Mark Neal — JNS Vineyard Management
By the time Mark Neal was 18 years old, he had logged 12,000 hours on the family tractor, and he knew he liked the farmer's view of the world.
In 1968, his father Jack Neal established their family business, Jack Neal and Son (JNS) Vineyard Management. "I was only nine years old when I started working in the vineyards alongside my Dad, so I feel a real sense of pride about what we have accomplished," says Mark, who learned to operate heavy farm equipment even before he could drive a car. As a young adult, Mark chose to augment his education with viticultural studies at Santa Rosa Junior College. While there, he was instrumental in the development of the school farm.
As Heitz Wine Cellars gradually expanded its vineyard properties, the Heitz family established a relationship with Jack Neal and Son in 1970. Growing together from the winery's 30 acres at the time to 425 acres today, this significant relationship has continued throughout the years and is still going strong with the second generation. Mark continues to build upon the foundations laid with his father, to keep JNS at the forefront of grape growing in Napa Valley. "In the 1980s, I proposed that we begin farming organically," he recalls. "That idea was ahead of the trend at the time, but it was completely compatible with the Heitz and May philosophies of building family businesses that are sustainable for generations to come."
As the president of JNS since 1994, Mark has combined excellent business acumen with 45-plus years of hands-on experience in the vineyards of Heitz Wine Cellars. "Mark is a wizard when it comes to Napa Valley fruit," says Winemaker David Heitz. "His intuition has developed over a long period of time and he knows exactly what to anticipate across soils, grape varieties and climate cycles. And having this long-term relationship helps us keep our consistency of style."
His innovative viticultural practices, dedication to organic farming, and up-to-the-minute technology have helped to keep Heitz Wine Cellars in the vanguard of grape growing in the Napa Valley. Today, Heitz Wine Cellar vineyards are all enrolled with California Certification of Organic Farming-CCOF, USDA Organic, Fish Friendly Farming, and Napa Green.