Meet the Family
Mark & Laura Neal
Mark Neal is an organic and biodynamic farmer and winemaking evangelist. He has been walking the vineyards almost daily for over 54 years and is one of very few winemakers in Napa Valley who own, farm and manage their land and make their own wines. Mark also runs Jack Neal and Son (JNS) Vineyard Management, the business he entered to assist his father in 1968. JNS, with 420 employees, is the largest organic farming company in Napa and one of the largest biodynamic farming companies in the country, effectively making Mark Neal one of Napa Valley’s most influential grape growers.
Mark’s passion for farming and winemaking started in 1966, when he began as a grower working alongside his parents on their Rutherford farm. His love of the land, working with family, and producing incredible wines was instilled early by his father. This upbringing inspired him, in 1998, to build Neal Family Vineyards. Today, Mark works with his wife, Laura, and several of his children as he handcrafts exquisite and complex Cabernet Sauvignon from his estate-certified organic vineyards in Howell Mountain and Rutherford.
Laura Neal has joined the family business and is putting her 25+ years of experience in business development, sales, and creating national strategic relationships to good use at the winery. Laura is also a passionate keynote speaker, Ironman triathlete, and a strong supporter of women in business.
Jessica is Mark Neal’s eldest and leads the charge as the third generation working at Neal Family Vineyards. She grew up on the Neal Family Estate and Winery and has walked the rows and worked alongside her father since she was very young. Organic farming and winemaking are in her blood. By watching how hard her father and grandparents worked, she has learned a lot about what it takes to succeed in the viticulture and enology industry. After high school, she relocated to Southern California to attend Cal Poly Pomona, where she received a BS in Business Administration and Marketing Management. While in college, she worked at a small wine shop in Claremont, Packing House Wines, where she discovered a passion for examining wines from around the world. She is studying to receive her WSET Diploma and currently holds a WSET Level 3 Award in Wines. When not working at the winery, she resides on Mee Lane in Rutherford in the family home in which her grandparents raised her father, Mark. Living on the family’s first vineyard, Rutherford Dust, allows her to garden, try her hand at beekeeping, and oversee various farm animals, including Sasha, the cow. She’s also an accomplished artist; guests can see some of her drawings in the Neal Family Tasting Room.
The family dog and Mark Neal’s sidekick in the vineyards.
Meet the Extended Family
Born and raised in New Zealand, Martin discovered his passion for wines and winemaking in his late 20s. He moved from Auckland to Hawkes Bay, where he studied Viticulture and Oenology at the Eastern Institute of Technology.
Martin completed his first year as the top student and served his year-end internship at Waiheke Island’s Stonyridge Vineyard, an iconic organic red wine producer in New Zealand. At the end of his internship, he was offered the position of assistant winemaker. Martin worked at Stonyridge from 1999 through to late 2008, quickly rising through the ranks to become winemaker and general manager in 2007. Martin has a reputation for producing excellent wines, as shown by the Stonyridge Cabernet Sauvignon receiving 96 points from Wine Advocate.
Most recently, Martin was at Petroni Vineyards in Sonoma. He will work closely with Mark Neal and Tony Biaggi to create small-production, handcrafted biodynamic wines.
Consulting winemaker Anthony (Tony) Biagi is a fifth-generation Northern Californian and has worked closely with Mark Neal and his family for 20 years, first as the founding winemaker of Neal Family Vineyards (2001–2002), then as a purchaser of the organic fruit that Mark grows for both PlumpJack and Cade wineries (2003–2011) and then Hourglass Winery (2012 to present). In 2019, Mark asked Tony to consult and help Jessica Neal with operations and winemaker Martin Mackenzie with winemaking to maintain the high level of quality that is intrinsic to Neal Family Vineyards.
Chief Financial Officer
Mark is the CFO at Neal Family Vineyards and Jack Neal and Son (JNS) Vineyard Management. He’s worked closely with Mark Neal for decades and is instrumental in driving operational effectiveness and efficiency across all businesses.
Mark is an accomplished and inspirational financial leader with over several decades of experience acting as a CFO or controller in the wine industry. Before joining Neal Family Vineyards and JNS, Mark was the CFO for Copper Cane LLC and was integral in selling the Meiomi wine brand ($315M sales) to a publicly-traded company. Before that, he held controller positions at Caymus Vineyards and Heitz Wine Cellars, to name a few.
When not crunching numbers, Mark enjoys drinking wine with his beautiful girlfriend Michelle and his three adult sons. He’s a proud grandfather and likes to play volleyball, waterski and spend time on Southern California beaches.
Vice President &
General Manager at JNS
Roberto started working for Jack Neal and Son in 2011 as part of a suckering crew, and he became a crew supervisor very quickly after that. Athene, Mark’s mom, was a huge fan of Roberto because of his deep appreciation for work, and he lovingly cared for her garden and flowers around the property. Athene told Mark to keep an eye on Roberto as she saw great potential in him. Mark later made Roberto a vineyard manager and, soon after, the general manager and vice president of JNS in 2018. Roberto continues to take excellent care of his work and crews and is now Mark’s right-hand man.
We are and always will be workers. We will always have our hands on the vines.