Simi Alexander Valley Sonoma County Cabernet Sauvignon 2013

Very deep purple, inky; red and black fruit, plum on the nose; black cherry, plum, redcurrant tang, chocolate on the palate.

Simi Alexander Valley Sonoma County Cabernet Sauvignon 2013

Dry; full body; medium-plus tannin; medium acidity; savory. Toasty oak, but more restrained than previous vintage; 14 months in small oak barrels, 15% new French oak and 10% new American oak. Two things going on with the oak: 75% is second or more used barrels, toning down the oak; but the barrels are small, which ups the oak. Simi walked the tightrope pretty well with this effort. The oak also contributed some vanilla and the chocolate-mocha.

Blend of 85% cabernet sauvignon, 10% merlot for softness, 2% cabernet franc for color, cassis, spice, 2% petit verdot for aromatics, and 1% malbec for, well why not? Juice rested on the skins for 26 days—thus the inky dark color—and underwent secondary malolactic fermentation to create more smoothness and suppleness.

Brothers Giuseppe and Pietro Simi began making wine in Sonoma County in 1876. Simi has continuously made wine in the same stone cellar in Healdsburg since 1890. The Simi brothers ran the winery until their sudden deaths from the flu within a month of each other in 1904. Giuseppe’s 18-year-old daughter Isabelle took over management. When Prohibition came, she sold the vineyards, but kept the cellar and the wines within. When the idiocy of Prohibition ended in 1933, Isabelle has 500,000 cases of perfectly cellared wines ready to sell to the wine-thirsty public. Never underestimate a smart woman.

Isabel sold the winery to Russell Green in 1970 but continued to work there. In 1973, Maryann Graf, the first woman to graduate from an American university with a degree in oenology, joined Simi. In 1979, Zelma Long—one of California’s most prominent winemakers—modernized the winery. Moët-Hennessy purchased the winery in 1981 and began re-acquiring the vineyards sold at the start of Prohibition. Long continued at Simi as president and CEO. In 1999, Moët-Hennessy sold the brand, winery, and vineyards to Constellation Brands, the owners today.

Constellation continues the female management of Simi—why mess with a winning formula. Susan Lueker is director of winemaking. She is a UC-Davis grad and has been with Simi since 2000. Lisa Evich is the winemaker; she studied water quality and hazardous materials management at Sonoma State University before succumbing to the lure of winemaking while working as a lab technician at William Hill Winery. This is her second stint at Simi. Tom Gore, who has his own brand (reviewed several times on this site/blog) is the vineyard director.

Simi Alexander Valley Sonoma County Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 is delightful easy drinker, especially after decanting. The oak pushes the envelope, but works. The juicy, vivid fruit pushes the envelope, but also works. If you enjoy a big fruit, big Sonoma cab, this will easily float your boat. $20-26

Simi Winery website

Isabelle Simi

Simi winery

Susan Lueker, Simi director of winemaking

Lisa Evich, Simi winemaker