The Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians launched its wine brand, Kitá Wines, to colleagues in the winemaking community Thursday evening at its new winery in the Santa Rita Hills Wine Center in Lompoc.
Kitá Wines’ winery includes 8,400 square feet inside the 75,000 square-foot center, owned by the investment firm Peregrine Realty Partners of Newport Beach.
Tara Gomez, general manager and winemaker, and Tymari LoRe, assistant winemaker, shared their education and winemaking backgrounds with guests as the latter nibbled catered hors d’oeuvres and sampled the wines.
Gomez said she hopes Kitá Wines will eventually open a tasting room near its Lompoc winery.
Kitá Wines’ case production is 2,000, with the “10-year plan” focused on growing to about 7,500 cases, Gomez said. The varietals produced are grenache blanc, sauvignon blanc, pinot noir, grenache, syrah and cabernet sauvignon.
Camp 4 Vineyard, purchased in 2010 by the Chumash from the Parker family, is the source of all the grape varietals except the sauvignon blanc, sourced in 2011 and 2012 from Star Lane Vineyard in Happy Canyon, and the pinot noir, Gomez said.
Starting with the current vintage, Gomez said, the tribe will purchase pinot noir from Sanford’s La Encantada Vineyard; the 2011 and 2012 pinot noir grapes were purchased from Hillard-Bruce Vineyards. The current vintage of sauvignon blanc will also come from Camp 4, as that varietal was grafted onto existing vines there, she noted.
Like many of her colleagues, Gomez believes that winemaking “starts in the vineyard,” and it’s the task of the viticulturist and winemaker to strike a balance between “Old World traditions and New World technology.”
Before moving production to its new Lompoc location, Kitá Wines operated as “a winery within a winery” at Rideau Vineyard in Solvang, Gomez said.
Gomez, a Santa Maria native and the daughter of tribe vice chairman Richard Gomez, attended California State University, Fresno, on a scholarship from the tribe, and during her studies interned at Fess Parker Winery & Vineyard in Los Olivos.
Following her 1998 graduation with a bachelor’s in enology, she put her love of chemistry to use with a job as enologist at Fess Parker. Gomez later moved to Paso Robles to work as enologist and lab manager at J. Lohr Vineyards & Wines, and while there, started her own label, Kalawashaq Wine Cellars.
In 2007, still at J. Lohr, Gomez put Kalawashaq “on hold” to focus on traveling to the the wine regions of Spain, France and Germany to experience “Old World” winemaking styles.
In 2011, Gomez returned to her roots to study the many grape varietals grown at the tribe’s 286-acre vineyard on the eastern edge of the 1,400-acre Camp 4 property.
LoRe, a native of Cypress, graduated from Cal Poly with a bachelor of science in wine and viticulture. While a student, she interned at J. Lohr (and met Gomez) and spent a semester in Australia.