If Rutherford is described as the heart of Napa Valley, then Oak Knoll is the sweet spot.
And within that sweet spot are 52 prime acres of Merlot, Petit Verdot, Malbec, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, and Viognier vines whose grapes are fashioned into wines of distinction by the Cunat Family and their esteemed wine making team. Materra/Cunat Family Vineyards has called this prime location home since 2007 when Brian Cunat purchased the lush property. The farm-raised, mid-west native had built a successful Chicago-based international real estate business and was ready for a new challenge. A love of travel and wine led him to Napa where he and wife Miki, along with their children, created Materra with the goal of producing exceptional fruit, and thus, exceptional wines. With the 2015 completion of their winery, barrel storage facility, and sleek tasting room, and with several award-winning varietals to their name, it appears they’ve succeeded.
It’s a family affair at Materra; each member is actively involved. Brian and Miki’s oldest daughter Neena, who preceded her family’s westward move to Napa with her own hospitality industry motives, oversees Materra’s daily operations. Neena’s husband Harry will soon take over marketing operations. Younger daughter Amie designs the wine labels and curates the winery’s art and décor. Brian’s brother John is a lead investor. The wine club, playfully dubbed ‘Dean’s List,’ is named for Brian and John’s dad who sparked his sons’ love of farming and nature. The name not only honors their father’s life and influence, but also conveys the family’s commitment to excellence.
The name Materra is derived from the Latin words ‘mother’ and ‘earth,’ and is a fitting moniker for the Cunat’s commitment to nurturing their land. The consistent quality of the wines derived from the rich soils are a perfect expression of this sun-soaked Oak Knoll AVA. Winemakers Bruce Regalia, formerly of Duckhorn Wines and Anderson Valley’s Goldeneye, and Michael Trujillo, whose mentors include the great Andre Tchelistcheff, Tony Soter and Jim Allen,oversee the predominantly dry-farmed vines using environmentally sustainable methods. Production and storage facilities also demonstrate an environmental commitment, as does the minimalist tasting room with it’s reclaimed wood tables, polished concrete floors, and iron fixtures. By-appointment-only tastings are also held in the welcoming lavender and flower-filled garden.
4326 Big Ranch Rd. Napa
Fran Miller is a feature writer for a variety of online and print publications. A pop culture junkie with a colorful background in politics, television, and pro sports, she loves sharing her travel, dining, and wine finds with readers, and prides herself on lyrically capturing the heart of all of her stories.