'Passionate' man: Winemaker Neumeister dies in Earlysville crash

news-neumeister-honeymoonDan Neumeister, here in Melk, Austria, attended a motorcycle race in the Czech Republic on his honeymoon this summer.

On what appeared to be a glorious day during grape harvest time, winemaker Dan Neumeister climbed aboard his beloved Suzuki TL 1000R motorcycle after meeting his bride for lunch. The weather was clear, and the skies were bright on October 4, but the Crozet resident was about to encounter William T. Thompson of Ruckersville.

Police say that a drunk Thompson lost control of his Ford Taurus on the two-lane road, and swerved into Neumeister, before rolling the Taurus over and over. Thompson, age 58, was airlifted to UVA Medical Center and has been charged with driving under the influence–- and now faces a manslaughter charge, say police. Around 2pm, Daniel Mark Neumeister, 31, died at the scene.

Neumeister was the award-winning winemaker for Sugarleaf Vineyards in North Garden, and his 2008 Petit Manseng was served at the White House at the 2010 Governor's Ball.

"Everybody would use the word 'passionate' to describe him," says Sarah Gorman at Cardinal Point Vineyard and Winery. "Dan didn't have formal oenology training. He was an active learner who took the time to learn the chemistry and the details to make fine wine."

"Passionate," echoes Sugarleaf owner Lauren Bias. "Humble, dedicated, enthusiastic."

Sugarleaf hired Neumeister in 2002 to tend its just-planted vineyard. "He fell in love with the craft," says Bias. "It was natural he grew into our lead winemaker."

Neumeister also was assistant winemaker at White Hall Vineyards, and head winemaker Mike Panczak was his mentor and friend for eight years.

"Dan wanted to get into the wine business so much, he kept calling and calling," remembers Panczak, who says the phone calls became something of a joke–- but also showed "his intensity."

Panczak cites Neumeister's attention to detail and exactitude in winemaking. "You have to be," he says, "and you have to be smart and physically tough." He gave Neumeister more and more responsibility, and Neumeister became such a skilled winemaker that his Sugarleaf wines won national awards. Neumeister previously worked at King Family Vineyards.

"He could have taken my job," says Panczak. "He could have been head winemaker at any vineyard in Virginia."

Neumeister attended high school in Baltimore, where he was an excellent lacrosse player, says Panczak, and spent his senior year at Covenant. After a couple of years in California, he returned to Albemarle.

He knew philosophy and martial arts, and "had that warrior attitude, which he definitely displayed," says Panczak. Along with his skill in making wine, Neumeister could do mechanical work–- or accounting and taxes. "Anything," says Panczak.

news-neumeisterNeumeister doing the work he loved best: making wine.

Panczak served best man at Neumeister's wedding to Adriane Allen last year, and the couple took a belated honeymoon this past August to Austria and the Czech Republic, where they enjoyed the Moto GP, the grand prix of motorcycle racing.

Sarah Gorman recalls Neumeister's care following another motorcycle accident in which a young man had been killed. It was on Route 810 between Crozet and White Hall. "Dan had gone back to put reflectors on the curve," she says.

Her favorite memory of Neumeister: "We were having dinner at Three Notched Grill, and we see him skating by on his long board. He'd had a full day of work, and that's what he did to relax."

Neumeister's wife, Adriane, is in nursing school.

"You couldn't write anything more tragic," says Gorman, "than what happened to this couple."

–Corrections October 7 on the location of the Moto GP and local high school Neumeister attended.
–Updated October 11 to reflect additional charge (manslaughter) against Thompson


to suggest dan is somehow responsible for his death because of his craft is atrocious. get a grip and put the responsibility where it lies - solely with William Thompson, drunk driver. RIP Dan.

Hoolarious, he was hit by a wine bottle, it was trying to drive a car.

angel eyes,

Most of the type of adult that goes to Fridays after 5 are the very ones who cause the problems due to incivility. This town/county is full of so many folks who think theya re entiteld to scream, yell, puke, and basically disrupt everyone's life for their convenience.

Everything from the tragic ending of Morgan to the havock in Belmont is a result of pure civil behavior and adult immaturity. The Pavilion should be the next place for civil behavior to be enforced.

Every time there is a review on The Hook about how much some band 'rocked' the crowd at the PAavilion, I know it was a loud, over amplified screamfest with drunks spilling out into the surrounding community. If it isn't loud, it couldn't have been good.

More like a few public floggings and feet paddlings like they have in Asia. That might get someone's attention.

Wow wrote, "How ironic. The man was killed by the same substance he produced."

Wow maybe doesn't understand what "ironic" means. Ironic would be if wine fell on him and killed him, or he drowned in wine, or if, in any way, it was WINE that somehow killed him. Instead, WHO killed him was another human being, name of William Thompson, who made a conscious choice to drink more than was safe before choosing to get in a car and drive it on a public road.

