Tucked away in a corner of Napa Valley known as Oak Knoll, the Materra Cunat estate sneaks up on you out of the bucolic vineyards of the eastside. This 50 acre property was purchased by the family in 2007, and through the use of modern technology and an expert wine making team, has developed in to a world class winery. The farming roots of the Cunat family are deep. Brian Cunat was raised on a farm in Indiana, and his 17 lifelong pursuit of travel, wine, and vineyard explanation with his wife Miki have instilled a passion in him to create his own world class wine. His first visit to Napa had him enthralled with it’s natural beauty, and the rest is history. On a particularly splendid spring day, I met with the Cunat’s youngest daughter Neena to taste through the Bordeaux inspired wines. “Each Materra wine is a perfect expression of the land, the grapes, the passion the Cunat family has invested in each bottle and the unyielding quality delivered consistently by the growing conditions and terroir of the Napa Valley.” With a special focus on Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Bordeaux blends, Materra is able to showcase the expression of both the estate fruit, as well some additional sources in nearby AVAs within Napa Valley. The stand out wines for me were the Right Bank Reserve and the Howell Mountain Cabernet, which offer a special look at what Napa Valley can offer. While not estate, these are wines to pay attention to. 2011 Materra Right Bank Reserve An homage to the Right Bank of Bordeaux, which is typically based on Merlot, with it’s silky tannins and grippy dark blue and black fruit. This is a wine for the ages, and should be tucked away for a while as the sharp edges blur and become calmer, as any age worthy Bordeaux would. 2011 Materra Cabernet Sauvignon Howell Mountain Howell Mountain is one of my favorite areas for Cabernet because of the cooler, acid driven growing climate. High above the hot valley floor, the inversion layer adds an intensity and brightness to Cabernet that is often lost on wines from lower in the valley. A classic blackberry note with leather, tobacco and a pinch of black pepper round out this lush winter warmer. Materra Cunat is located on Big Ranch Road in Napa, and is available by appointment seven days a week. The peaceful patio is a wonderful way to enjoy your afternoon so be sure to stop by next time you are in Napa. Special thanks to Neena Cunat Heitz and Fineman PR for setting up this visit at this unique piece of modern history.
There is something so special about mountainside fruit in Napa Valley. With both Mount Veeder and Howell Mountain boasting some famous vineyards & producers, and a very different flavor profile emerging from both of these unique areas, they are both small AVAs that hold a special place in my heart. Napa Valley has been making Cabernet Sauvignon for over 100 years. Napa can be, and generally is, synonymous with New World Cabernet. But, for some people, the stereotypical big, fruity, over powering valley floor fruit can be too much. Now of course, there are always expectations to this rule (Titus are you listening?), but in my personal and professional opinion, there is a lot to be gained by looking up. Why? In the case of Howell Mountain, the rolling hills and steep slopes have created several micro climates. Each small clearing is above the fog. When the white stuff rolls off of the ocean, and my house is socked in the pea soup, the weather on Howell Mountain is sunny, but cool. Sitting on this inversion layer, the weather flip flops, and evenings are warmer than the days, which help to maintain the heat spikes that can be more extreme down the hill. Located on the eastern side of the Napa valley, and north of Atlas Peak, Howell Moutain is roughly parallel but north of Chiles Valley and east of Srping Mountain, and St. Helena. Rocky, dry soils on the mountain are well drained, and the cooler temperatures and later bud break lead to warm summer nights. All of these factors help to create balance between acidity and sweetness, which means, complexity and richness in your glass. Yum! In the Cornerstone Cellars, the 2009 Howell Mountain Cabernet really shows these elements. Farmed organically, the Ink Grade vineyard is on the east side of Howell Mountain at 1800 feet. Producing smaller berries with an intensity of flavor, a touch of Oak Knoll Cab and Carneros Merlot are blended in. I adore this wine, and found it deep, and earthy with beautiful blue black notes of blackberry and blueberry, with cracked black pepper and dutch cocoa. The word that came to mind immediately was unctuous. At $80 it’s a splurge, but well worth it for wine lovers and a special occasion. This wine was provided by the winery for consideration, and while all opinions are my own, seriously, this is the good sh&*! Google