Wine made in an industrial park? That could be the new focus of my wine writing, and provide endless material with great wine after great wine made and released by winemakers who would rather put limited resources into securing the best grapes or equipment instead of an architectural wonder, a castle, an imposing edifice created to humble or impress visitors.
The wine theme parks, with landscaped gardens and fountains, almost universally charge for tastings, and those fees can climb to well over $50 per theme park, um, winery. The winemakers who toil away in decidedly more modest industrial business parks almost never charge to taste their wines, and set low fees which are applied to a purchase when there is a charge.
Last week, I wrote a recap about the wineries of the Vinify Winery Collective at 3358 Coffey Lane in Santa Rosa. There are a number of individual winemakers using different spaces in the same business park, making some of my favorite juice, as different in style but similar in amazing quality as Kevin Kelley’s the NPA and Salinia to Carol Shelton’s eponymous winery.
More recently, I had the opportunity to visit Victor Simon at Simaine, his winery hidden away in the Redwood Square industrial park at 3001 South State Street #42, on the south east corner of the intersection of South state and Plant, at the south end of Ukiah.
Not in the front row of building spaces, but around to the back row, Simaine is an unprepossessing space, with a nondescript edifice, completely hiding the amazing winemaking going on behind the doors of the business park space.
Opening the door to Suite 42, I was stunned by the amount of colorful non wine merchandise that decorated the small retail tasting room space. Victor’s wife Brenda creates one of a kind shadowbox gifts, jewelry, necklaces, and earrings, which are available for purchase at Simaine.
The name Simaine is a contraction of Victor’s last name, Simon, and Brenda’s maiden name, Maine; Simon and Maine becoming Simaine.
Passing through the cozy retail space, visitor’s enter Victor’s work space, a full winery with a small kitchen space and a couple of tables for relaxed tasting and possible eating.
Open daily, from 10 until 5, Simaine is both a labor of love and an enormous time commitment for Victor. With summer heat in Ukiah often proving debilitating, Victor chooses to start work many summer days at 4:00 am, and there is plenty of work to do as Victor is a one man winery crew; owner, winemaker, and cellar rat all rolled into one.
Working with certified organic growers, Victor makes 100% unblended varietal, 100% unblended vineyard designate wines, treating the grapes and the wine as gently as he can, and chooses exclusively French oak barrels for the flavors they impart to his wines, blending neutral and newer oak held juice for his finished product.
I consider myself very lucky to have been invited by Victor to taste his wines at lunch time, with Victor preparing the fixings for Carne Asada tacos for a small group that had gathered. The reality is that Victor works every day, and long hours, so part of his relief comes in a daily preparation of lunch for himself and whoever happens to arrive at the winery at the right time. Limousine drivers, knowing Victor’s lunchtime habits, are known to deliver gleeful tasters to Simaine just after noon.
The first wine I tasted was the 2009 Simaine Sauvignon Blanc, Mendocino County, Larry Venturi Vineyard, $18. Grown in gravelly soil next to the Russian River, these certified organic grapes were dry farmed and come from 45 year old vines. Stainless steel fermentation, then French oak held seven month to add a vanilla note, this Sauvignon Blanc has beautiful melon, lemon, citrus, and a decidedly Mendocino grapefruit note. A truly lovely wine, it shows great balance of acidity and sweetness, fruit and oak.
The second wine tasted was Victor’s 2007 Simaine Syrah, Larry Venturi Vineyard, $25. Soft, silky, and Smooth. Chocolate, and a mix of red and dark fruit. Cherry meets plum, with nice smooth, tight grain, oak imparting a vanilla kiss.
Victor’s other lucky guests around the lunch table included a local musician Steve, Angela from SIP! Mendocino in Hopland, and neighbor Mark from Domaine Charbay. My luck grew as it turned out Mark had a Korean wife, they put up their own kimchi, and Victor had a jar that he opened for me to test Mark’s assertion that both Victor’s Sauvignon Blanc and Syrah paired wonderfully with kimchi.
Kindly described, kimchi could be called pickled cabbage. More accurate would be fermented, and it wouldn’t be wrong to say rotted. Kimchi is a powerfully pungent mix of cabbage, peppers, garlic, and fish oils, sealed in a clay vessel, and buried until ripe, very very ripe. I spent one year in Korea, love the country, and the food. I love kimchi, but my son’s mother used to scream when I brought any commercially available kimchi into the house. Hearing that not one, but two wines had been found, both delicious on their own, that paired with kimchi, did seem a little farfetched – I was sceptical.
Well, let me say here and now, Mark was completely correct. The Syrah was an OMG match for kimchi, and the Sauvignon Blanc though a completely different pairing was equally perfect.
Simaine produces just 2,500-3,000 cases of wine each year, small lots of high quality wine. Although the only wines available for purchase when I visited were the Sauvignon Blanc and Syrah, Victor has several wines in barrels, some so ready for bottling, and “if things work out,” there may be, ” a 4th of July Release Party,” for some of those wines currently in barrel, said Victor.
Coming soon will be releases of Sangiovese, a new Syrah, Petite Syrah, Carignane, Merlot, two Zinfandels, and a new Sauvignon Blanc.
Victor pulled barrel samples of his 2009 Carignane $35. Made from 65 year old vines, the wine is gorgeous, with lush fruit – red raspberry, cranberry, rhubarb, strawberry, cherry, hern, and spice. Nicely balanced by acid, very drinkable.
I also got to taste the 2009 Petite Sirah from barrel. Oh! Chocolate, round, ripe, smooth, incredibly soft tannins, rich fruit of blue berry, blackberry and plum. Well balanced.
Much of Simaine’s wine is allocated and goes directly to wine club members who receive four bottles four times per year. While Victor ships, most customers come and enjoy the big Pick Up Parties thrown at the winery with, “music, food, wine, everything.”
Asked what other Mendocino County wineries should be doing to bring positive attention to our wines and wineries, Victor said, “start making very premium wine – stop selling $48 cases – different styles, balanced, good wines. Just make Mendocino County wines popular because they’re good.”
I can attest that Victor Simon and Simaine are doing just that, and they’re doing it out of a little industrial business park space at the south end of Ukiah.
I applaud Simaine for keeping the notion alive that a wine writer covering just business park produced wines could write about great wines without end.