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Woman in Wine - Meet Neely Ashley

Woman in Wine - Meet Neely Ashley

Get To Know In Good Taste’s Woman in Wine

To celebrate Women’s History Month, In Good Taste would like to give a huge shoutout to our very own Neely Ashley. Women in Wine Day is March 25th, and Neely is the perfect wine-loving woman to feature on this holiday. Neely is one of our winemakers, and she’s responsible for many of the delicious wines that we offer here at In Good Taste. We may be biased, but we think Neely is pretty spectacular — not only at her job but as a person too!

Women in Wine Day is March 25

Neely has been all over the world working with wine. From Italy and New Zealand, to Australia and Oregon, she has touched, tasted, and taken copious notes on the wines of the world. Since graduating with a B.S. in Wine and Viticulture with a concentration in Enology from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo in 2016, Neely's been busy mastering her craft. She has worked in the vineyards, labs, and cellars for numerous celebrated winemakers. Now, Neely works side-by-side as assistant winemaker to Matt Smith at In Good Taste HQ in Sonoma County.

We wanted some insight on what it’s like being a woman winemaker, so we picked Neely’s brain to get some insight and wisdom on the wine world

Neely Ashley learned her craft in wineries and vineyards around the world

First, for those studying for a career in wine or looking to grow their career in the industry, are there any organizations or resources they can rely on for information and support? 

Neely’s advice? “Get ready to get your hands dirty and your feet wet.  As the industry continues to grow, there are countless educational opportunities, but in my experience, no book compares to practical experience. The industry is not as seen on TV. Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of lovely dinners, tastings, and gorgeous walks through the vineyards, but for me, the majority of my time is spent in the cellar; cold, wet, and running on little sleep and copious amounts of coffee. There are plenty of reasons I continue to be drawn back to this industry, but first and foremost, it's because of the community it creates. I’ve been fortunate enough to work throughout the world, and the humans I’ve met along the way continue to inspire me. If you are out there considering a career in the wine industry, find a harvest internship and jump in with both feet and an extra pair of socks. Trust me; you’ll need them.”

Hands on Experience is the best way to learn the world of wine

If Neely says, “Trust me,” you know it’s got to be good advice!

Wine is an interesting and complex field, which led us to ask what first interested Neely in a career in wine. Were there any pivotal moments or events that encouraged her to pursue a career in wine, or specifically In Good Taste

“From an early age, I had a clear strength in my math and science courses, which led my parents to encourage me down that path. But it wasn’t until my senior year in high school that I participated in an internship at a local lab that I knew I needed to reconsider my career trajectory. While I loved the work, the idea of working indoors did not appeal. So, at the age of 17, I sat my parents down and told them I was off to study enology (the science of winemaking). I’ll never forget their facial expressions.It took them a while to get used to the idea that their only daughter planned on becoming a winemaker, but I think we can all agree that I made the right decision. It's been a funny path so far, but I am grateful for where it has led me thus far, and I can’t wait to see what's next.”

Needless to say, we’re so glad that Neely decided to take that path!

In the world of wine, we tend to separate the Old World (steeped in traditions and rules) from the New World (experimentation and renewal). We wanted to know which of these “worlds” Neely feels most connected to when making or enjoying wine.

To this question, Neely shared, “To create tradition and rules, boundaries must be pushed, experimentation is required, and curious exploration has to be allowed. While the old world may appear rigid in its ways, I find there are still plenty of avenues being explored with each new generation. While those changes and rebellions may not be easily visible, look closer because there is plenty of progress afoot.” She continued, “Now, back to the question, I would consider myself modern in the sense that I believe exploration is important, but at the same time do not forget all those that came before us. There is still plenty for all of us to learn.” 

It’s clear Neely appreciates both worlds, and we think that’s awesome! As a winemaker in the industry, Neely has a pretty good pulse on the industry as a whole, so we picked her brain to see if she noticed any big game changers in the industry lately — or any that she knows of on the horizon. And if so, how does she feels about them?

