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Meet the Tierra Roja Vineyard Team

LINDA NEAL, Owner

Meet Linda Neal, owner of the Tierra Roja Vineyard and CEO of Obsession Wine Company, maker of the Tierra Roja Cabernet Sauvignon wine. 

After 20 years as a Vineyard Manager and CFO of M & L Vineyard Management, Linda has stepped away from managing vineyards for others and is concentrating full time on her own vineyards and wine.

“I am so excited to be in my own vineyard everyday.  I am doing as much of the work myself as I can.  When the work is too hefty, Michael sends a fantastic team from M&L to help me.  Even with their help, I have the chance to look at every pruning cut and baby every vine.  Taking care of four and a half acres is so different from several hundred.”

Her desire to become a farmer began in High School.  After growing up in Southern California, she moved to the central Napa Valley town of Oakville. 


Here is Linda as "Miss January" for the Napa Valley Grapegrowers' "Women in Winegrowing" calendar.

 

LISTEN TO RADIO INTERVIEW WITH LINDA NEAL

“In high school I became involved with the Future Farmers of America (FFA).  I came to realize that agriculture was the only essential industry and I wanted to be a part of that.”  Linda worked her way up by earning degrees in Business and Ag Business and holding jobs in the sales of Ag products.

She started working in the Napa Valley in 1983 while representing the French Company, Rhone Poulenc.  She moved to Napa Valley after marrying Michael Neal and bought the Tierra Roja property in 1987.  “Michael and I were newlyweds and it was tough.  We put everything we had into the property and the business.  It wasn’t a question of if we were having pasta for dinner, but whether we could afford to put cheese on top.”

“We did not even consider having a winery back then, we both just loved the farming.  Through hard work, the vineyard management business became a great success.  Now, I am so thrilled to bring all our history and the history of this property together into a wonderful wine, to be shared with all who want a taste of the real vineyard life.”

As Linda launches this new venture, she continues to be involved with the community and FFA through the local St. Helena High Ag Boosters, Oakville Winegrowers, Napa Valley Grape Growers, Farm Bureau and Farm Service Agency. 

Linda also serves on the Vine Village Celebration Committee. Vine Village, Inc. is a non-profit program in Napa for people with developmental disabilities, and the Celebration is their major annual fundraiser.


Photo by Charles O’Rear  in his book “Napa Valley: The Land, the Wine, the People”, pages 54 and 227

THE WINEMAKERS

David and Katharine DeSante are truly a wonderful winemaking team.  I just fell in love with them and their passion for wine from the beginning.  I first met them through Tom Gamble while managing the Gamble vineyard.  David was Tom’s winemaker for the Origin Sauvignon Blanc (now known as Source).  Nothing was ever left to chance with David.  He carefully planned and executed every detail of the winemaking process.  It was immediately evident when talking with David that he not only had the knowledge and experience to make great wine, but also listened and respected the needs and realities of the vineyard.  I was especially impressed with the way he could take grapes from the same vineyard and create two or more completely different styles of wine.  Katharine works with David in the winery, but also manages the business end of wine.  Her direction on everything from budgeting to where to store the wine has been essential to getting me off the ground.  I appreciate them and can’t imagine this process without them.  Learn more about them and their own wines by visiting their website, desantewines.com.


"David DeSante is the winemaker and he has let the red earth speak. " - Scott Tracy Read Scott Tracy's Complete Review

VINEYARD MANAGEMENT

I love all aspects of working in the vineyard, from pruning to harvest.  But I could never do it alone. 

Thanks to the help of Rubio Farming, we are able to tend the vines in a timely manner.  Ruben Rubio, was an employee when I had my own vineyard management company, now he has his own. He and his team are extremely skilled in caring for the vines, hardworking and I am so grateful for his help.

 

Vintrust

The folks at Vintrust are an integral part of Tierra Roja's success.  They provide excellent temperature controlled storage for the wine, and handle all the preparations and shipping to get the product to you.  Even more importantly, they are wonderful people with whom I really enjoy the privilege of working. 

Vintrust is a unique company that provides a wide variety of services to the wine industry.  They store, package and ship all your Tierra Roja wine.  Even more importantly, they take care of me and the wine with true thoughtfulness and attention to every detail.



Shown in this picture: Gary Cisneros, Pat Chapman, Mayra Mejia, Deanna Prey, Steve Gant, Irma Avina, Greg Smith, Krissy Miller and Donniell Butler.

LABEL DESIGN

Clare Carver is the artist responsible for the label and other artwork.  I first met Clare when she was recommended by Jennifer Lamb.  Jennifer thought that the efforts of my first design team looked “like a Tequila label”.  I knew that Clare was the one to help me when I learned of her appreciation of plows and her recent purchase of a draft horse.  Clare has shown unending patience with my stubbornness coupled with my lack of creativity.  I am truly grateful and love the way that she brought the elements together that convey the hard work of the vineyard transitioning into an elegant wine.

THE WEBSITE

Nancy Kerson is my web designer and is going to try to bring me into this century.  It is true, I am not very internet savvy.  I first met Nancy when her husband Mike (Video Mike) spent a whole day doing a video of Chris Tanner and me for our audition for The Amazing Race Reality TV show.  We were not called, but the video was great.  I was so touched by the way these two live their lives for others, the people and animals they rescue through Vine Village and Mustangs4Us.  They are the kind of people I want to have in my life.