Materra Wines – Cunat Family Vineyards Review
Address: 4326 Big Ranch Road Napa,California 94558.
Phone Number: 707-224-4900
Tasting Hours: By appt. 10:00-4:30
Region: Napa Valley AVA, Oak Knoll District of Napa Valley AVA, California
Reviewer: Elizabeth Smith
Review Date: 4/24/2016
Reviewer: Elizabeth Smith
Materra, translated as Mother Earth in Latin, is the lifelong dream of the Cunat family, the reward of many years of entrepreneurship. The Cunats, an American-Asian blended family, brought with them to the Napa Valley their love of farming, fine cuisine, wine, and art to found their family vineyards in 2007. When they first arrived, they did not have their own production facility or tasting room. However, they were able to make their first vintage wines in 2007 with fruit coming from the land they owned. They rented a tasting room in St. Helena while waiting for the required permits to build. Finally in 2015, their own winery opened in the Oak Knoll District of the Napa Valley.
As I drove down the long driveway, I could not help but stop and take photos. Little did I know, but the Materra team knew I was there and was waiting for me to park my car. As soon as I parked, Neena, Brian and Miki Cunats oldest daughter, greeted me with a tray holding a glass of their 2015 Oak Knoll Sauvignon Blanc. She led me inside the beautiful reception area, where two other staff members and one of their two winemakers, Michael Trujillo, welcomed me. We then headed out to their state-of-the-art production area, where Neena poured a 2015 Oak Knoll Viognier ($32) and showed me the temperature-controlled tank system as well as a few of the tanks that have pumpover technology, all of which can be controlled remotely. While we were there, Michael arrived with a group and we all tasted their first wine grown and produced right there at the new facility, the 2015 Materra Oak Knoll District Chardonnay. With minimal new oak treatment and only a small percentage of malolactic fermentation, this chardonnay was intensely fruit-forward with a rich texture.
Next, Neena led me to their equally state-of-the-art barrel space. They currently have their own wines there, along with wines belonging to their custom crush customers. Theres also an area that can be sectioned off from the rest of the space and warmed to initiate barrel fermentation. Upon leaving the barrel area, Neena poured me a taste of the 2014 Oak Knoll Chardonnay ($27), which is very similar to the 2015, demonstrating a great consistency in fruit choice and winemaking techniques.
Adjacent to the barrel space was a formal tasting area with a wine cellar. The space is richly decorated; including artwork curated by Neenas sister who also designs the winerys marketing collateral. Tastings in this area are reserved for special visitors and wine club members.
Neena asked me if I wished to taste inside or outside, and I chose outside because it was such a beautiful day. She seated me at a table, and then another staff member brought the rest of the wines to taste, one by one, accompanied by small bites. We tasted their current releases, the 2009 Oak Knoll Merlot ($40), 2011 Rutherford Cabernet Sauvignon ($65), and the 2012 Napa Valley Midnight ($52), a blend of 34% merlot, 33% malbec, 31% petit verdot, and 2% cabernet sauvignon. All of the grapes for their wines are estate-grown except for cabernet sauvignon. The cabernet for this vintage was sourced from a vineyard in Rutherford because their other vineyard source in St. Helena didnt produce the quality of fruit they wanted. The 2011 Rutherford Cabernet is beautiful with its characteristic dark fruit and Rutherford dust tannins, another testament to good vineyard management and winemaking during the Napa Valleys most challenging vintage in years. The aptly named 2012 Midnight was floral, dark, rich, and inviting; the only 2012 which Neena said was ready for release. However, my favorite wine of the tasting was the 2009 Oak Knoll Merlot, which after seven years, shows finely integrated tannins and delicious flavors of blackberry, cherry, mocha, and spice. I dont know anywhere in the Napa Valley where you can find an estate-grown merlot for $40. It was the wine of the day.
During the tasting, Neena spoke to me openly about her family and their history, about her Midwestern fathers love of the land and his entrepreneurial spirit and her mothers Japanese family’s great appreciation of wine and food. Together these elements have made Materra Cunat Family Vineyards what it is today, a gorgeous estate of magnificent wines crafted with a combination of love, artistry, and the future of winemaking technology.