Mother Nature’s Four Personalities : Winter Vintage ‘23

Recent Weather and the Impact on Farming the Vineyards

2023 has been a rainy and cool season so far which has pushed bud break closer to April 1st, more of the historical norm in Napa Valley. Recent years have included drought conditions and warmer winters, resulting in earlier bud break and therefore an earlier harvest. This year at our Howell Mountain Estate property, we’ve received over 38 inches of rain to date and a couple of occasional snow events. This may seem surprising however it is normal up here on the mountain. 

While snow in the vineyard is a beautiful scene, one event with an accumulation of 12 inches resulted in the loss and damage of more than 50 trees on the property, including 200-year-old oaks, which simply can’t be replaced. The family has been busy with the clean-up efforts which will continue for some time. This gives us something to put our energy into as we await bud break and the next steps in farming. 

Mark Neal with one of the many trees uprooted during the 2023 winter storm.

As Mark Neal has always said, “There’s no recipe for Mother Nature and you can’t make a farming plan and expect to stick to it. Farmers must have agility in the vineyard, staying on the balls of their feet, and adapting to changes as they happen. Agility will equate to quality in the farming, fruit and resulting wines. Mother Nature does not have recipe cards or a map.” 

Starting his 57 years of tending the vines, we are so fortunate to have Mark’s experience and agility in the vineyards to guide our efforts in producing wines (except for two years 2000 and 2020) that deliver no matter how many curveballs Mother Nature throws at us throughout each growing season!

Jackson, the third generation of Neal Family, helping clear the vineyards earlier this winter.

The Neal Family Vineyards in Napa Valley have always been known as prestigious, organically farmed vineyards. And now, going back to their beginnings over 50 years ago, they’ve shown the world what can be accomplished through mindful, organic farming methods and practices. Recently named the first Regenerative Organic Certified® vineyard in Napa Valley, the Neal Family Vineyard Estates becomes one of only five Regenerative Organic Certified® vineyard estates in the world as recognized by the Regenerative Organic Alliance.

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