I know the difference is subtle, but try to understand: a drunk driver killed him.

It is just awful and sad to die that young ! I'll pray for him and his family and I am sure the whole wine industry will.

Dan was a great guy to be around. I feel lucky to have known him for the last 10 years. As Brian said above, the wine comunity is very tight nit. The loss of dan is if we lost a brother. I know moving forward I will always keep him in my thoughts. Harvest time will not be the same without him. We love ya dan!!

It really bothers me how everybody on this site has to make everything into an argument. Just say it's sad, and a life lost so young is a tragedy. Christ's peace to Dan and his family. Enough said.

Wine Guy and GSOB. Last time I read the laws, the state police do not ask you if you have been drinking wine, beer, or whiskey. They give you a test and if you fail, its off to the slammer. EtOH or ethyl alcohol is the same in either wine, beer or whiskey. It is all ethyl alcohol, just in different quantities.
The fellow was probably a nice guy. I am not doubting that. But anyone who is involved in making alcohol should think of the consequences of the product they make. I wonder how many 'wine makers' think about the kids that could get a whole of there product. Ask yourself that Wine Guy.

GSOE - All drivers speed in the same way that all cyclists run stop signs & red lights.

So what if you've never gotten a speeding ticket? Does that mean that you've never exceeded the speed limit? Somehow I doubt it.

We are very saddened to learn of this tragedy. Our hearts go out to Adriane and all of Dan's family. We all feel this terrible loss.

Mr/Mrs/Miss Wow, Huh? It's no more ironic than the millionaire Segway tycoon Jimi Heselden dying in a freak accident on one of his own scooters. He ran off a cliff on a Segway, probably a Segway malfunction.

The malfunction we have in this particular case is Thompson consumed too much alcohol. And I doubt it was wine either.

Hey Wow, what do you want to bet he wasn't drunk on wine at 1:00 PM in the afternoon, but whiskey. Dan was straight up guy and will be missed.

How ironic. The man was killed by the same substance he produced.

Dan was an amazing young man. Adriane the sweetest girl you'd ever know. My heart goes ot to her with this tragic loss. Lets keep Adriane and the rest of Dan's family and friends in our prayers.

We are so sorry to hear of this loss. It hits home in a close knit business such as ours. Our thoughts go out to Dan's friends and family and to those who worked with him.

It would be nice if the comments on this article could focus on Dan and not be a forum for everyone's opinions on the ills of society and what the appropriate punishment is for drunk driving.

I am very sorry to hear about this. My family drives on that road and I can tell you after growing up here plenty of drunk drivers use that road between Charlottesville and Greene to evade the police. I know we did it as kids a lot.
This person should in fact be charged with more than manslaughter.
In addition I feel we are all culpable with our old fashioned Societal views of addiction. Alcoholism is not a ââ?¬Å?shameful ” thing, it is a disease, just like your diabetes, or heart illness. There needs to be more treatment, way more than you all could imagine, but no one wants to pay for that do they?
If I were to guess %75 of us are on R/x Pills, drunk too often, or high on some street drug at least 2-3 times per week.

Stay classy, Papua New Gibbers.

There is no Czechoslovakia. Learn some geography, Lisa.

Speed kills

Dan was a young man of integrity and certainly driven to excellence. I feel privileged to have known him. His enthusiasm for winemaking was infectious. We have all lost his presence and the future that could have been. It is so difficult to measure that kind of loss. My heart goes out to his family and friends.

Need more public hangings.
Killing others through wanton behavior merits this.
Charlottesville neglects its basic social justice obligations. During band break at "Fridays after 5", there should be at least one hanging per week, maybe more when you consider all the "pendards" who live in this area.

Danny was a good kid .. well at least he was a kid to me .. and I was very saddened to learn of this tragedy. So very sad!

What is this "we're all speeding" stuff?

I have never had a speeding ticket in my entire life!

But anyhow, back to the point... nobody should have to die at the hands of a drunk driver. Especially a person on a motorcysle who never had a fighting chance! Smack a cop and serve a mandatory jail sentence. That's the current law, a good law I suppose (when applied properly). Drive drunk and kill somebody, serve a mandatory sentence as well. 40 years, no parole gets my vote!

We may not be drunk, but we're all speeding on Earlysville Road. Look what's happened. Let's stop driving like maniacs. Now.

How many more people have to die at the hands of a drunk driver before we get serious about their actions? It's pretty simple, people. You drink, you drive, you kill. It's murder, not a DUI, not manslaughter. You should bypass indictment, trial, court, etc., and be sent to the chair. No more of my tax dollars to provide for you in an already-overcrowded jail system. I'm sick of people who get to spend the remainder of their useless lives in prison, reading, exercising, 3 squares a day. No more.

