When I checked with local wine expert Mike Whitfield about wineries to visit in Sonoma, he strongly suggested Simi. Mike's advice has never led me wrong when it comes to wine, and because it opened about an hour before other wineries in the area, Simi was my first stop on the Sonoma tour.
Founded in 1876 by Tuscan immigrants Giuseppe and Pietro Simi, this winery is a true legend of Sonoma. There's not that many wineries you can point to as strong producers before Prohibition that are still widely represented throughout the US today. Simi follows sustainable winemaking practices and responsible agriculture. As part of their commitment to the wine and food culture of Sonoma, they host a bi-annual festival known as Forage that highlights local foods alongside the well-crafted Simi wines.
After the tasting I took a moment to relax outside by the fountain and take some notes. For someone used to the deciduous forests of the Southeast, it's fascinating to be around redwoods. That's the barrel room in the background, and the tasting room is directly to the right. In addition to tours, the winery plays host to weddings, picnics, and other related events.
The fountain looked familiar... Back in 2007 I reviewed a wine book from the mid-1970s called The Treasury of American Wines by Nathan Chroman. It's an overview of American wineries at the time, and it's a fascinating read. On page 148, as part of a section on Simi, there's a picture of then owner Russell Green sitting on the edge of the fountain. Green took over after the 66-year run of Giuseppe's daughter Isabelle Simi, who assumed responsibility of the winery at the age of 18 following the deaths of her father and uncle.
There's a lot to see and do at Simi, and as with many of my visits I could have spent a week there. They're a well-respected winery with a long history, yet there's still a friendly, personal aspect to the interactions you have with the employees, many of whom have been there for a decade or more. Just like walking into someones house for the first time, it's pretty easy to tell when the people love being there.
Wines Sampled at the Vineyard
For more details and ordering information, check out the Simi website.
2006 Sauvignon Blanc. Just a bit of citrus peel, smooth and refreshing. Very restrained without being too mild.
2006 Alexander Valley Chardonnay. Butter and vanilla, caramel, just a little popcorn.
2006 Pinot Gris. Ash and hay, lemon, clean finish with a firm structure. Fuller body than a lot of Pinot Gris.
2006 Los Carneros Chardonnay. Hint of smoke, apple and lemon flavors, tangy finish.
2006 Russian River Chardonnay. Full of tropical fruits, honey, lemon, mango, passion fruit. Really incredible.
2006 Dry Creek Zinfandel. Red raspberry, seed aromas. Light and mild.
2006 Landslide Cabernet Sauvignon. Named after the effects the Sonoma Mountain had on the soil during its volcano phase. Ginger, spice, earthy, clay. I could waste an entire afternoon with this wine. Definitely my favorite of the lineup, highly recommended.
2004 Alexander Valley Reserve. The flagship wine for Simi. Hints of vanilla with medium tannins, restrained dark fruit flavors and outstanding balance.