Not surprisingly, she has some great insight. “It's great to see many in the US wine industry taking a more wholesome view of the winemaking process and stepping out into the vineyard. Winemaking in Europe tends to be integrated, from vineyard to sales, in the US, it’s traditionally been more segmented. But it looks like things might be changing. It's refreshing to read and speak with winemakers who have just as much stake in the lifecycle of the vineyard as they do with the outcome in the bottle. It's time for all of us to stand up, walk outside, and physically observe the impact that winemaking has on the planet and our communities, and make sure we are doing all we can to be a positive influence in these beautiful places we call home. While I continue to be encouraged by the progress so many are making, it is time for all of us to come together and do more.” 

With so much world travel under her belt and such an impressive resume, Neely has obviously seen and experienced her fair share of interesting things in her winemaking experience. But, we wanted to know what the most memorable moment in her career has been — so we asked.

“How do I pick one?” she replied. “Would you like to hear about how we unplugged a heat exchange with frozen must? Or the time I hauled a 6” insulated line up three industrial flights of stairs? I promise it's a lot harder than it sounds. Or how about the time I managed smoke-tainted trials, in not one, but two hemispheres in a single year? I could go on and on about all the fantastic harvest meals I’ve had, and I haven't even worked a harvest in France yet. How about any of the 16-plus hour shifts that typically result in me saying something embarrassing? But as long as a cold beer is in my hand by the end of the night, all is right with the world.” 

“But the absolute best part of my career has always been the spectacular humans it has brought into my life. I have Kiwi and Aussie mates who are always yanking my chain. The French blokes, who are relentlessly correcting my French. Thank you. There’s my South African best buddy, who loves me for who I am. You know who you are, and I love you too! The Italians? They make me miss Rome more than I thought possible. There’s connecting with my coworkers from Mexico over our love of tacos. Then there’s time I’ve spent with my British mate enjoying sunny days at the beach and winding drives through the countryside. And my American comrades, they remind me that America is weird and still has plenty of growing to do but to be proud of where you come from. How could I ever just pick one?” 

That’s a fair question. So we’ll have to hear the rest of those stories another time — over a bottle of wine, of course. 

Although there are many positive moments in the wine industry, it doesn’t come without its challenges. With this in mind, we asked Neely what the biggest challenge the wine industry currently faces.

Poignantly, Neely said, “Climate change and labor shortages are two big issues in the wine industry. Making wine is by no means a cheap and hapless venture. It takes years of study and hefty capital to get an operation up and running.”

Big Challenges the Wine Industry is Facing

Climate Change
Labor Shortages
Money
Challenges in the Wine Industry

Every winemaker has their own signature touch that is unmistakably “them.” So, what is unmistakably Neely? How would she describe her approach to winemaking? Is there one characteristic or note — her fingerprint — that she brings to all of her wines?

Neely’s answer is simple, “I focus on food first and food-friendly wines that are linear, balanced, acid driven and clean.”

Neely Ashley's focus in winemaking is on food-friendly, acid-driven wines

So, if you’re looking for a wine that will complement your next dish, look no further than Neely’s very own creations. She’s got the perfect pairing!

We would love to see more women in wine in the future, but breaking into the industry can seem daunting. What better way to get advice than to ask a woman who has done it before. We asked Neely what one piece of advice is that she would give to other women looking to make a career in wine.

“Work hard and get creative. There’s nothing we can't do! Thus far in my career, I have primarily worked with men, and while I am not as physically strong as most of them, that never stopped me from getting the job done. I only have two arms, but I also have my legs, head, and neck, and I can regularly be found utilizing everything I’ve got — even if it looks a little silly.” 

Neely Ashley advice for women in the wine industry

After seeing her in action, we can confirm — Neely can do anything she sets her mind to!

As we celebrate Neely and all of the other women in wine, we can’t think of a better way to do it than with a glass of delicious wine that represents their hard work? To truly get a flavor for Neely’s style and experience her talent and dedication yourself, browse through our collections at In Good Taste and pick one out that catches your eye. Cheers to all of the women winemakers out there!

Summer Picks

Our Favorites

Warm, sunny days require wines that are crisp and oh-so refreshing. With two delicious rosés and a delightful Sauvignon Blanc, our Summer Picks are the perfect addition to your sunshine-filled adventures.

$61.97

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California Wine Mixer Top 3

Our Favorites

Californian wine is a state of mind. The Cabernet Sauvignon, Rosé, and Red Wine from our California Wine Mixer bundle can transport your state of mind (and palate) all the way to The Golden State.

