A glass is worth a thousand words
coastal valley

About the Winemaker

Tasha

Tasha McCorkle McKee began making blackberry and rose petal wines in her parents barn at the age of 16. She was fascinated with the magical transformation of fruit during fermentation and the more subtle changes in wine that occurred during the aging process. She came to see wine as a living being, not always predictable, but sometimes evolving into something unexpected and wonderful.

When she was 21, Tasha left her home in Whitethorn, compelled by a desire to make great wines. She pursued her study of Enology and Viticulture at U.C., Davis where she graduated with highest honors and a B.S. degree in Fermentation Science. Subsequently, she set about discovering the art of making fine wine at Simi Winery. While at Simi she visited Bordeaux, France and was impressed by how well winemakers understood the terroir of their vineyards and applied their understanding to making wines which expressed the fullest potential of each vineyard.

Whitethorn Winery pinot noir

The Dream

Alonso Mckee first settled in the Whitethorn valley following his service in the civil war, our family has pioneered a self sustaining way of life in which has allowed us to stay and live here ever since. Established in 1991, in the town of Whitethorn. Located in a remote and rugged coastal valley of southern Humboldt County, California. where our family has homesteaded for eight generations..

Our dream started small, the first production included 50 cases each of Pinot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon. However, through the dedicated efforts of Tasha, and concerted support from the surrounding community our production grew to 1,500 cases annually, and included Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay and Merlot. During this period, our wines became well known within the San Francisco Bay Area restaurant community, and were served in many of the finest restaurants, including Acquerello, Boulevard, Chez Panisse, Martini House, Masa’s, and the Ritz-Carlton.

Whitethorn Valley

In 2002, the Mattole river, which flows through the valley where we have made our home, stopped flowing. As isolated pools dried up, thousands of coho salmon perished. This crisis eclipsed Tasha’s work at Whitethorn Winery. Subsequently, she began working for Sanctuary Forest and together with the local community, government agencies and non-profits, developed the Mattole Low-Flow Program- the first voluntary incentive based program in California to address both water supply for human use and stream flow for wildlife and fisheries habitat (See http://sanctuaryforest.org/).

Back to the Cellar

In 2007, Tasha’s son, Galen -then a junior at South Fork High School- expressed his interest in learning the trade. That harvest, Whitethorn Winery returned to Anderson valley’s Demuth Vineyards, and produced one of their finest pinots to date.

Since then we have been ever so slowly increased our production: bringing in Pinot Noir from Elk Prairie Vineyards (Humboldt County) in 2009; in 2012 Cabernet Savignon and Cabernet Franc from Light Vineyards (Redwood Valley – Mendocino County), and Pinot Noir from Wiley (Anderson Valley – Mendocino County); in 2013 Chardonnay from Light Vineyards, and Pinot Noir from Lost Coast Vineyards (Petrolia – Humboldt County).

In fits and starts, the winery has remained and grown. With Galen going to college and Tasha becoming the Executive Director of Sanctuary Forest, the winery has had to play second fiddle. However, since Galen’s graduation from the University of San Diego in 2012, the winery has flourished, receiving renewed attention from both Tasha and it’s new Assistant Winemaker, Galen Doherty.