Internationally recognized winemaker Steve Reeder counts his blessings to be living and working in the heart of incomparable Alexander Valley. Having lived in numerous states across the U.S and its eastern seaboard, as well as in France, England and Germany, Reeder's frequent bi-coastal business trips make coming home to Sonoma County wine country all the sweeter.
"My first job in the wine industry back in 1978 was right here in the Alexander Valley," says Reeder, Winemaker and General Manager of Simi Winery since 2003. "I knew then that I had found my home."
"Where else on this earth do we have such incredible diversity?" he asks. "From Sonoma County's organic green apples to fresh Dungeness crab from the sea, a region of rolling vines from which I can go from skiing to body surfing in a few short hours.
Where ever I have been in the world, never once did I not say that I wanted to go home."
A third-generation Californian, with a degree in Fermentation Sciences from the University of California at Davis, Reeder is quick to admit his belief that there are no secrets to great winemaking.
"It's all in the details," he says, taking pride in the fact that he has always been willing to share these details. "A meticulous approach to the way that we grow and buy premium grapes, upgrading the vineyards, new barrels, quality, flavor, oak. These are the details of making great wine."
As a winemaker who has accomplished securing the number one and two spots on Wine Spectator's prestigious Top 100 Wines of the Year list in 1999 and 2002 respectively in his former post for Chateau St. Jean's proprietary Bordeaux-varietal blend, Reeder is remarkably low-key in his self-promotion within the industry.
"I consider myself a humble guy whose number one priority as winemaker for one of the great wineries of Sonoma County is to encourage continued growth in vineyard quality." By developing new thought patterns on root stock, clones, row orientation and precisely how best to grow grapes, Reeder strives to directly support employees and help them to develop their own winemaking careers.
"I like to keep it simple," says Reeder, whose absolute favorite season in the vineyard starts two weeks before harvest. "It is then that I am able to shed my General Manager duties and become one hundred percent winemaker from sunrise to one in the morning."
Reeder loves nothing more than walking the vineyards of Sonoma County, tasting fruit and deciding when to pick. "Scheduling every last load, it's a glorious time. Nirvana for around two whole months," says Reeder, whose outstanding wines include Russian River and Sonoma County Chardonnays, three distinctive Cabernet Sauvignon vintages, Sonoma County Merlot and Sauvignon Blanc.
Visit Simi Winery at 16275 Healdsburg Avenue in Healdsburg. The Visitor Center is open 10 a.m. till 5 p.m. daily. For more information, call (707) 473-3232 or visit the website at simiwinery.com.