|The Napa Valley is world-renowned for the wines produced from its vineyards, and Mark Neal - and the Neal Family history - is firmly imbedded in its soil. Born the son of Jack and Athene Neal, Mark's fondest memories began with sitting on his father's lap while Jack drove a tractor through the Napa Valley vineyards, and Mark was raised with a love and appreciation for the valley that he called his home. As a boy, Mark worked side-by-side with his father suckering, tying and planting vines. Through hard work and dedication, Jack started his own vineyard management company in 1968, known today as Jack Neal and Son. The name of the company itself is indicative of a family that has been dedicated to these vineyards for over 40 years.
As Mark grew, so did his interest and talent in the viticulture process. Mark picked grapes and walnuts after school and on weekends in the fall and planted vines during Easter vacation. His summers were spent on a tractor disking vineyard, walnut and prune orchards. As Mark developed from a boy to a young man, he mastered the operation of his father's bulldozer and earth mover to remove trees and build ponds and drove water trucks to haul water. Even though Mark spent the majority of his free time in the vineyards with his father learning how to grow and maintain healthy vines, he remained focused in his studies and eventually entered the Viticulture program at Santa Rosa Junior College. During his tenure there, Mark tutored classmates in viticulture and was instrumental in the development of the school farm. It was evident even then that Mark had a passion for the land and the winemaking process, and he has dedicated this passion to developing the Napa Valley earth into prized vineyards.
At the time that Jack Neal and Son was founded, the Neal Family was farming approximately two hundred acres of vineyard; not surprising, considering that there were only about 12,000 acres of planted vineyards in the entire valley at the time! The world was not yet fully aware of Napa Valley and its burgeoning wine community. Today, there are more than 40,000 acres of planted vineyards in the Napa Valley. Mark Neal has grown along with the Napa Valley, and has dedicated himself to caring for some of the most sought after vineyards and wine grapes in the country.
Mark worked very closely with his father until Jack's passing in 1994. At that time, Mark assumed responsibility as owner and president of his father's vineyard management business. Today Jack Neal & Son, Inc. (JNS) is the third oldest vineyard management company in Napa County, farms over 1,000 acres (75% of which is mountain-grown) and manages the winegrowing operations of twelve Napa wineries. Mark still loves working in the vineyards, and has built a dedicated team of experienced people who share his passion and goal to preserve the heritage and excellence associated with the mountainous region known as Napa Valley.
In 1990, Mark decided to make his home in Howell Mountain. After a great deal of consideration and the lingering memory of conversations with his father about building his own winery, Mark resolved to accomplish his dream. He immediately began working on the plans, contacted builders and set to work. In 2001, Mark established the Neal Family Vineyards winery. The beauty and simplicity of the Napa Valley is exemplified by his winery, and the richness and complexity of the valley's soil is evident in the wine that he produces.
Mark's involvement and support of the Napa Valley community is ongoing. He is past president of California North Coast Grape Growers Association and a member of Napa and Sonoma County Farm Bureaus, Sonoma County Grape Growers Association, Napa Valley Grape Growers Association, Napa Valley Wine Library Association and a supporting member of Land Trust of Napa County. He has five beautiful children: Jessica (vintage 1995), Zachary (1997), Demitria (1998), Alexios (2002) and Jackson (2006). His wonderful mother, Athene, also remains an integral part of the Jack Neal and Son legacy, as she has been since its inception.