$77.97

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International Whites

Our Favorites

Experience a world-class wine tour for your tastebuds from the comfort of home. This bundle features incredible selections from France and Italy that will have you ready to grab your passport and hop a plane.

$67.97

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Vine Voyage Top 3

Our Favorites

The Vine Voyage bundle will remind you why France and Italy are two of the most well-known, wine-producing countries in the world. Take your senses to the European countryside with Montepulciano, Rosé of Sangiovese, and Nerello Cappuccio.

$58.97

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Light Reds

Our Favorites

Like the infectious laugh of a best friend, these wines will warm your soul and lighten your mood. Our Light Reds bundle with a Grenache, Coteaux Borguignons AOC, and Pinot Noir are sure to be your new wine besties!

$79.97

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Big Reds

Our Favorites

Big. Bold. Unapologetic. The rich, unmistakable flavors of the Cabernet Sauvignon, Barbera, and Bordeaux Rouge in our Big Reds collection are perfect for the unwavering palate that demands something more.

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Rosé of Sangiovese

Andiamo

Sangiovese can be found in both the Chianti and Montalcino regions of Tuscany (it all sounds so romantic, right?) and is known for producing classic medium-bodied wines. Rosé wine is actually made from red grapes, and this is where the Rosé of Sangiovese comes to play. Crisp, fruit-forward, and easy-to-drink, it's everything you want in your bottle of Rosé and more.

$19.99

Sauvignon Blanc

La Pluma

We couldn't have rosé and Pinot Grigio at the La Pluma party without inviting its ring leader, Sauvignon Blanc. If Pinot Grigio is the dry, acidic friend of the group and rosé is the always highly affable one, Sauvignon Blanc exists between the two to create true Zen. An interesting and addictive blend of grapefruits and herbs set this white wine apart and makes it incredibly difficult to resist, especially when the temperature is high and your desire for refreshment is higher. La Pluma Sauvignon Blanc is the perfect poolside or beach companion; just be sure to bring a few bottles because your friends will definitely want to partake, and we don't blame them!

$23.99

Barbera

Wild Child

The perfect pizza wine. Barbera is a simple wine that’s not only easy for winemakers to make, but easier to drink. It’s low in alcohol and an Italian red wine we implore you try chilled because it’s truly *chef’s kiss*. Classic Barberas are fruity, medium bodied and offer the perfect hint of tartness. It’s also the best of both worlds in terms of light and heavy red wines. Let’s say you’re having a friend over who always prefers a cab, but you’re more of a Pinot Noir kinda gal. Order a pizza and open the Barbera for a perfect middle ground kind of evening. After all, the combo of good red wine and pizza is the great equalizer.

Montepulciano

Andiamo

Big, bold, and full of flavor—exactly what you’d expect an Italian wine to be! This classic Italian grape produces some of Italy’s most straightforward red wines and is often used as a blending grape. Not here, though. We let Montepulciano do the heavy lifting as a heavy red wine and shine on its own. If you enjoy the smell of leather bound books, nibbling on dried fruit, and complementary notes of bitter, dark chocolate and sweet plums, you will love this Italian wine. No need to pair it with any certain dish—Montepulciano tastes great with all the Italian classics.

$20.99

Cabernet Sauvignon

Unprecedented

If Pinot Noir is the light and juicy queen of reds, Cabernet Sauvignon is her bolder, heavier, meatier sister. Often referred to as just “cab,” it’s the wine of France’s Bordeaux and California’s Napa Valley. There’s nothing subtle about Cabernet Sauvignon—high in alcohol, full-bodied and robust, you can usually find this red served with a ribeye, New York Strip, or filet mignon (re: carnivores love cab). Classic cabs usually offer tasting notes of chocolate, coffee, and darker fruits like prunes and plums. The Unprecedented Cabernet Sauvignon is as classic as they come, and we highly recommend letting the bottle sit and mellow until your next red meat and potatoes dinner!

