Imbibe 75 Person to Watch: Simonne Mitchelson - Imbibe Magazine Subscribe + Save

Imbibe 75 Person to Watch: Simonne Mitchelson

It’s been a whirlwind year and a half for Simonne Mitchelson. Shortly after the 2020 murder of George Floyd, the South Africa-born, U.S.-raised winemaker linked up with friend and fellow BIPOC colleague Justin Trabue (Ancient Peaks Winery, Lumen Wines) to publish an open letter to the wine industry detailing the lack of diversity and representation among winemakers in California, and challenging leaders to do better in hiring practices.

“I was just feeling such incredible frustration. There’s not a lot of people of color from here,” she says of California’s central coast, where she was working as a general manager for a small winery—and also, more generally, about the wine industry overall. The letter spread quickly across social media, and the response would change not only Mitchelson’s path but many others’.

Along with Trabue, Teron Stevenson (The Friend Bar in Los Angeles), and a handful of others, she launched Natural Action. The nonprofit natural wine club donates proceeds to wine education and mentorship for BIPOC students. “We’ve seen such crazy support—our wine club was full within a month,” she says.

“Our nonprofit team will be the largest donor to the scholarship program at Cal Poly to support BIPOC education.” Now at Jackson Family Wines, Simonne Mitchelson oversees four brands and helps run communications for their IDEA Alliance, which promotes diversity across the company—a challenge and change from working at small wineries that she says has been rewarding.

She’s also launching her own wine label on the side sometime this year. And she always has her eye on how to improve, focusing new efforts on expanding her outreach to local community colleges and high schools. “That’s what my main focus is right now, trying to really figure out how to burst this industry open to people in lower-income areas and to communities of color overall,” she says.

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