Meet Napa Valley’s organic wine expert in Beaver Creek for dinner and wine pairings at Splendido | VailDaily.com

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

Kim Fuller
Special to the Daily
Mark Neal is the second-generation owner of his family's winery, Neal Family Vineyards, in Napa Valley, California. His family pioneered organic grape growing in the 1980s.
Joe Dacanay | Special to the Daily

PAIRING MENU

Course 1: Beef Tartare (black garlic, sunchokes, tonnato, quail egg)

Paired with 2015 Rutherford Dust Zinfandel

Course 2: Spanish Octopus (fennel, salami, chickpea, frisee)

Paired with 2012 Rutherford Dust Petite Syrah

Course 3: New Zealand Elk (bacon, broccoli rabe, cipollini)

Paired with 2014 Napa Cabernet

Dessert & Coffee

Just as most wine has a story that goes far beyond the taste and structure of a first sip, so do the vintners who make it.

Wednesday, July 24 at 6 p.m. at Splendido at the Chateau in Beaver Creek, visitors and locals can learn about the generations of people behind winemaking and its rich heritage from vintner 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 wine pairings while guests hear from the individual who owns and operates 90% of the certified organic vineyards in Napa. The evening will offer insight and conversation with dinner at one of the valley’s premier restaurants.

Neal began working for his family’s wine business at the age of 9. By the time he was 12, Neal’s summer job was helping to build reservoirs, landscaping vineyards in the hills and removing orchards and converting them into vineyards with his father, Jack. At 19, Neal was running a crew in the family’s management business, and in 1980, he bought his first vineyard in Rutherford.

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

As Neal explained and will elaborate on during the dinner, industry terms such as “sustainable grape growing” and “sustainable wines” can be unclear, making it hard for customers to determine if chemicals were used to grow the grapes. To really know what you are buying and drinking, the first step is to educate yourself on the industry’s practices.

“As my children are starting the third generation in Napa Valley, they have to learn early how to be conscious about the soils, health of the farm workers and all our consumers,” Neal said. “My dad and I started the certified organic movement in Napa in 1984, and we have continued to do so as being the largest certified organic growers in Napa Valley. This is truly without a debate how you really pass the farm to the next generation.”

For those with a special love of cabernet sauvignon, Neal Family Vineyards is one of the few remaining wineries in Napa that intentionally bottle-ages the blend.

“We take no short cuts in processing, no fining or filter before bottling,” Neal said. “With this, natural aging of these bottlings are rewarding.”

As far as bringing his knowledge to Vail, Neal said Splendido is one of his “favorite all-time restaurants.”

“I received 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 spot on with all the wines. I am looking forward to meeting everyone who is coming and will enjoy all the conversations.”

To reserve tickets, email Eric Butler at ebutler@vinmarket.com.