Neil was born and raised in the great city of Bristol, England. Never a great student or a good fit for the rigid school system, at sixteen years of age he fled school and began working in restaurant kitchens. Whilst working in the kitchen he attended culinary school, more of a trade school than the great culinary institutes that we know today, but a solid foundation. Learning a trade, earning money and taking full advantage of the many distractions that Bristol had to offer a young and curious fellow. Fine times indeed. Certainly it was at this time that fine wine first crossed Neil’s radar, in the form of Muscadet.
In 1984 it was time to take a break from the Bristol life and Neil embarked on a trip to visit his sister Jackie who was living in Santa Barbara, California - talk about culture shock! It did not take long for him to find his way into the kitchen of the restaurant that Jackie managed, much more comfortable there than on a beach. That restaurant was the Paradise Café. It was here, whilst working the Oak grill, that he met Marci the salad girl. Neil and Marci have been married since 1989.
In 1990 after traveling a bit and owning a catering company in Cayucos California with Jackie and Marci, he found himself living in the north county of San Luis Obisbo, Templeton California. Ironically Neil and Marci were at this time living in the York mountain Appellation, which would be the source of the fruit and the beginning of Lone Madrone. Still working in restaurants Neil's interest in wine had grown. Tiring of the grueling restaurant life and starting a family he decided to investigate the wine making world in some depth, the intent was to harvest for one year. The journey began with Ken Volk at Wild Horse for the harvest of 1991, he was hooked completely and immediately. On January 2nd 1992 Neil began working with John Munch at Adelaida Cellars. This time with John was perhaps the most impactful time for Neil, learning so much from John and having SO much fun doing it, pushing the boundaries whereever they were found. It was during this time and with John’s encouragement that Neil purchased the first fruit from the Carver Vineyard in the York Mountain AVA, 1996, the first Lone Madrone wine, and we are still making that wine today.
It was whilst working with John that Neil met Robert Haas and the Perrin Brothers, Jean Pierre and Francois, who were at that time planting what is now Tablas Creek Vineyard. Neil was there the day that the first vine went in the ground at Tablas Creek.
It was 1997 when Neil, Marci, and their two young boys Jordan 7 and Austin 3 moved to France so that Neil could work for the Perrin family at their fabled Chateau De Beaucastel estate for one year, what a year! They returned in 1998 and Neil took the position that he still holds today as winemaker and vineyard manager at the Tablas Creek Estate.
Along the way Neil has become a great advocate and promoter of the Paso Robles AVA. Being voted by his peers as winemaker of the year in 2013 and wine industry person of the year in 2019. Both of these peer voted awards mean a lot to Neil.
It was during this exiting time that both Bristols Cider 1994 and Lone Madrone 1996 were founded by the family.
So in reality Neil has been doing this wine making thing whilst on holiday in California.
THE ADVENTURE CONTINUES!!