Kitá Wines, the label founded by the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians and led by Chumash native and winemaker Tara Gomez, will sell off remaining case goods, close its Lompoc tasting room and halt production, the tribe announced last week.
Gomez, a native of Santa Maria and the daughter of Richard Gomez, a former vice chairman of the tribe, launched Kitá Wines in 2010 with just three tons of grapes.
When I last interviewed her in August 2019, Gomez noted that the label had grown to about 2,000 cases annually.
In 2021, Gomez earned several honors, among them “Winemaker of the Year” by VinePair, and being named as an advisor to the James Beard Foundation Legacy Network Foundation.
Gomez referred my questions about the label’s closure to Mike Traphagen, senior public relations manager for the tribe, who emailed back a statement from Kenneth Kahn, tribal chairman for the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians:
“The tribe, with a focus on diversifying our investment portfolio, has made the business decision to leave the wine industry at this time. Tara Gomez successfully produced award-winning wines while telling the story of our tribe to a new audience. We thank Tara for the years of dedication and hard work she poured into Kitá Wines, and we congratulate her on cementing her legacy as a top-flight Native American woman winemaker. Thank you to all of you who enjoyed and supported Kitá Wines throughout the years.”
Traphagen also shared an email Gomez wrote to Kitá’s club members:
“It is with a heavy heart that I send you this email today to announce that the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians has made the business decision to cease production of Kitá Wines, and we will be closing our facilities in April.”
The label’s tasting room and winery is located in the Sta. Rita Hills Wine Center in Lompoc.
“When we embarked on this journey in 2010, my mission from the very beginning was to approach these wines the same way I approach life: with a heart full of gratitude and a healthy appetite for adventure. Every step of the way I have been grateful for the opportunities provided by my tribe, through education and this incredible opportunity to tell the story of our ancestors through wine cultivated from our ancestral lands,” Gomez wrote.
In 2010, the Chumash purchased Camp 4 Vineyard, located on the western edge of Happy Canyon AVA, from the Fess Parker family. The 1,400-acre site, planted to 256 acres of vines, will not be affected by the tribe’s decision to close Kitá, Traphagen said.
In 2017, Gomez and her wife, Mireia Taribó, founded their own wine label, Camins 2 Dreams, and that winery and tasting room is also in Lompoc. The two produce syrah, gruner veltliner and rose from vineyards in the Sta. Rita Hills.