Tara Gomez, Winemaker
From the first time that she stepped into a winery as a child, Tara Gomez has loved winemaking. Her fascination for science and love for the aromas of wine always mesmerized her. With the help of a scholarship from her tribe, the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians, Tara attended California State University Fresno where she studied Enology. While still a student, Tara gained hands on experience during an internship at Fess Parker Winery. She graduated as one of two women with a Bachelor of Science in Enology in 1998.
Her craving for chemistry landed her an Enologist position at Fess Parker Winery following Fresno State. A few years later, Tara moved up to Paso Robles to be the Enologist/Lab Manager at J.Lohr Vineyards and Wines. During her time at J.Lohr Tara was able to help fine-tune the wine quality and discover her own winemaking style. In 2001, while still at J.Lohr she started her own label, Kalawashaq Wine Cellars, making Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, Zinfandel and Cabernet Franc. During her time at J.Lohr, Tara enjoyed visiting Europe and traveling through numerous wine regions in Spain, France and Germany. Through her traveling Tara was in search of learning as much as possible about old world winemaking. After nine years with J.Lohr, Tara headed off to Europe to follow her passion of winemaking and learn traditional styles. For two years Tara polished her winemaking skills and learned to blend her new world techniques with old world traditions.
In 2010, the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians purchased the Camp 4 Vineyard and Tara’s dream of giving back to her tribe came true when she was hired on as Winemaker. Tara’s passion for the process of winemaking can be seen in both the vineyard and the winery. Her Chumash culture can be seen in her dedication to the vineyard and giving back to the land through sustainability. She can be found early mornings in the winery soaking in the aromas and giving loving attention to the wines. Tara’s understanding of the site, soils and grapes allows her to shepherd the grapes into lower alcohol, elegant balanced wines with minimal input.
Sarah Valdez, Assistant Winemaker
Sarah Valdez is the newest member of the Kitá team, as the Assistant Winemaker. Growing up on the Central Coast of California, Sarah found her love of science. Her drive for education sent her to UC Davis where she majored in Viticulture and Enology and joined the student group DEVO, the Davis Enology and Viticulture Organization. She participated in several DEVO immersion trips to wine regions in California, Oregon, Italy, France and Germany. These trips helped Sarah develop her palate and ignite her passion for learning about wines all over the world.
Sarah worked her first harvest in Summer 2009 for Gloria Ferrer, learning the basics of sparkling wine production. During her final year at UC Davis, Sarah was elected Vice President for DEVO where she was in charge of fundraising events and the organization of immersion trips. She was also awarded the Wine Spectator Scholarship, which allowed her to pursue her dream of working in Spain. Sarah spent harvest 2010 in Ribera del Duero working for Torres and learning about old world winemaking. After graduating with Honors with a Bachelors degree in Viticulture and Enology, and a minor in Spanish from UC Davis, Sarah left for Mendoza, Argentina to work the 2011 harvest for O.Fournier. There she worked in a well-equipped laboratory and learned the art of making Argentinian Malbec. She returned to California to work the 2011 harvest at Flowers where Sarah was introduced to the importance of sustainable, organic and biodynamic farming for quality wine.
After taking time to travel, Sarah returned to California in 2012 to be a cellar worker at Justin in Paso Robles, where she was the only woman cellar technician in their warehouse facility. In 2013 she moved on to become the Enologist at Broken Earth Winery in Paso Robles where she was in charge of all laboratory analysis, and spent a lot of time with the Assistant Winemaker training her palate and learning the art of blending.
Sarah is excited to be a part of the Kitá family, and to work with Tara to make balanced, elegant wines. When not in the winery she can usually be found teaching yoga and scuba diving.