Materra | Cunat Family Vineyards

Chelsea Barrett considered a career in architecture or medicine, but ultimately, winemaking drew her in. “I was interested in lots of different things, and I’m still interested in lots of different things. But wine is something I’ve always loved.”

It is not surprising that she chose winemaking given that she was raised in California wine country by two world-renowned winemaker parents, Bo and Heidi Barrett. Heidi is the winemaker of La Sirena, Barrett & Barrett, Paradigm, and several other high-end brands. Bo is the CEO and former winemaker of his family’s Chateau Montelena. When the 1973 vintage Chardonnay won first place among white wines at the 1976 Judgment of Paris wine tasting, he was a member of the cellar crew.

Chelsea chose to study Viticulture and Enology at UC Davis. She interned in Austria at Weingut Mayer am Pfarrplaz and at Two Hands in Australia’s Barossa Valley. Once back in Napa, she interned at Opus One and then started as an enologist at Joel Gott Wines in 2012, becoming a winemaker in 2017. Finally, in 2019, Chelsea joined Materra | Cunat Family Vineyards as Winemaker.

In only two years at Materra, she has already made her mark on the winery’s efficiency and the style of wine produced. While keeping the same core portfolio, she made subtle but impactful changes, such as switching the Rosé of Syrah to Rosé of Malbec.

As an homage to owner Miki Cunat’s Japanese heritage, Chelsea created three wines designed to pair well with Japanese cuisine. The first is the delicate Yoshino Rosé, named for the Yoshino
Mountain in Japan and famed for its cherry blossoms. The second is Shinkan (Japanese for “quiet forest”), a minimal oak Chardonnay, and the third is a lighter-than-average Cabernet Sauvignon, Dogura, inspired by Miki’s family name.

Having built her solid reputation in the wine world, Chelsea went back to her roots, joined forces with her powerhouse mother, and became her co-winemaker at Amuse Bouche and Au Sommet.

Amuse Bouche produces a Pomerol-inspired Merlot from Napa Valley, and Prêt à Boire, a Rosé of Grenache and Syrah. Au Sommet makes a Cabernet Sauvignon from vineyards at the very top of Atlas Peak.

In addition to her principal, full-time work with Materra and her winemaking partnerships with her mother, Chelsea also partnered with Heidi and her sister, Remi Barrett, to create Aviatrix. Together, the three released their first wine in 2018. Aviatrix specializes in making red varieties less typical for Napa, such as Primitivo, Petite Sirah, and Grenache.

As if that were not enough to keep one winemaker busy, Chelsea added Wine Judge to her list of accomplishments when she judged the North Coast Wine Challenge in 2020 and again in 2021. “I love judging,” she exclaimed. “Tasting 120 wines a day is an endurance run to keep your palate fresh, but I love experiencing different styles and getting to know the more seasoned judges. More than anything, I like how competitions reward good work and help promote good wine.”


Story By: Layne Randolph // Photo By: Neena Heitz