Mark Neal is Napa Valley’s organic and Biodynamic® farming trailblazer and the founder and owner of Neal Family Vineyards. After purchase two other vineyards in Napa Valley starting at the age of 20, he stumbled on a unique property in the Howell Mountain AVA. Mark purchased this property in 1990, which needed a vision and lots of work for the property’s next chapter. After hard work and creativity, the ending was a perfect location for his family home as well as his eponymous winery, which he built onsite in 1998.
Mark’s identity is deeply rooted in his relationship with Napa Valley. Growing up in the Valley’s Rutherford region as the son of a farmer, Mark was ensconced in viticulture from a very young age, and eager to follow in his dad’s footsteps. It was Mark’s maternal grandmother whom he credits with instilling the family with their early adoption of biodynamics.
Mark is now best known as one of the first grape growers to practice and farm organically and biodynamically in Napa. In 1968, Mark entered his father’s business, Jack Neal and Son (JNS) Vineyard Management and the duo helped establish some of the most storied estates in Napa Valley, including continuous vineyard management with numerous of famous Napa Valley Wineries such as Heitz Cellars, privately own vineyards like Martha’s Vineyard, and many absentee owners that kept their properties throughout over the last 5 decades. Today, Mark still runs JNS in addition to Neal Family Vineyards and has taken the company from 80 employees to over 500. Between vineyard management and suppling labor for over 1,500 acres, JNS is the largest certified organic farming company in northern California and one of the largest Biodynamic® farming companies in the country.
Mark’s enterprising instincts are not limited to his agriculture and management skills. Known as “Renaissance Man” by his family and close associates, Mark drew up his own architectural plans for both the Neal Family Vineyards estate winery and their family home next door to it. All the buildings’ rock walls came sustainably from the property on which it sits and were built by Mark and his team. Mark and his team also built the 7,500 square foot wine caves, supplied in-house carpenters to build the winery, and designed and built the cellar catwalks and barrel racks.
Mark has been applying and practicing Biodynamic® techniques for many years with Grgich Winery and others. Mark incorporated Neal Family Vineyards Estate as well as the Rutherford Dust properties he owns to be Certified Biodynamic®. Mark’s philosophy goes back to Rudolf Steiner (the father of Biodynamic® farming); To be a true farmer, one must be able to self-sufficiently live off the property.
Mark has been walking the vineyards almost daily since 1966 and his unparalleled instincts and intimacy with Napa Valley shines through in every bottle he makes. Through ceaseless drive, constant education and creative innovation, Mark Neal has cemented himself as one of the most sought-after winegrowers in the Napa Valley.