There are few people in Northern California’s Wine County — in fact, just one — who truly can be defined as The Wine Guy. That would be Tom Simoneau.
Grape grower and Winemaker. Wine Educator. Wine Competition Judge and Wine Critic. Wine Marketer. And for two decades, the clever and insightful host of a syndicated daily radio show offering reviews and “wine stains” to help guide listeners towards exceptional wine experiences.
As well known as he is in the world of wine, his journey from Boston to California fronting a country rock n’ roll band is less well known, though often hinted at by the one remaining nod to that era, a distinctive flowing mane that dips below his shoulders. The hint of a rebel, which always has paired well with distinctive winemaking.
Arriving in California to pursue a record contract, he found himself mesmerized by the beauty and energy of Sonoma County, which reminded him just enough of his home in Maine to bring added comfort. Life had taken an unexpected turn, and Tom helped launch Windsor Vineyards, an early direct to consumer wine company offering personalized labels (bottled for the Wine Cellar of The Mason Family, for example) to eager wine lovers all across America. As he gained insights and experience with wine marketing, it was only logical that growing grapes and making wine were next.
When he made his first wine, in 1983, Tom couldn’t resist going truly old school, crushing the grapes with his feet.
In 1988, now married to his childhood sweetheart, a fellow Mainer, Tom and Brenda purchased 12½ acres in the benchlands of Alexander Valley. Simoneau Vineyards began with 10 acres planted to Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay, and a small number of Bordeaux varietal blending grapes. Over the next two decades, they honed and improved the farming of the Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay and became sought after growers for distinguished wineries.
Tom won the prestigious Sonoma County Harvest Fair Sweepstake Award for the Best Amateur Red Wine for his 1990 Meritage, just a foreshadowing of what was ahead.
With the 2005 vintage Tom and Brenda released their first commercial Simoneau Cabernet Sauvignon. The Brenda Lee Chardonnay was released in 2009 along with the 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon, both to immediate acclaim.