Calaveras County Wine News & Happenings!
The beginning of Chatom Vineyards has always been a talking point. The fact that in 1980,
Gay Callen moved all alone from San Francisco to a remote ranch in Calaveras County, with a vision to
start a vineyard - makes a lot of people stop in their tracks. Especially when you throw in the fact that
Gay’s education and professional career had been based in technology & marketing and that the majority
of the local ranchers thought she was completely crazy for planting a vineyard in the Esmeralda Valley.
Since then however, Gay has built and preserved one of the most respected wineries in the Sierra Foothills
- a winery that for a large part of it’s history, has been operated almost entirely by women. However, we
must not leave out the fact that there has always been men working in the vineyard and the cellar as well.
In fact, the same two men David Bassham & Larry Rush have managed the vineyard since it first began in
1981. For the most part though, Gay has always kept a talented group of women in key positions on her
Women like Mari Wells, a very accomplished winemaker that became part of the Chatom team
in 2002. Chatom Vineyards had then become a winery not only owned by a woman and mostly operated
by women, it had a female winemaker as well! That fact began to get around and Chatom became known
as the “female winery.” So when Mari had extra Zinfandel in the cellar, she had the idea to
blend it and create a red wine made “by women, for women” and to call it “She Wines.” The idea took
off from there and the first She Wine was released in July of 2004.
Today, Chatom can’t exactly call itself the “female winery” anymore. Mari has moved on and in
her place Gay hired an incredibly talented winemaker, named Mark Künz. Mark embraced the She
Wines and helped to produce the next vintages of a Merlot blend and Semillon, which were released in
2005. In keeping with the “Girl Power” theme Chatom also decided to donate proceeds from the She
Wines to women’s health related charities ~ donating partial proceeds from the She Red towards Heart
Disease Research and partial proceeds from the She White towards Breast Cancer Research. And let’s
just say, “this is only the beginning .”
Not only is today's woman spicy, sexy, smooth and sensual ~ she also looks out for her sisters!