When she was four, Tara Gomez received a Fisher-Price microscope as a present. That gift sparked a lifelong love of science that would see her become the winemaker for Kitá Winery that’s owned by her Tribe, the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians.
“I fell in love with science, with chemistry,” Gomez says. “And my family would take me on wine tours. I can remember all of the different smells. I would see people in lab coats developing and testing wines in their labs and I thought, ‘That’s what I want to do.’”
And she did. Thanks to a Tribal scholarship, Gomez earned an enology degree from California State University, Fresno in 1998. She then worked at Fess Parker Winery for two years until becoming the enologist for J. Lohr Vineyards and Wines. In 2008 she left to work and learn Old World winemaking throughout Europe, including working two harvests in Spain.
In 2010, her world would come full circle. That year the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians purchased the Camp 4 Vineyard from Fess Parker Winery. The Tribe wanted to make wines, and they needed an enologist. They called Gomez.
“My Tribe had paid for my education, so this was an opportunity to pay it forward,” she says. “To do what I love for my Tribe, to teach them what I’ve learned and have the creative freedom to develop my own wines was a dream come true."
Kitá means “Our Valley Oak'' in the Chumash Samala language. The gold oak leaf on the bottle seals is of a valley oak tree, an important food source for the Chumash and a symbol of Chumash culture. Kitá Wines grows 19 different varietals on its 256-acres, including its Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Carignane, Chardonnay, Grenache, Grenache Blanc, Malbec, Marsanne, Merlot, Petite Verdot, Pinot Noir, Rousanne, Sauvignon Blanc and Syrah varieties.
Gomez says she values the purity of Kitá’s wines that allows the tastes and scents of her home to come through. She has also developed two blends unique to the label. Her T’aya blend, meaning “Abalone Shell,” is described as a “southern Rhone style blend of Marsanne, Roussanne, and Grenache Blanc that highlights bright aromatics of zesty citrus, Asian pear, and honeysuckle with hints of chamomile and white peach.” Her Spe’y (Flower) is a “ruby colored wine that is brooding with aromatics of rose petals, violets, raspberry, clove, and maraschino cherries."
"I travel to Europe every year and I pick a varietal to learn about and bring that back home," she says. "It's a mix of Old World and New World techniques."
Visitors can experience Gomez’s wines at Kitá’s tasting room and tour the Camp 4 Vineyard (4070 Baseline Ave, Santa Ynez, CA 93460) where grapes are picked by hand with the rolling hills of Santa Barbara County as a backdrop. Kitá wines are also shipped nationwide.
Guests at the Chumash Casino Resort can also enjoy a glass or bottle of Kitá wine served at Willows, the resort’s Four Diamond fine-dining restaurant. The Tribe’s Root 246 farm-to-table restaurant also serves Kitá wines next to Hotel Corque, also owned by the Tribe near the Santa Inés Mission. Along with the Hadsten House Inn, all of these Tribally owned properties make perfect stays for exploring Kitá and other wineries within the Santa Barbara American Viticultural Area, and for attending Chumash Day and Annual Inter-Tribal Pow Wow at Malibu Bluffs Park every first weekend in April.
“It’s so rewarding to do what I love and have that benefit my home,” Gomez says. “And to bottle that and share it with the world.”
For more information about the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians, visit here.