The Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians is shutting down Kitá Wines, which was run by Chumash descendant Tara Gomez, as seen here from 2014. | Credit: Paul Wellman (file)

Kitá Wines — which was founded in 2010 as the first brand to be owned by a Native American tribe with a Native American winemaker at the helm — is closing down in April.  

The Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians said the move was a business decision and is parting ways with winemaker Tara Gomez, a Chumash descendant. The closure comes right after Gomez and her wife, Mireia Taribo — who together make another brand called Camins 2 Dreams — were the subject of national media attention and awards. They were featured in large September 2021 stories for both Food & Wine and Bon Appétit magazines and, in October, won a Next Wave Award from the website for “spirits, wine, and beer professionals who have distinguished themselves in the past year for propelling the industry forward to a brighter, more equitable, and sustainable future.” 

So why, given the national attention, growing praise, and continued global emphasis on Indigenous rights and overall equity, would the tribe end the brand now? 

“The tribe, with a focus on diversifying our investment portfolio, has made the business decision to leave the wine industry at this time,” said the tribe’s Chair Kenneth Kahn. “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.”

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Gomez isn’t saying much beyond what she wrote in her letter to wine club members, which echoed that it was the tribe’s business decision and that the brand’s Lompoc facility would officially shut down in April.  

“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,” she wrote. “There wasn’t a lot of discussion happening around Native American–made wines when we first started, and I am so proud to be part of the movement happening around the world as people look toward the original stewards of the land for unique and amazing wine, beer, and spirits.”

Though “sad to see this chapter come to a close,” Gomez is excited for the future. “Now, I ask you to join me in looking toward the future with hope,” she wrote. “Hope for what’s yet to come. Hope for the amazing work I will continue doing to elevate the voices and opportunities of BIPOC and LGBTQ+ professionals throughout the wine industry. And hope for the opportunity to raise a glass one last time together before our doors close for good.”

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