Simi Winery, in northern Sonoma County, was founded by brothers Giuseppe and Pietro Simi in 1876.
But its modern history really began in 1979 when Zelma Long became the winemaker and set the course for bringing the estate and cellar into the 20th century.
Simi’s knack for attracting talented vintners continued when Frenchman Michel Rolland accepted a consulting role, when New Zealand wine star Nick Goldschmidt succeeded Long, and when Chateau St. Jean’s Steve Reeder succeeded Goldschmidt.
“When you think of the great wineries of Sonoma County, Chateau St. Jean and Simi are at the top of the list,” Reeder says. “In fact, I’ve lived across the street from Simi for many years, and have thought it would be just a matter of time before I worked here.”
After a brief stint of winemaking in California, Reeder moved to the East Coast for 10 years. In 1992, he went to Kendall-Jackson, and in 1994 he and his family moved to Healdsburg, to return home. In 1997, he became winemaker and director of operations for Chateau St. Jean.
Now at Simi, Reeder has come full circle and has satisfied his aspirations of living up to his Sonoma beginnings. “I’ve returned to Healdsburg and the Alexander Valley, where I started 26 years ago,” he notes.
And Simi is benefiting from his experience.
“A lot of what we do at Simi is based on tradition, enhanced with cutting-edge innovation,” Reeder explains. “The philosophy has always been to maintain the quality and style that we’re recognized for, while at the same time improve our methods for growing grapes and crafting wines to reflect the experience and knowledge we are accumulating, and have been throughout the winery’s 125-year history.”
Simi offers a guided tour that provides a glimpse of the estate’s colorful past, as well as an informative look at present winemaking methods. Tours begin daily at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m., and the Simi visitor center may be reached at 800-746-4880. Daily hours for wine tasting are from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.