Reinvigorates its Winemaking Team

Brian and Miki Cunat of Materra/ Cunat Family Vineyards purchased their 52 bucolic Oak Knoll AVA acres in 2007, and since that time, have gradually and steadily raised the bar on all aspects of their venture. From stellar winetasting experiences to an entire revitalization of their winemaking team, Materra exudes quality.

Illustrative of this quest  for the best is their hiring of Chelsea Barrett as winemaker. A member of Napa Valley winemaking royalty and a Calistoga native, Barrett was raised amongst the grapes by mom Heidi of Screaming Eagle renown and dad Bo of Chateau Montelena fame. A UC Davis degree in viticulture and enology led to intern stints in Austria and Australia before Barrett returned to the Valley, where she was ultimately named winemaker at Joel Gott wines before finding her home at Materra. She also currently partners with her mom on the labels Amuse Bouche, Au Sommet, and Aviatrix.


“I want wines to be balanced, delicious, and showcase the vineyard,” said Barrett. “I love keeping up with the latest research and experiments, and I’m always refining the details and striving for improvement.”

Also new to the Materra team is assistant winemaker Caryn Harrison, a longtime Barrett collaborator. Michael Trujillo, whose 37 years of wine industry experience make him a Napa icon, continues to serve as consulting winemaker.

The name Materra  is  derived  from   the Latin words ‘mother’  and  ‘earth’  and  is demonstrative of the Cunat’s commitment to nurturing their land. Their French varietal vines (Merlot, Petit Verdot, Malbec, Chardonnay,  Sauvignon   Blanc, and Viognier) are farmed using sustainable methods. Production and storage facilities also demonstrate an environmental commitment, as does the minimalist tasting room with its reclaimed wood tables, polished concrete floors, and iron fixtures.

“We are taking Materra to  the  next level in terms of quality,” said Harry Heitz, Materra’s director of marketing. “Chelsea and her team are experimenting with different blends and new techniques. Her leader- ship provides a modern flair that is helping to refine our style.”

Materra’s by-appointment-only tastings, currently held  within  its  large,  lovely,  and lavender and flower-filled garden, are intimate and personalized, and each begins with a chilled Sauvignon Blanc greeting. When making an appointment, guests are asked their favored flavor profiles. Are they wine novices or experts? Are they seeking to gain knowledge, or simply relax and enjoy the winery’s beautiful atmosphere? “Either way, our team provides a very satis- fying tasting experience that caters to each and every preference,” said Heitz.




Article By: Fran Miller // Photos By: Neena Heitz