A DEVOTED GROWER: Linda Neal, Tierra Roja Vineyard
A devoted grower and vineyard manager, Linda Neal purchased the Tierra Roja property in 1987. She adopted the name given by the vineyard crew, which translates to “Red Earth,” stemming from the vibrant red, volcanic soil comprising the vineyard.
“If I have the opportunity to share one message, it will be my love of Oakville, and gratitude for the land and people that inspire us to excellence,” expressed Owner of Tierra Roja Vineyard and CEO of Obsession Wine Company, Linda Neal. “A rising tide floats all boats’ is the phrase that I believe embodies the spirit shared by Robert Mondavi. Through his vineyard and winemaking research, and sharing the results, he was constantly raising the bar for all of us. Much later, when I decided to launch my own wine label Ren Harris, of Paradigm Winery, sent my promotional material to his entire mailing list,” said Neal. “Yet another example of the ‘helping one another, striving together spirit’ that makes me proud to be a member of the Oakville Winegrower community.”
After 20 years as a vineyard manager, Neal decided to step away from managing vineyards for others to concentrate on her 7.5 acres in Oakville and to produce wine, starting with the 2003 vintage. “As a grower, you never get to meet the people who enjoy the fruits of your labor. My heart lies in the vineyard, but being able to add to that experience, by producing a small amount of wine, has been very fulfilling. The element of connecting to the consumer is rich, and I have made some wonderful friends,” explained Neal.
Working alongside Ruben Rubio, and the Rubio Vineyard Management team, and partnering with the winemaking team of Jeff Ames and Tor Kenward, Linda feels that Tierra Roja Wine is a reflection of their shared love of the earth. Producing just 250 cases of Cabernet Sauvignon, the boutique wine label embodies the region’s authenticity with elegance and structure.
Linda has long been involved in our community, participating in several organizations, including helping to establish the Ag Program at St. Helena High School, and serving as Napa’s representative to the USDA Farm Service Agency. Recently, Linda returned from Morocco, where she was serving as a volunteer in the U.S. Peace Corps from 2018 through the COVID evacuations. Though leaving her beloved Tierra Roja was not easy, the community that she so proudly speaks of stepped in to make sure her vineyard and wines continued to thrive. “Serving in Morocco was an amazing experience, but nothing can compare with returning to Oakville and the red earth.”
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Article By: Valerie Owens // Photos By: Will Bucquoy