendly red wines under $30 that are versatile enough for nearly every Mother's Day meal. (See our Food and Wine Matching and Recipe Search tools for more great ideas.) Happy Mother's Day!
|NAVARRO Pinot Noir Anderson Valley Méthode à l'Ancienne 2004||92||$25|
|My favorite Navarro Pinot of all time. High-toned black cherry and wild berry flavors are intense and concentrated, with hints of hazelnut and spice. Wonderful balance, focus and length. Should also age well. Drink now through 2011. 5,224 cases made.
|PAUL AUTARD Côtes du Rhône 2005||88||$12|
|Bright and fresh. Shows tangy blackberry fruit, with floral and graphite notes that race through the finish. Very tasty. Drink now. 5,000 cases imported.
|VIÑA CONO SUR Merlot Colchagua Valley Visión Block La Estación 2005||88||$15|
|Dark, with lots of mocha and cocoa notes, yet well-integrated, with a core of raspberry and blackberry fruit and a ripe, lengthy finish. Drink now through 2008. 25,000 cases made.
|CUSUMANO Merlot Sicilia 2005||88||$12|
|Soft and silky, with berry and milk chocolate aromas and flavors. Medium-bodied, with fine tannins and a caressing finish. Best after 2007. 10,000 cases made.
|ERATH Pinot Noir Oregon 2005||87||$16|
|Light and fragrant, with pretty blackberry and mineral flavors, lingering on the tartly balanced finish. Drink now through 2009. 50,000 cases made.
|VIÑA MONTES Merlot Colchagua Valley Classic Series 2005||86||$12|
|Tasty, with briary tannins carrying good black cherry and blackberry fruit notes. Shows a touch of toast on the finish. Drink now. 70,000 cases made.
|CAVE DE RASTEAU Côtes du Rhône-Villages Rasteau La Domelière 2004||86||$15|
|Shows a nice traditional character, with chestnut, tobacco and dark cherry fruit flavors followed by a minerally finish. Drink now. 15,000 cases made.
|MARQUÉS DE RISCAL Rioja Reserva 2001||86||$15|
|This solid, straightforward red delivers cherry and vanilla flavors, with notes of herbs and spices over firm tannins. Balanced and fresh. Tempranillo with Graciano and Mazuelo. Drink now through 2009. 65,000 cases imported.
|VIÑA CONO SUR Merlot Central Valley 2005||85||$10|
|Fleshy, with good dark plum and currant fruit backed by loam, grilled herb and toast notes. Drink now. 90,000 cases made.
Sips & Tips | Wine & Healthy Living
Video Theater | Collecting & Auctions