She was born in Los Angeles. She married a guy her own age who was a medical student. He became a doctor. They had five kids. After 14 years of marriage, they fell in love with the idea of living in a rural place and moved from southern California to a pretty little town - St. Helena - in Northern California's Napa Valley where they bought a big old Victorian era fixer upper that had fallen apart over the years - along with a vineyard. That was in 1972.
All was going well. She was 38.
Then her husband died of a heart attack. She was 44.
Although she died this weekend at the age of 84, Mary Novak made the most of the trajectory of her second 40 years of life, rebuilding her life, raising her five children on her own, growing wine grapes and establishing a winery, Spottswoode.
She figured out the grape growing world, and after five years as a grower, she became a vintner, launching Spottswoode's first vintage in 1982. She was 50.
After working with Tony Soter, an advocate of organic viticulture, she decided to adopt organic practices in 1987. By 1992, her vineyard was certified organic. She was 60.
For the next 24 years, she integrated her daughters into the winery. All along the way, she gave women in the business a chance, hiring women as winemakers at a time when no one else did.
Thank you, Mary Novak, for the example of a life well lived. And for giving us some of Napa's greatest wines - made without herbicides -, believing in women, and your contributions to your community. You're an inspiration.