Materra Cunat – high tech and Merlot
Are you looking for a winery off the beaten path in the Napa Valley? Try the Materra Cunat Family Vineyards on Big Ranch Road. Big Ranch Road is located in the Oak Knoll AVA, a sub-appellation of the Napa Valley. Big Ranch is close to the downtown area of Napa where there are plenty of excellent lodging and dining choices. Also on quiet Big Ranch Road, you will find Robert Biale Vineyards, Andretti Winery, and Corley Family Vineyards. Spend the day wine tasting on Big Ranch Road. Think quiet, peaceful and good wines.
Lucky us, we received an invitation to take a tour and tasting at Materra Cunat Family Winery. We were greeted and hosted by Neena Cunat Heitz and later joined by winemaker Bruce Regalia.
The Materra Cunat Tour
2007 is the first vintage of Materra Cunat wines, but the ultra high-tech winery was not opened until 2015. The wine had been made elsewhere until the winery and tasting room facility could be completed. Among the many state-of-the-art features: Each fermenting tank has a mini computer, so that temperature and humidity can be controlled. The control system is linked to the cellar master’s smartphone app. The app allows the cellar master to control the tanks 24/7 from any location. It also alerts the smartphone of any problems. Very cool! There are new open-top fermenting tanks with a new style automatic punch-down mechanism. These tanks simulate the same action as a person doing the punch down, but save time and energy and are more efficient. A third cool feature is found in the barrel room. A curtain can be drawn across the barrel room which somehow allows the room to be two different temperatures. Take the tour and see many more interesting modern wine making features.
We tasted in the white wines: Sauvignon Blanc, Viognier, and the Chardonnay from Oak Knoll. We tasted the three reds in the above photo, plus a fantastic Cunat Reserve wine. Where the Oak Knoll vineyards are located at Materra, the climate is cooler than the rest of the Napa Valley as it extends to the north. The cooler climate and the soil type make perfect growing conditions for the Merlot grape. Merlot takes a back seat to Cabernet Sauvignon in the Napa Valley, but not at Materra Cunat. Merlot is their flagship grape, but we must say that the Sauvignon Blanc and the Viognier we tried were also delicious. I cannot think of any other winery in the Napa Valley that produces a Viognier from the Napa Valley AVA.
If you go, you will need an appointment. There are three tasting levels: Daily tasting, a Tour and Tasting, and a Reserve Library Tasting. The Library room is a kick. The floor is clear glass so that visitors can get a clear view of the Materra Cunat soil.