Lucy Neely on the intersection of land stewardship and the wine business

by Linda Hubbard Gulker on September 18, 2019

Of the 230 acres owned by the Neely family, which extend from the Portola Valley floor up 1,700 feet to just below Windy Hill, only 7% is planted in grapes. That’s just fine with Lucy Neely who heads marketing for Neely Wine.

“Since I moved back and got involved with the winery, I’ve thought a lot about how viticulture fits into the stewardship of the land,” she said. “What it means to be a steward of an open space is very central to me. We’re working very hard to find the sweet spot between the two.”

Lucy’s parents bought the property in 1994. “Guess it’s a bit hereditary,” said Lucy. “My parents value open space and agriculture. Before moving here they were partners in a blueberry farm in Arkansas.”

The land has deep roots in agriculture. In the early 20th century, there was a flax farm run by the Connolly’s who constructed a dam for irrigation. When the Melchor family owned the land in 1980s, they asked the Jim and Bob Varner to plant Chardonnay and Gewurztraminer. “My father likes Pinto Noir, so the lower half was eventually planted with that grape.” [Note: Jim and Bob are no longer involved, although they are still making wine under their own label.]

The day we visited, Lucy was eager to point to the newest vineyard, planted with Gruner Velltiner, an white grape rarely planted outside of its native Austria. There was also the beautiful new building she referred to as “the barn,” where she hopes community tastings will one day be held.

“When I first moved back here, I wasn’t sure I wanted to stay,” said Lucy. “But I’ve always been  interested in agriculture, and my work has been related to food.

“Now here I am in the wine business. Not only am I thrilled to be involved, I also very grateful.”

Neely Wines are available at Roberts and Bianchini’s. There’s also a wine club that gives members special pricing and events at the winery.

Photo by Linda Hubbard (c) 2019

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