The Story of Our Winery

Whitethorn Winery

Our Story

Our story begins with family, heritage, and a love for our land. Alonso Mckee was the first in our family to settle in Whitethorn valley following his service in the Civil War. Our family has pioneered a self-sufficient way of life that has allowed us to homestead in the valley for eight generations. The township of Whitethorn, located in a remote and rugged coastal valley of southern Humboldt County, CA, was established in 1991.

Our winery dream started small. The first production of wine 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. Our wines gained a reputation for quality and became sought after in the San Francisco Bay Area restaurant community. Our wines have been served in many of the finest restaurants, including Acquerello, Boulevard, Chez Panisse, Martini House, Masa’s, and the Ritz-Carlton.

About Our Winemaker

Tasha McCorkle McKee began making blackberry and rose petal wines in her parent’s barn at just 16 years of age. She was fascinated with the magical transformation of fruit during fermentation and the more subtle changes in wine that occurs 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 the highest honors and a B.S. degree in Fermentation Science. Afterwhich, Tasha discovered the art of making fine wine at Simi Winery. While at Simi, she visited Bordeaux, France. She was impressed by how well winemakers understood the terroir of their vineyards. She later applied this same understanding to making wines that express the fullest potential of each vineyard.

In 2002, the Mattole River, which flows through the Whitethorn Valley, stopped flowing. As isolated pools dried up, thousands of coho salmon perished. This crisis eclipsed Tasha’s work at Whitethorn Winery. 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 streamflow.

Back to the Cellar

Continuing a Tradition

In 2007, Tasha’s son, Galen, a 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 Sauvignon 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 its new Assistant Winemaker, Galen Doherty.