Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Materra Cunat Family Vineyards

Materra Cunat Family Vineyards was founded by Brian and Miki Cunat and their two daughters in 2007 after purchasing a 22 acre estate vineyard, with 50 acres total, in the Oak Knoll district.  "Materra" roughly translated from Latin means "Mother Earth."  Brian lived in Illinois and began visiting Napa Valley for wine tastings in the 1990s.  The family was out visiting Napa Valley in 2007 when their daughter, Neena, was exploring job opportunities.  They took a wrong turn and ended up driving by a winery property for sale in Oak Knoll.  A sudden decision led to their being the new owners of this estate.

Tasting bar

A tasting room was opened in early 2012 in St. Helena on the north end of Main Street, near Lyman Park and next to the Wydon Hotel.  In fact, the tasting room use to be part of the lobby of the hotel.  Hotel guests now receive complimentary tastings and discounts.  Their daughter, Neena, manages the tasting room while their other daughter, Amie, designs wine labels and other materials for the winery. Construction for the new (French styled) winery will probably begin later this year at the main property in Oak Knoll, where there will also be a tasting room.  Current production is about 4,000 cases per year.  Plans are to gradually expand to about 12,000 cases.  The winery is open daily without an appointment and is within easy walking distance of the main section of downtown St. Helena.  They are in the Napa Neighbor Program. Much thanks to Neena for a very pleasant visit and tasting. 


Our tasting began with the Materra 2011 Sauvignon Blanc which sells for only $18.  485 cases were produced. A pale straw in color, I got mostly pear and peach on the nose, with lemon, peach and gooseberry on the palate.  Although the wine had good refreshing acid, it was well balanced and smooth.  Finish was medium length.  This is a very nice SB for the price and leans more toward tropical fruit than herbaceousness, making it very appealing and easy to drink.

Second up was the Materra 2011 Viognier at $26.  This is only the second vintage for this wine.  Sparkling light straw in color with a pleasant floral nose. I got pear and peaches on the palate with a hint of pineapple.  Well balanced, refreshing with good body and a moderate length finish, this is the perfect wine to have well chilled on a hot summer day. 

Tasting room

Our third pour was the Materra 2009 Oak Knoll Merlot, selling for $38.  This is 96% Merlot, 1% Cabernet Sauvignon, 1% Petit Verdot, 1% Malbec and 1% Cabernet Franc.  It is the third vintage for this Merlot which is made completely from estate grapes. 1,250 cases were produced. A medium ruby in color with sparkling clarity, this wine presented red cherry aromas with hints of toasted oak.  On the palate it was red cherry with good tannins a medium plus body for a Merlot and a medium length, pleasant finish.  It was an interesting Merlot with some complexity.  Although it is very drinkable now, it should improve with a few years of age.  Both of us found it quite appealing, and it was our favorite of the wines we tasted.


The last pour was the Materra 2009 St. Helena Cabernet Sauvignon. It retails for $65, is the third vintage for them with only 150 cases produced.  It is 76% Cabernet Sauvignon, 16% Malbec, 5% Petit Verdot, 2% Malbec and 1% Cabernet Franc. The Cabernet Sauvignon grapes were from St. Helena and the other varietals were from the estate vineyard.  On the nose I got red cherry with some cedar and forest floor followed by red cherry, red plum and mocha on the palate.  Tannins were rather soft and well balanced.  Finish was medium long and very pleasant.  The wine is very drinkable now but should develop well over the next few years.  A nice Cab for the price.

Materra has an easy to find, down to earth, and unpretentious tasting room that is well worth visiting.  Although they make two very decent white wines and a good Cabernet (Their 2007 and 2008 Cabs are both sold out.), I think their Merlot will be the varietal that will set them apart from many other excellent Napa Valley wineries.  I did read good things about their Chardonnay, but this was not available for tasting.  Materra is a newer winery with much potential. We look forward to visiting their new winery when it opens in a year or two. 

Large format bottle

1426 Main St
St. Helena, CA 94574
(707) 244-4600
Date of Visit: June 5, 2013
Note that they are no longer located at this location but are in the process of opening up a winery on Big Ranch Road.  As of 4/1/15: " We have officially moved from our downtown
St. Helena location! Stay tuned for updates on when we open at Big Ranch Road.

P: (707) 224-4900(707) 224-4900"

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