Sonoma County region
A fierce determination and drive towards high quality wines
At the relatively youthful age of 39, Simi Winery’s ebullient winemaker Nick Goldschmidt seems to have it made. When you also consider that the lively New Zealander has held the position for the past twelve years, you begin to understand the reason for Simi’s continuing success.
Goldschmidt admits to being in the right place at the right time regarding his early success. Attracted to Sonoma by Simi’s heralded, innovative winemaker Zelma Long, Goldschmidt first applied to Simi for a job opening in 1988 but was turned down. Goldschmidt sustained his interest in the winery when Winemaker Paul Hobbs left Simi in 1989, Goldschmidt was inserted as the new winemaker.
His career in New Zealand had actually begun in viticulture, so Nick Goldschmidt feels that he took the back road into the wine business. His original intention was to spend a specific amount of time in viticultural endeavors in South America, California and France. After completing South America, his stint in California was so inviting that Goldschmidt never made it to France.
“I had read about Zelma Long and her innovative techniques at Simi,” he recalled. “She was something of a legend around the world. She was doing some real breakthrough stuff at Simi. I wanted to come to Sonoma and see for myself.”
Even though Long had left Simi in 1988, much of her influence and direction remained and Goldschmidt was immediately smitten. He was particularly impressed with the winery’s attention to its vineyard holdings, a key element to his viticultural background. He was equally attracted to the winery’s keen determination and drive towards quality, an essential ingredient of his personal goals. Goldschmidt feels that it took him his first five years on the job to make correct grape decisions and the next five years to affect the grapes’ outcome with correct winemaking decisions. For his part, he feels that Simi’s wines have now arrived at a quality level he has always sought after.
To that end, Goldschmidt has thoroughly utilized his viticultural background and today considers himself as much a grower as a winemaker. He calls his job at Simi a “sight specific winemaking position.”
“After ten years here, I can walk into any of our vineyards,” he explained, “and I can tell you exactly what each part of the vineyard will contribute to the final wine. It’s all subtlety and style. If I am correct in my picking decisions, different blocks will contribute significantly to enhance the wine’s overall quality.”
Goldschmidt also sees Simi continuing its direction towards smaller, vineyard-designated wines in the foreseeable future. He expects Simi to acquire additional vineyard land (the winery currently owns over 700 acres) in the near future thereby allowing Simi to more carefully control its own destiny.
Concerning his accomplishments, Nick Goldschmidt is quite candid. “I’m very satisfied with the fact that practically every one of the people who started with me a decade ago is still here. That continuity of people speaks to continuity of product, and for me personally, the two go hand in hand.
I know that Simi’s wines of tomorrow will feature basic differences in style, not quality, and will be highlighted by a great deal more vineyard designation. These are truly exciting times both for me and for my staff.”
Goldschmidt is also aided by the fact that his parent company’s management gives him the freedom to pursue such expressed aims. Even though Simi is owned by wine Constellation Brands, Nick Goldschmidt is permitted boutique status for most of his wine projects. Such autonomy is one of the main reasons that the youngish Kiwi has chosen to remain in his position for such a prolonged period of time, in an industry where job permanence is a rarity rather than a norm.
“I feel that we have reached 90% of our quality potential,” Goldschmidt added, “and that figure took a great deal of effort to achieve. The remaining 10% will take huge exertion on everyone’s part to achieve, and that’s what makes the challenge at Simi.
Such dedication to Simi’s quality standards would make Simi’s founder Guiseppe Simi smile broadly. Extremely high quality was paramount to him when he first thought of making wines nearly 130 years ago.