One Label's Long Journey
Chatom Vineyards' Gay Callen spent nearly 30 years going from farmer to vintner.
Douglas Flat, CA
Upon first meeting Gay Callan, the petite owner of Chatom Vineyards , it's hard to believe she's a farmer and self-made businesswoman. But that's precisely what she is. Gay first moved to the fertile Esmeralda Valley in Calaveras County in 1980. "There were no stoplights, and the opportunities for agriculture and business were wonderful," Gay recalls. Noting that there were but a few vineyards in the area's agricultural mix, Gay promptly planted a vineyard and signed a long-term contract with a Calaveras winery to purchase her grapes. When her contract winery decided to cancel a portion of the deal a few years later, Gay ventured into a custom crush operation.
"Then, in 1990, I started the first phase of the winery adventure. I had the winery, tasting room, and offices built, and began sharing a winemaker with another winery," Gay explains. It was not until 1998 that Gay finished building the crush pad at the winery location. She then brought her own winemaker on board so that everything was under one roof. "It seems like it took me forever to accomplish this, doesn't it?" Gay smiles. Not really, when one tastes all she's accomplished.
The white wines in the Chatom Vineyards portfolio are un-oaked, because Gay wants the flavors of the vineyard to be experienced to the fullest degree. The barrels for the red wines are carefully chosen to be complementary to each specific varietal. Another accomplishment--She Wines White--is a refreshing blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon. It was crafted to suit the taste of the female wine drinker, with a whimsical pink label as its finishing touch. The winery donates a portion of its sales to breast cancer research. But Chatom Vineyards shed its "Women Power" image a few years ago, with the welcome addition of Winemaker Mark Künz, who hails from B.R. Cohn, Matanzas Creek, and Piper Sonoma. "His artistry and handcrafting ability has brought us a whole new level of quality," Gay says.
With 65 acres of award-winning fruit, 8,500 case production, and distribution to 12 states, Gay is content with the size of Chatom Vineyards. It's time for Gay--and all wine lovers--to sit back a bit and enjoy the fruits of her labor.
What to buy:
'06 Chardonnay Fresh pears, peaches, spicy floral. Creamy, honey, nutmeg, nectarines $18
'05 Gitano-Sangiovese Spicy plums, strawberries, raspberries, hint of anise, chocolate, fruit and spice finish $16
'05 Syrah Full-bodied, black fruit, vanilla, hint of oak. Baker's chocolate, deep black currants, sweet basil $23
'05 Zinfandel Spicy blackberries, ripe plums, licorice. Tannins, white pepper, clove finish $19
209.736.6500; Fax: 209.736.6507
1969 Hwy 4
Douglas Flat, CA 95229
Tasting Room Open Daily 11-5
Take Hwy 49 to Angels Camp.
Head east on Highway 4 toward Murphys about 7 miles. The winery is on your right.