by Fred McMillin
for June 27, 1997

Winery of the Week

Come Up and Simi Sometime

Prologue: Over 150 years ago, Pietro and Giuseppe Simi were born in Montepulciano, Tuscany, Italy. Who could have guessed that they would someday found a winery in far away Sonoma County that today produces over 150,000 cases annually of critically-acclaimed wines. Here's how it happened.

Simi Milestones

1848—The Simi brothers leave Tuscany, settle on Green Street in San Francisco's North Beach (Little Italy), bring in Sonoma grapes, and make wine for restaurants.

1876—The brothers move to Sonoma and found a formal winery, which they name Montepulciano; pronunciation problems lead to the label being changed to Hotel Del Monte wines.

1904—The founders have passed away. Giuseppe's son Louis and daughter Isabelle assume control. Isabelle plays an active role in the winery even in her 90's.

1973—America's first woman college-trained head winemaker, Mary Ann Graf, and the legendary Andre Tchelistcheff are now the winemakers, and Simi abruptly starts winning awards.

1979—Another UC-Davis trained woman takes over winemaking. She will become one of the most honored female enologists on the planet. Quality reaches a new zone; her Chardonnays are world class. Her name is Zelma Long.

1997—Zelma has become president and more. Somewhere Pietro and Giuseppe must be smiling. Their winery couldn't be in better hands.

Just the Facts

Name Simi Winery
Location Healdsburg, Sonoma County, CA
Founding Family   When the founding Simi brothers passed away, 14-year-old Isabelle Simi became a major force in the winery for the next six decades.
Founding Date 1876
Wines to Try Cabernet Sauvignon, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, and a white blend called Sendal.
Contact Nancy Gilbert, (707) 433-6981

Postscript: For more about Zelma Long, see the February 12 issue of WineDay titled "The Queen of Chardonnay."


About the Writer

Fred McMillin, a veteran wine writer, has taught wine history for 30 years on three continents. He currently teaches wine courses at San Francisco State and San Francisco City College and is Northern California Editor for American Wine on the Web. In 1995, the Academy of Wine Communications honored Fred with one of only 22 Certificates of Commendation awarded to American wine writers.


Read more articles by Fred McMillin in the eGGsf

Welcome to WineDay, the electronic Gourmet Guide's daily update. Monday through Thursday, WineDay presents a wine profile. Then on Fridays we present the Winery of the Week to take you through the weekend


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