I have nothing but the deepest sympathies for Dan's family and his recent wife. I can't imagine a greater tragedy than a young man with so much promise and drive taken away just as his life was coming into its own, and what his wife must be feeling. But in your grief, don't rush to demonize Bill - he wasn't an alcoholic, and from my time with him, I know he would be utterly devastated to know what he'd done. I lived in Charlottesville for over three years and Bill was one of the most innately generous people I'd met - he was a dedicated father, a tireless and enthusiastic lover of life and everyone he met, a devoutly faithful follower, and a trusting friend. I don't know what the circumstances were that drove him to make the horrible decisions he made that day, but in the years I've known him I never saw him drink at all, or talk of it, let alone get drunk. He is a man of conscience and character, and I'm sure that even if he recovers, he will never overcome the grief that he's caused, or his remorse. My prayers go out to all involved.

Old Timer;
I like the way you think!

My condolences to the family. What a tragedy and sad sad thing. This man sounded as if he were fundamentally embracing life and living it fully and well. So tragic he was killed by someone old enough to know better, disease or not.

Folks if you know you're an alkie or have problems with drinking DON'T get behind the wheel of a car or vehicle for ANY reason. In fact, go a step further, tell your friends and family you have a problem drinking and do not drink alone, and have them be clear to do the driving if and when you drink. There is NO excuse for this.

This was a good young man who had so much to give to his community and family and life. He will be missed. RIP.

I'll bet he gets less time than Michael Hogburg who didn't kill anyone while he was drunk driving down the interstate the wrong way.

There must be at least four "Angel Eyes" posting Hook comments.

He was definitely skilled with that long board. RIP.

seriously how could someone even say "how ironic he was killed by the substance he produced". Im from western ny my prayers and thoughts are with Adriane and Dan's family.

Lisa October 7th, 2010 | 8:31 am

"It would be nice if the comments on this article could focus on Dan and not be a forum for everyone’s opinions on the ills of society and what the appropriate punishment is for drunk driving."

This is exactly the right forum for opinions on the lack of sufficient drunk driver homocide laws. If it is not, then where would it be appropriate?

I knew Dan well when he was in high school. He acted in a few plays I directed. He was super kind and an all around good guy, always positive, always helpful, always smiling. He will be surely missed by many. My heart goes out to his family.


I feel compassion for his family, his new bride, and friends. This was a tragedy of mega porportions. Can we all agree on that? A life lost senselessly a family affected endlessly is loss. Maybe another forum would be a better place to debate what killed Dan. Society, culture, alcohol, misuse and addictive qualities of alcohol, all play into the demise of our safety. But we can't judge the man for his profession anymore than we can judge the men and women who work in other professions. He was a good man, who had a good wife, a good life, and a joy in living. My sincerest sympathies to the family and friends left behind.


I disagree. This is the perfect forum to discuss the foolishness of irresponsible drivers and the damage they do. It gets tiresome to hear all the moanings and wailings, while the cause is shuffled to the back of the room. Better to talk about it where the pain is most intense, and the damage is seen by all.

I feel badly for this young man and especially his spouse. He brought something to his community which was taken away by a selfish individual this area seems to be so prevalent with.

maybe they drink because they are stuck being around people like old timer who thinks his view of the world is the only right one.

Cheers Bill!


As versus one like yours that must be 'right', isn't that so?

Not surprised though you would find a way to find excuses for the irresponsible and their behavior though. That's the 'right' way to do things too. Never take responsibility.


And what was your two cents? Or weren't you woman enough to have an opinion that amounts to more than a verbal thumbs up? Are you into making excuses for the uncivil and irresponsible?

Just because one bonehead decides to drive DRUNK does not mean everyone speeds on Earlysville Road. Lets be real here folks, a drunk driver is a drunk driver is a drunk driver. You drink, you drive, you kill .... not yourself but someone who has no clue what is about to hit them and change/ruin their lives and everyone who knows them. If you have a death wish, thats between you and your god, but don't gamble with someone elses life. I do not speed on Earlysville Road, I take it everyday, I love that road and the scenery. But it ain't a road for speeding on. And just because he was on a motorcycle does not a speeder make either. My husband and I both ride, its about the scenery and getting there alive, not the fastest. All motorcyclists aren't speeders folks.

Having said that, My deepest sympathys to his family and friends. Its a tragic end to such a young life. RIP.

I lived in Charlottesville for three years. There are no words for the havoc wreaked on my mind and heart knowing that a man I knew as good and kind has caused such a terrible tragedy. My sympathies to the victim, his family, and all those who knew him.

and many want to legalize marijuwanna?