Q&A: Simonne Mitchelson - Imbibe Magazine Subscribe + Save

Q&A: Simonne Mitchelson

Every year for our Imbibe 75 Issue, we spotlight inspiring people and places that are helping to transform the drinks world. Last year, one such person was winemaker Simonne Mitchelson of Jackson Family Wines. Mitchelson has used her platform and position in wine to highlight the industry’s failings to promote diversity among winemakers in California. In doing so, she’s also become a changemaker, launching nonprofit Natural Wine Action Club, which mentors BIPOC students. NAWC is still getting 501c3 status, but it’s also working toward becoming the largest donor to the BIPOC scholarship program at California Polytechnic State University. We caught up with her recently while she was preparing and co-hosting an event for the Court of Master Sommeliers Women’s Symposium to find out how her work is evolving and what she has in store.

What have you been up to since last year when you were named an Imbibe 75 Person to Watch?

Well! The remainder of last year consisted of building direct-to-consumer for the brands I work with in Santa Barbara County for Jackson Family Wines. We received “Wine Region of the Year” by Wine Enthusiast, so we are thrilled and humbled that the wine world is giving us this recognition. Jackson Family also launched our partnership with Urban Grape, which will include us providing paid internships in production, operations, marketing, and sales. This allows students to evaluate which segments of the industry interest them most prior to completely diving in.

And how are things going with the Natural Wine Action Club and the BIPOC Scholarship Program at Cal Poly?

Natural Action has seen its first round of club allocations shipped and paid internships filled in Oregon and Livermore. The scholarship program received and funded three students who are currently all in the Enology/Viticulture program. Looking forward to this program growing even further!

Last year you mentioned plans for an upcoming wine label. When can we expect to see your wine on shelves?

My label is going through the bureaucratic processes currently! I’m looking forward to revealing all I’ve been working on in the near future.

It’s only been a year since we first checked in with you for the Imbibe 75, but since then, do you feel like the wine industry has been moving in the right direction regarding diversity?

I do feel like there is change being made in the wine industry with so much more to come. I see the greatest change happening at our own hands. We are creating change for ourselves and opportunities for others like us who wish to forge their own path here in this industry. I have deep admiration for businesses like Uncorked & Cultured, promoting Black voices and business through media; The Millennial Somm, influencing and educating with flavor and nuance; and Ward Four Wines, being a pioneer in winemaking. All of these incredible women making strides in predominantly white industries. These are the changemakers. These are the people acting forwardly instead of solely thinking. These are badass women of color opening the doors for others to come on through.

What’s your next move?

Taking a break! Resetting. Spending time with my family. Then back to it, because I can’t help myself, this is what I love to do.

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