People

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.

Mark Neal, Owner
Mark Neal, Owner

Mark Neal's life-long involvement with the Napa Valley started with working with his father Jack Neal. In 1968 after working years for other farmers, Jack Neal started a vineyard management business in 1968  Mark began at an early age and work side-by-side removing prune and walnut trees as well as vines. We also planted and maintain vineyards and orchards. Before he was driving a car, Mark was operating tractors, earthmovers, and trucks building reservoirs, removing trees and terracing the hillsides of Napa Valley.  By the time he was 18 years old, he had logged 12,000 hours on the family tractors and numerous of hours from planting to harvest, and he knew he liked the farmer's view of the world.

In 1984 Mark first started working with CCOF and listed vineyards under the Certified Organic Status after decades of growing organic grapes. Upon his father's passing in 1994, Mark assumed the position of Owner and President of Jack Neal & Son, Inc. (JNS).  The company has grown considerably under his management and Mark has worked hard to ensure the company provides the same excellent service, commitment to quality, and personal attention to its clients that were Jack’s founding principles. His innovative viticulture practices and up-to-the-minute technology have helped to keep JNS at the forefront of premium grape growing in Napa Valley. Mark continues to direct every aspect of JNS' operations and is proud to have assembled a talented team of experts to help him carry on his father's vision.

Gove Celio, Director of Winemaking
Gove Celio, Director of Winemaking

Gove is a fifth-generation Californian. When he was a young teenager, the Celio family bought his father a home winemaking kit. What began as a hobby quickly developed into a great passion. Gove's love of the winemaking process began at his family's home in Cupertino where he also learned organic gardening, the value of composting and bee keeping. The Celio family would pick Mission grapes in Gilroy and crush them in the garage (an original garagista!), experimenting with the flavors derived from the grapes and reveling in the winemaking process.

In the late 1970's, interest in revitalizing the wine industry in the Sierra foothills renewed Gove's passion for winemaking and prompted him to go back to school to study viticulture. He began his vineyard studies at Santa Rosa Junior College in 1981, and by October of that year had his first vineyard job in Kenwood. His energy and passion for the winemaking processed allowed him to concurrently manage several Sonoma Valley vineyard properties, continue home winemaking with his father, who now had access to premium quality grapes, and pursue his studies.

After five years in the Sonoma Valley, Gove moved to Howell Mountain as viticulturist for Liparita Vineyard and Cellars. It was there, while planting and tending to the vineyard, that his relationship with the Neal Family began to develop. Gove called upon Mark Neal and his father, Jack, to supply him with labor and materials. For twelve years Gove worked closely with consulting winemaker, Merry Edwards, and eventually assumed the winemaking duties as the vineyard's production grew from a few hundred cases to several thousand. His relationship with the Neal Family continued, and when Gove found himself in need of new fruit sources, he obtained ultra-premium winegrapes from vineyards under the management of Jack Neal and Son Vineyard Management. Gove has now brought his winemaking expertise to Neal Family Vineyards, where he also makes use of his extensive viticultural skills working side-by-side with Mark Neal in the vineyards.

Gove loves to share his passion for viticulture and knowledge of the winemaking process with visitors at the Neal Family winery.

He and his lovely wife, Elizabeth, have been happily married 35 years and in their free time enjoy pairing wine with food; bocce league in St. Helena; traveling – usually near water; boating – paddling, sailing or powerboating; and gardening. They have two adult children: Laura and Colin.

Kelly Wheat, Winemaker
Kelly Wheat, Winemaker

Kelly's interest in the winemaking process brought him to California in 1988 to study winemaking at the University of California Davis. His first harvest came the next year, while still a student, 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 on his own time designing three computer-based winemaking tools now widely utilized by wineries, laboratories and universities. Although he recognizes that these computerized winemaking tools are unique in the winemaking world and he is proud of this accomplishment, Kelly finds the hands-on environment of the cellar to be more satisfying, more in line with his nature, than sitting in front of a computer screen. Accordingly, he is very pleased to be at the Neal Family Vineyards winery, where the intimate and boutique setting allows him to take a personal 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 has two daughters, Charlie and Tess; with them he enjoys gardening, backpacking, outrigger canoeing, and seeking the perfect day trip. The kids are now embarking on adulthood so he has more time for other activities, both new and old. He takes comfort in strumming simple chords on a 1964 Guild guitar, which on occasion he lets us hear; in moments that call for the use of a hand plane, especially in pursuit of restoring a small boat; and in tinkering with a 1973 Jeep Commando, which is known by its rust and dings but still gets out on the road from time to time.

Jordan Stanley, Winemaker
Jordan Stanley, Winemaker

Jordan Stanley was born in Windsor, England and spent his formative years in a small Southern California beach community where he was heavily influenced by the craft-beer boom and his family’s interest in high-quality wines. Jordan worked his way through Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, receiving his Bachelor of Science in Wine & Viticulture. He spent his extra time working in the cellar and vineyard at Proulx Winery in Paso Robles making west-side Paso Syrah and Grenache. He interned at Gary Farrell Winery in the Russian River Valley before deciding that his passion for wine was not to be found in Pinot Noir. Upon graduation Jordan came north for a season on Howell Mountain at Robert Craig Winery. He fell in love with the nuanced wines of Napa Valley, especially those crafted from Howell Mountain fruit, and decided to pursue a career that perfectly aligns with his personal taste. Jordan joined Neal Family Vineyards in early 2018 and is grateful to be a part of such a powerful team.