$34.99

Rosé

La Pluma

While it's the unofficial official wine of summer and warm weather situations, La Pluma's Rosé is one you can drink year-round, no matter the occasion. All rosé wine is derived from red grapes, and the result exceeds expectations in terms of highly-sippable, easy-drinking wine. This La Pluma Rosé is as light as its feathery namesake and is best served extremely chilled for an extremely chill afternoon of nothing but vibes. And maybe a few snacks.

$17.99

Pinot Grigio

La Pluma

If you’re looking for more zest in your life, a bottle of Pinot Grigio can provide that. We included a classic Pinot Grigio in the La Pluma collection because we’re all about light and easy here, which is exactly what this grape from Italy is. It has that dry sense of humor that seems so effortless with a punchy acidity to keep you on your toes, all while offering notes of lemon, limes, green apples, and honeysuckle. Long story short; when it’s been a heavy day and your soul is seeking light things only, you’ll be happy to have this bottle on hand.

$19.99

Pinot Noir

Unprecedented

We couldn’t create the In Good Taste Unprecedented collection without the Golden Retriever of wines: Pinot Noir. Pinot is likable, it’s easy, and its natural state of being is simply charming. It’s an incredibly easy red wine to love, which is why so many people do. The grape itself is from the Burgundy region of France, but has made its way to California, Oregon, Australia, Italy, Argentina, and Germany since. Our Pinot Noir has no surprise twists—it’s a classic light red with just the right amount of sweetness to keep you coming back for another glass (or two).

$25.99

Coteaux Bourguignons

Passport

The Burgundy region of France is home to their best Pinot Noirs, but we took the grapes into our own hands to create something extra special with our Coteaux Bourguignons. It’s a blend of Pinot Noir and Gamay, which results in a French red that’s light in body but full in flavor. The ripest blueberries and freshest herbs can be easily detected in this French burgundy blend. May we suggest pairing it with some creamy brie and freshly baked bread? It’s a oui-ning combo.

$25.99

Nerello Cappuccio

Wild Child

This is not your average Italian red. Nerello Cappuccio is a dark-skinned grape variety from Sicily, the Mount Etna region to be exact (yes, the volcano). Although its color is vibrant, you might be surprised to know that it’s a much softer red than it looks to be. Our Nerello Cappuccio is cherry-forward, with other tasting notes of vanilla, light coffee (like your favorite breakfast blend), and minerals. The delicate tannins in this Sicilian wine will surprise and delight you and tastes exceptionally good paired with margherita pizza or arancini balls (drool).

$17.99

Chardonnay

Unprecedented

Ah, Chardonnay. This full-bodied and diverse wine is polarizing in its very nature: from an oak barrel-aged buttery, oaky, rich white wine, to a stainless steel-aged, mineral-driven neutral wine. Our classic Unprecedented California Chardonnay is the former, and will surely become a new favorite. Its buttery vanilla nature pairs extremely well with like-minded buttery, creamy foods such as brie cheese, lobster, crab cakes, crème brûlée, squash, corn, and mushrooms.

$33.00

Verdicchio

Andiamo

A little sweet. A little tart. A little salty? You truly get it all with this white Italian wine. If you're into that biting acidity, Verdicchio will probably be high on your list of most-loved wines from our Andiamo collection. Citrus fruits like mandarin, lemon, and grapefruit are at the forefront, but what really sets this Italian wine apart is its distinct notes of almond. While our Verdicchio can start out tasting a bit tart, the more you sip, the smoother it becomes. In fact, we suggest approaching it as an aperitif (Italian for an alcoholic drink sipped before a meal to stimulate the appetite) to experience its full effect.

$23.99

Red Wine

Unprecedented

We’d love to introduce you to our old friend: Unprecedented Red Wine. She’s a 2019 blend that has been with us through it all and grown to be one of our more popular wines. She’s a mix of all the best Italian grapes: Barbera, Sangiovese, and Tempranillo with a splash of Mourvèdre and a few others. They’re all hanging out, having one big, juicy, delicious party! Tasting notes include a touch of spice, a hint of leather, and some of the best juicy fruits, including blackberries. She truly gets along with just about everybody!

