by Fred McMillin
for June 27, 1997
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 Milestones1848—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
Postscript: For more about Zelma Long, see the February 12 issue of WineDay titled "The Queen of Chardonnay."
Read more articles by Fred McMillin in the eGGsf
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