Story By: Layne Randolph // Photos By: Neena Heitz
Expanding for the Future
When warmly greeted at their car with a glass of wine and a smile, Materra’s guests immediately know they are in for something special. Situated on a 50-acre property in the Oak Knoll District AVA, with the Mayacamas and Vaca Mountain ranges on both sides, Materra can host 99 percent of their high-end, by-reservation-only tasting experiences outdoors. The climate is a bit cooler in the Oak Knoll District than in the rest of the valley during the warm summer months, making it an ideal tasting experience.
In the coming months, owners Brian and Miki Cunat plan to enhance the hospitality even more, with a 10,000 square foot extension and renovation to the property. The addition will provide guests with more options and versatility, especially for indoor tastings.
Harry Heitz, Materra’s General Manager, explained, “The new addition will expand and improve outdoor space, but it is primarily focused on the indoors, with a lounge space, multiple private tasting areas, and a library/museum with a rotating display of artwork and antiques.”
Some of the antiques and artwork relate to Miki Cunat’s Japanese background. Miki hails from an old samurai family in Japan. She came to the United States as a foreign exchange student to study at McHenry Community College in Illinois, where she met her husband and winery co-owner, Brian Cunat.
Her influence carries over into creating three small-lot wines sold for a limited time each late spring/early summer. In the Land of Cabernet Sauvignon, a wine that pairs perfectly with meat and hearty dishes, Miki saw an opportunity to create something unique–wines that pair beautifully with the light cuisine of her homeland. As an homage to Miki’s Japanese heritage, Winemaker Chelsea Barrett created Shinkan Chardonnay, Yoshino Rosé, and Dogura Cabernet Sauvignon.
Meaningful Japanese monikers were chosen for each wine. They selected the Yoshino Rosé name for Yoshino Mountain in Japan, which is famous for its 30,000 flowering cherry trees and is a holy site and pilgrimage location. Shinkan Chardonnay takes its name from the Japanese word for “quiet forest,” referencing the tranquility of a forest stroll. The well-balanced Cabernet Sauvignon Dogura, inspired by Miki’s great grandfather, Shozaburo Dogura, renowned in Japan for his legacy of conservation. These Materra wines are paired with Japanese snacks like rice crackers and crunchy green peas during the tasting to complete the Japanese theme and showcase the pairing perfection.
But it’s really about the fresh and delicate wines. Winemaker Barrett provides expertise and oversees the entire process, ensuring the wines reflect the Japanese taste profile and the Cunat Family’s exacting standards. Chelsea’s exquisite winemaking touch developed early, working in vineyards and wineries from a young age with two highly regarded winemaker parents, and she joined Materra in 2019.
Chelsea earned her chops on her own and through her family’s influence, and Materra | Cunat Family Vineyards keeps family in all they do, from Miki’s grandfather to their children. Brian and Miki’s youngest daughter designed the ethereal labels on the wine bottles.
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