$24.99

Côtes du Rhône White

Passport

This was one of our first French wines to join the Passport collection and one sip will explain why. Some background on the Rhône Valley in France: While this region is known for its dark, juicy reds, a very small amount of special white wines are made in the Rhône Valley. Our Côtes du Rhône is packed with French-perfected, floral flavor and Old-World charm. Its natural tang paired with the weighty Marsanne grape and aromatic Roussanne grape results in a crisp, savory sip that’ll transport you to a sunbathing chair by the Rhône itself.

$23.99

Bordeaux Rouge

Passport

When you picture medieval folk sitting around a feast with goblets of wine, chances are they were drinking Bordeaux. This wine has been made in France since forever and is arguably the most classic French wine out there. Bordeaux is known for its full body, smoky notes, and rich, oaky taste. If you love cabs, chances are you will adore Bordeaux. For our Passport wines, we had to include this classic French red for you to sip and enjoy to your heart’s content. Best savored over a rich meal like lamb ragu, ratatouille, or BBQ.

$21.99

Ventoux Rosé

Passport

You probably know that the Tour de France is held on Ventoux Mountain in France, but did you know that the same area is known for its high-altitude rosé? This is the kind of quintessential French rosé that you don’t need to spin your wheels over—it’s simply delicious, crisp, and perfect for warm weather. Despite its delicate, pale pink color, each sip is lush with flavor, from tropical passionfruit and zesty citrus to refreshing melon. This has the potential to be your new summer go-to, so we’d suggest stocking up.

$21.99

Tempranillo

Wild Child

Say “¡Hola!” to Spain’s main grape: Tempranillo. This red grape put Rioja wine on the map and is un vino tinto classico. It’s best compared to a classic cab, but with a bit more unique magic that’s hard to put your finger on, which is why it’s a part of our Wild Child line. This medium- to full-bodied wine with its relatively higher tannins usually offers complex notes of cherry, fig, cedar, tobacco, and dill. This is the type of red wine you want to buy and pour for a Latin-infused meal; think carne asada, tacos al carbon, or just perfectly cooked steak fajita meat.

$27.99

Grenache

La Pluma

We knew the only red in the La Pluma collection had to be exceptionally good and exceptionally light. That’s why including a Grenache was a no-brainer. If smooth, fruit-forward, light-bodied reds appeal to your tastebuds, this could be your new favorite. The grape itself is tricky; depending on the climate of where its grown, Grenache wines could be light, dense, or somewhere in the middle. La Pluma’s version has all the airiness and flavor notes we wanted in our Grenache, which is how we know you’ll love it. Get the most of this red by pairing it with roasted meats, spice-heavy vegetables, and Mexican-inspired dishes with lots of cumin.

$27.99

Barbera

Andiamo

We really try not to play favorites at In Good Taste, but there is just something about an Italian Barbera that hits different in the best way. Barberas are the perfect wine for pizza night; they're low in alcohol, and medium-bodied but taste super light, and their berry and plum flavors pair incredibly well with savory tomato sauce and cheese! Another fun thing about Barberas? They actually taste great when chilled, which is not something we're in the habit of suggesting for our red wines. Our Italian Barbera lies somewhere between the body of a cab and a pinot and is the ideal choice for a "ladies who lunch" kind of afternoon.

$21.99

Vermentino

Wild Child

We couldn't not have a weird white in the mix, right?! The Vermentino grape is native along the coast of Italy on the island of Sardinia (yeah, like the fish). Because of its origin, this grape offers a salty, crisp flavor that's incredibly easy to drink and enjoy. We say it's "weird" only because it's not widely known by name, but chances are you've probably had it before if you've ever ordered white wine in an Italian restaurant. If you love peaches and lemons and get a kick out of anything that reminds you of the sea, our Vermentino is the perfect Italian white to experience on a sunny day outside.

$23.99

Viognier

Unprecedented

For the Chardonnay lovers who are looking to dig a bit deeper in the world of bold whites, a Viognier (pronounced vee-own-yay) could be your next big adventure. Viogniers tend to have more range; while they can be creamy with hints of vanilla like their Chardonnay counterpart, they also offer lighter, fruitier flavors like tangerine, mango, and honeysuckle. It’s still a more full-bodied white wine, but unlike Chardonnay, it’s softer on acidity and more perfumed. Spend an afternoon with a glass of Viognier amongst the flowers and it’ll all make sense.

$24.99

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