Kelly's interest in the winemaking process brought him to California in 1988 to study winemaking at the University of California at Davis. His first harvest came soon thereafter. During the first year of his studies, Kelly worked in the cellars of Carmenet Vineyards, high in the Mayacamas Mountains on the Sonoma/Napa county line. Upon completion of his Master's degree in 1992, Kelly returned to Carmenet where he would remain for six years as Assistant Winemaker.
During this period at Carmenet, Kelly worked diligently in his spare time designing three computer-based winemaking tools now widely utilized by large wineries, laboratories and universities. Although he recognizes that these computerized winemaking tools are unique in the winemaking world and he is extremely proud of this accomplishment, Kelly finds that he prefers the more natural and hands-on environment of the cellar to sitting in front of a computer screen. Accordingly, he is very pleased to be at the Neal Family Vineyards winery, where the more intimate and boutique-style setting allows him to take both a personal and scientific approach to winemaking.
Following his tenure at Carmenet, Kelly spent four years at Luna Vineyards in Napa. During his tenure at Luna, Kelly was able to spend a great deal of time in vineyards, pruners in hand, talking to growers and deciding on various approaches to take in application to the winemaking process. While Kelly's childhood origins were not directly related to farming or wine making, he is the product of four generations of nurserymen and landscape architects. This lifetime exposure to, and immersion in, flora has provided him with an excellent understanding and informed view of vines and vineyards.
Kelly makes his home in Napa with his two daughters, Chloe and Tess. With them he enjoys gardening, camping and other outdoor activities; he takes comfort in strumming simple chords on a 1964 Guild guitar, which on occasion he lets us hear, and in tinkering with a 1973 Jeep Commando; and he plays chess in a careless, coffee-house style.