‘Red handed’ winemaker eyes professional career

Tami McKay is the new president of the Sonoma Home Winemakers. Photo by Karen Ott

An award-winning amateur winemaker working to become a professional in the field, Tami McKay has just added an impressive item to her resume. She’s the new president of the Sonoma Home Winemakers.

McKay has been making wine for about four years. “I’ve become really passionate about it,” she said. “It’s the perfect blend of art and science.”

A former dance and choreographer in Los Angeles, McKay changed careers with a move to Sonoma 14 years ago. As her interest in winemaking grew, she embraced another challenge – to become a professional winemaker.

“It was time for a change,” she said, “so why not pursue something you’re absolutely, wildy passionate about?”

She is currently studying viticulture and winemaking technology at Napa Valley College, and is working as a quality control intern in its bonded winery. “It’s a fantastic program,” she said.

McKay has been producing award-winning wine as a member of a small home winemaking group under the label “Red Handed.” Recent accolades include a Double Gold at the 2010 California State Fair (one point away from Best of Show), plus another gold and a silver, for cabernet sauvignon from three area appellations.

Her team hand-harvests the grapes from growers they’ve come to know and trust. “We do it all the way, from picking to bottling.”

The wine is good, she allowed, but the bottling parties are even better. “It’s a blast,” she said. Another favorite moment: “at the beach, sitting around a fire, sharing wine with friends and family.”

McKay joined Sonoma Home Winemakers in 2008. As its president, she plans to invite guest speakers to share their expertise. “I’m excited to share my enthusiasm for winemaking with our group and help introduce more educational topics to the agenda.”

This is the first time in the history of the organization that a woman has held the presidential role. The group also named Joanne Snyder as vice president. Philip Sales will remain as treasurer.

Chris Kukshtel held the presidential post for the last term of two years and will take on the role of secretary. “I’m thrilled with the appointment of Ms. McKay,” he said. “She brings her own expertise and valuable insights on how to make award-winning wines.”

Established in 1985, under the name Valley of the Moon Dilettante Enological Society (VOMDES), the Sonoma Home Winemakers focus is on education and sharing expertise in an on-going effort to produce great wines.

The group sponsors two scholarships for high school seniors going onto viticulture and culinary arts. The 2011 scholarships will be $500 each and will be awarded in the memory of the Club’s late President Jack Betram. Find out more at sonomahomewine.org.

2 Responses to ‘Red handed’ winemaker eyes professional career

  1. Phil Burton says:

    Wonderfully refreshing to see this kind of enthusiasm and Red Handed is an inspired name- someone give this girl a job! Makes me want to taste her wine.

    • Tami McKay says:

      Thanks for the kind words Phil! Maybe we can make a trade – wine for barrels :-)