Simon Mitchelson - South Coast Estate Manager for Jackson Family Wines, Natural Action Wine Club
How many years have you been in the business? Tell us briefly about your background and your current position today.
6 years in wine specifically but 11 if you count the overall hospitality industry. I began hosting at a fine dining restaurant in Auckland, NZ. This was a MasterChef restaurant so service was on par with quality of food. This is where I discovered my interest and intrigue with wine. Years in this business allowed me to meet winemakers from around Australasia, one of whom I would work my first harvest with and initiate my career in production. I left NZ to pursue a career in California which has led me to my current role as South Coast Estate Manager for Jackson Family Wines in Santa Barbara County.
Did you have a particular “aha!” moment that propelled you into wine?
Not one moment in particular but I was fortunate enough to have mentors in the restaurant business that encouraged my education in wine specifically as they could see my interest. I would attend every winemaker training, portfolio tastings with our suppliers, days off trying new wines with friends. It consumed my interest for awhile until I decided to take the leap and do a harvest.
What is the most rewarding part of what you do?
Education. Whether it’s personal or for/with others. The knowledge here is endless and ever changing. Through wine education, we can explore a diverse range of impact such as sustainability - how we affect our planet in this industry: socially, environmentally, and economically. This knowledge empowers us to go into our daily work with a mission and purpose, that is the most rewarding part for me.
What do you do to create wellness balance in your life? Any particular activity, practices, etc that are meaningful to you?
The shower is the one place I cannot touch my phone. I listen to a 6 minute meditation by Brocolette to kick off my day and breathe with intention. I’m working on consistency with this but sometimes I just turn on Durand Jones and dance instead.
What changes do you hope to see in the wine industry in the next five years?
The changes we are already seeing. More and more awareness and understanding of opportunities in this industry; knowing there are careers outside of production and vineyard work. This is a business. We need marketers, HR, PR, club managers, TR hosts, event coordinators, engineers and the list goes on and on.
What does equality in the wine industry look like to you?
How do you feel you’re contributing to creating a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive wine industry?
Representation, education, scholarships, internships, mentorship, awareness, and recruitment. Through Jackson Family and Natural Action, I’ve had the privilege to enact all of the above. From working on the enterprise-wide efforts for DEI, I can proudly say we are building plans to establish greater recruiting, communication, and culture initiatives throughout our company globally with JFW. Natural Action has brought an inclusive community together. A community rooted in a passion for wine, building awareness, supporting the underrepresented who wish to establish careers and build livelihoods in this industry. We’ve raised money to support scholarships in higher learning, created an internship which allows for travel and hands on production experience, sent 4 allocations to our incredible members with bottles that host stories regarding Black history, worked with wineries committed to the environment and the people who steward it. That’s year one, keep an eye on us!
What advice would you give to someone starting their career in the same sector of the wine industry as you?
Always go in with the attitude that if you don’t know it? You can learn it.
Name some people who inspire you in the wine industry and please explain why.
Justin Trabue - This woman is a ray of light from the sun and moon. Justin’s enthusiasm for this industry and winemaking inspires me everyday. She has traveled to numerous countries honing her craft. Justin is never afraid to be a strong voice and speak up for what is right. She is truly a woman of conviction and a bad ass winemaker. Maryam Ahmed - Maryam. The creator and connector. From studying at Cornell to starting her own consultancy, this woman is entrepreneur goals. Maryam is focused and intentional in her work as seen through her Field Blends program where she ties in sustainability to exploring a wine region. Did I mention there is scholarship opportunity for underrepresented groups? A talented moderator and now TV personality to boot💁🏾♀️ Imane Hanine - A force. This woman is an absolute force. Imane moves quietly and with purpose. She’s worked with big players in the sustainability game, such as Steve Matthiasson and currently Martha Stoumen, but also has a whole background in wine sales from her years on the East Coast. Imane is constantly in pursuit of further education and hands on in this approach. A go-getter through and through.