Meet the Napa Valley organic wine expert in Beaver Creek for dinner and wine pairings at Splendido


Mark Neal is the second generation owner of the family winery, Neal Family Vineyards, in Napa Valley, California. His family pioneered organic viticulture in the 1980s.
Joe Dacanay | Daily Special

Just as most wines have a history that goes far beyond the taste and structure of a first sip, so do the winemakers who craft it.

Wednesday, July 24 at 6 p.m. at the Splendido at Beaver Creek Castle, visitors and locals can learn about the generations of people behind winemaking and the rich heritage of winemaker Mark Neal. Neal is the Second Generation Vineyard Manager for Neal Family Vineyards in Napa Valley, California. The restaurant will serve a four-course meal with food and wine pairings while patrons hear about the person who owns and operates 90% of Napa’s certified organic wineries. The evening will offer insight and conversation with dinner at one of the best restaurants in the valley.

Neal started working for his family’s wine business at the age of 9. At the age of 12, Neal’s summer job was to build reservoirs, develop vineyards in the hills, and cut down orchards and convert them to vineyards with his father, Jack. At 19, Neal was leading a team in the family-run business and in 1980 he bought his first vineyard in Rutherford.

“We have always grown grapes on our properties organically,” said Neal. “I decided in 1984 to start certifying our vineyards. … When I finished building my winery in 2001 at Howell Mountain, it didn’t take long to certify it as an organic production facility as well.

As Neal explained and will explain over the dinner, industry terms such as “sustainable grape growing” and “sustainable wines” may not be clear, making it difficult for customers to determine if chemicals were used to grow the grapes. The first step in really knowing what you are buying and drinking is educating yourself on industry practices.

“As my kids start the third generation in Napa Valley, they need to learn early on about being aware of the soils, the health of farm workers and all of our consumers,” Neal said. “My father and I started the certified organic movement in Napa in 1984, and we have continued to do so as the largest certified organic growers in Napa Valley. It’s really no debate about how you really pass the farm on to the next generation. ”

For those who particularly enjoy Cabernet Sauvignon, Neal Family Vineyards is one of the few wineries in Napa to intentionally age the blend in the bottle.

“We don’t take any shortcuts in processing, fining or filtering before bottling,” Neal said. “With that, the natural aging of these traffic jams is gratifying.”

When it comes to bringing his knowledge to Vail, Neal said Splendido was one of his “all-time favorite restaurants”.

“I got the menu with the pairings last week and gave them a thumbs up,” Neal said. “Usually I have suggestions with my wines, however, they are perfect with any wine. I look forward to meeting everyone who comes and will enjoy any conversation.

To book tickets, email Eric Butler at [email protected].

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