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Stories about the excellent Simi Winery

My younger workmates sometimes refer to me as the storyteller and when it comes to the Simi Winery, established in Sonoma in 1876, I do have a few tales. They are appropriate as we celebrate California Wine Month.

For instance, in the early 1900s a very young Isabelle Simi had to take over the responsibility of the family winery, where she remained until her death in 1981 at the age of 95.

She guided it through the great earthquake of 1906 and the 19 years of prohibition, when only 50 of the 256 wineries in existence survived.

You may know that rose bushes are often planted at the end of rows of vines as they act like canaries in a coal mine and are the first to show potentially harmful diseases of the vine.

Isabelle had a garden of rare roses and she planted one for each new president of the United States. She did not plant one for Herbert Hoover, as she held him responsible for prohibition. He heard about it and sent her one, which she promptly sent back.

I first visited Simi, among towering redwoods in beautiful Alexander Valley, with my brand new bride back in 1978 and we decided to import their wines at JE Lightbourn & Co. I went elsewhere from 1980 until 1997, but was so happy to see my Simi wines once again when I came back to what had become Burrows Lightbourn Ltd.

Please permit me one more. In 1901 a son was born to the Chief Justice of the Imperial Court of Moscow and they named him André. In 1938, Georges de Latour was in France looking for a winemaker for his Beaulieu (BV) Winery in Napa Valley and he found André Tchelistcheff, a trained ecologist, working at the Pasteur Institute.

Latour took Tchelistcheff back with him to Napa, where he became a legend. Most of the great winemakers that we hear of gained their expertise from Tchelistcheff and he became known as “The Maestro”.

This 4ft 11in Russian giant of a man showed the potential of cabernet sauvignon in the New World with his Beaulieu Georges de Latour Private Reserves. In 1978 he was the consulting oenologist for Isabelle Simi and arguably the greatest honour that my wife and I have had on our long journey was to spend a day and an evening with André and absorb all that we could.

Our Simi Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 is fleshed out with 7 per cent merlot, 1 per cent petit verdot, 1 per cent cabernet franc and 1 per cent malbec. I would open it an hour or two before serving to allow the aromas of spicy red berries, strawberries, fresh sage and liquorice to reveal themselves. $35.20

Simi “Landslide Vineyard” 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon is 81 per cent cabernet sauvignon with the rest being malbec, merlot, cabernet franc and petit verdot. You will detect scents of cassis, red plum, cherry, tobacco, cedar, vanilla, green peppercorn spice and smoky mineral notes.

The acid balance makes it very food-friendly and age-worthy. $37.45.

The Simi 2012 Sonoma County Merlot is a treasure trove of dark baking spices, including nutmeg and clove, and it also offers earthy hints of black pepper, cedar, bay laurel and sweet vanilla notes that frame fruit aromas of blackberries, red cherries and plums.

This is a medium-bodied wine that finishes with soft, yet insistent, cocoa tannins. $30.95.

Simi 2014 Sauvignon Blanc is brilliantly clear with fresh, appealing citrus notes of lime zest, pink grapefruit and fresh lemon grass followed by green papaya, passion fruit and green apple.

It is bright and crisp with hints of stone fruits and minerals. They add fruit from Dry Creek Valley and Knight's Valley to contribute tropical fruit and nectarine along with a silky texture. Grapes from the Russian River Valley give a bright, zingy acid component as well as grapefruit and lime. $23.90.

Canadian critic Natalie Mac-Lean gives the Simi Sonoma County 2014 Chardonnay a very credible 91/100 and writes: “A full-bodied chardonnay with sunshine-ripened fruit offering aromas of green apple, peach and pear wrapped in toasty oak. Some spices and cedar smoke on the finish.”

This is quite possibly our best selling New World chardonnay in its price range and it certainly has the generous mouthfeel that I would be most happy to pair with our lovely Bermuda lobster. After all, it adds the butter and lemon that should accompany such a treat. $25.60.

This column is a paid for advertorial for Burrows Lightbourn Ltd. Michael Robinson is Director of Wine at Burrows Lightbourn Ltd. He can be contacted at or 295-0176. Burrows Lightbourn has stores in Hamilton (Front Street East, 295-1554), Paget (Harbour Road, 236-0355) and St George's (York Street, 297-0409). A selection of their wines, beers and spirits is available online at

Rich history: the Simi Winery

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Published September 16, 2016 at 9:00 am (Updated September 16, 2016 at 6:59 am)

Stories about the excellent Simi Winery

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