Farewell to a Foothills Legend
Today marks the end of an era in the Foothills and the creation of a void behind the Skinner table as Stephanie Simunovich announced she is leaving the industry to dip her toes in new waters. After graduating from UC Davis, Stephanie headed to Napa where she was on the cutting edge of hospitality and a hot up-and-comer climbing the ranks at Grgich Hills. Then, 8 years ago, the Skinners plucked her out of Napa, brought her to the Sierra Foothills, and made her the head of all things hospitality at Skinner Vineyards in hopes that she could create a brand for a relatively new winery in what was, at the time, a fledgling wine region. She did far more than just create a brand. Under Stephanie’s guidance, Skinner became the beacon on the hill, both literally and figuratively, in the El Dorado and Fair Play AVA’s. Skinner also transcended the Foothills to become one of the most respected names in the entire industry culminating in being named one of the Top 100 Wineries in the World in 2017 by Wine & Spirits Magazine. Stephanie also did more for making the Sierra Foothills what it is today than perhaps anyone. In addition to serving on the Board of the El Dorado Wine Association, she embodied the “rising tide lifts all ships” philosophy and promoted all of the quality producers in the Foothills. As an employee of Stephanie’s, I can say I learned everything I know about the hospitality side of wine from her. I have never known anymore as devoted to the customer experience as she was. She was constantly thinking and tinkering. Stephanie believed that it was much more important for a customer to have a good experience and to leave with a pleasant taste in their mouth than to push them into buying wine. She never encouraged forcing club membership on anyone and never treated non-club members like second class citizens. These were the keys to her and Skinner’s success. Parenthood helps people see when they need to make a change, and for Stephanie it has pushed her to pursue a calling to teach chemistry. Wine being the world’s all-time best application of chemistry, she’ll certainly have a great foundation. But she’s going to be missed in these parts!