The Cunat Family
From his days as a young boy working on a Midwest farm, Brian Cunat developed an interest and respect for agriculture and farming that has grown into a life’s passion and a dream. Brian and his wife, Miki, have traveled extensively, touring wineries, walking vineyards and enjoying local cuisines and flavors. Their first visit to the Napa Valley with its natural beauty and welcoming residents, along with the exceptional quality of wines produced from the region gave real inspiration to their family dream.
In 2007, Brian decided to combine his love of wine and his dream of farming by purchasing a 50-acre property in the Oak Knoll District of Napa Valley. Working with an expert team of vineyard managers and winemakers, the property was transformed with Merlot, Petit Verdot, Malbec, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, and Viognier.
The Cunat family is involved in the winery operations on a daily basis. The oldest daughter, Neena, has worked in Napa since 2007 and oversees the daily operations as well as the company’s public relations efforts. The younger daughter has been instrumental in the designs of the product labels and collateral materials. Additionally, Brian’s brother, John, and the extended Cunat family are supportive investors in Cunat Family Vineyards as well as active brand advocates.
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 quantity delivered consistently by the growing conditions and terroir of the Napa Valley. Brian and the entire Cunat family look forward to sharing their dreams with you over a glass of Materra.
The Cunat Family members are involved in all facets of winemaking, from planting the vineyards with the best suited varietals, selecting final blends before bottling and designing and ordering labels and other packaging. Two consulting winemakers, Bruce Regalia and Michael Trujillo, provide specialized expertise and oversight to the process, ensuring the wines are made to the Cunat family’s exacting standards.
Consulting Winemaker – Bruce Regalia
Born into an Italian family, Bruce spent many afternoons growing up smelling the aromas coming from the family kitchen and anticipating the delicious blended flavors of another authentic Sunday dinner. With grandparents from Genoa and Calabria, the family was brought up in the Italian tradition that everyone was underfed. The food was always fresh and plentiful, and there was always wine on the table.
From the bountiful table of his youth, Bruce knew the benefit from well-farmed and managed gardens was fresh, flavorful produce and deep structured wines. He pursued this interest and curiousity in his academic studies, earning a degree in botany and plant and soil science from Chico State in California. He graduated and worked for two large farming entities before taking a job as a vineyard manager in Mendocino County in the mid-80s. Bruce’s talent and style as a winemaker developed as he transitioned from vineyard manager to winemaker at a small vineyard, later purchased by Duckhorn Wine Company.
It was during his time as a winemaker for Duckhorn and specifically his responsibilies for Goldeneye, a well-respected Pinot Noir brand from California’s Anderson Valley, that Bruce acknowledged Pinot Noir as his favorite wine and winemaking as his life’s endeavor. With Goldeneye’s success, Bruce was hired by several Napa Valley wineries to provide consultation and guidance to their winemaking programs. His love and passion for the terroir have kept Bruce in the Napa Valley, working with wineries in one of the best grape growing regions in the world.
Bruce’s passion and respect for the land ultimately led him to his current partnership with the Cunat Family as a consulting winemaker for Materra/Cunat Family Vineyards. Through experience and passion, Bruce, Brian Cunat and the rest of the family continue their labor of love at the Oak Knoll vineyard which is home to the award-winning wines of Materra.
Consulting Winemaker – Michael Trujillo
“Crafting quality wines is one of my creative outlets. I’m fortunate that the product of my creativity is recognized for its exceptional vineyard sourcing, varietal expression and value.”
Like Brian Cunat, Michael grew up farming on his family’s ranch. Michael’s passion and interest in the wine industry developed over many years of hard work and was influenced by many industry experts and a wide variety of experiences. As a college student, Michael worked his first summer for food and lodging in the vineyards of Napa Valley. Not afraid of hard work, he was impressed by the bounty and flavors on the table each night, as well as the quality and abundance of great wine as a reward for a hard day’s work. From Colorado originally, Michael never California after that first summer back in 1982.
His 33 years of wine industry experience include vineyard work, academic study at both The University of California, Davis and Napa Valley College, and winemaking tutelage by industry legacies like Andre Tchelistcheff, Tony Soter and Jim Allen. Michael became an assistant winemaker in 1988 and in 1991 began his first venture, launching his own brand Karl Lawrence Cellars. Crafting vintages from 1991 to 2010. A brand he created to try his independent hand at making outstanding Cabernet Sauvignon with the very best Napa Valley grapes. Picking up where he left off, today he is in full swing with Trujillo Wines. Today Michael shares his winemaking expertise and counsel with several Napa Valley wineries including Materra/Cunat Family Vineyards as well as continuing to manage his responsibilities as President and Director of Winemaking at Sequoia Grove Winery and the creative development of the Trujillo Wines portfolio.
The wines produced under Michael’s direction consistently receive high praise and accolades in the press and Michael continues to apply his creativity to his winemaking – expanding his breadth and expertise with new blends, different techniques and the most current technology and production processes. Michael resides in the northeastern hills of Napa Valley where he is sharing his passion and love of the land and all its possibilities with his wife, Terri, and daughter, Sophia.
Vineyard Manager – Jess Madrigal
The Madrigals have been developing vineyard expertise in Napa Valley since 1938, when the first members of the family emigrated from Mexico in search of a better life. And after decades of farming the vineyards of Napa Valley and selling the grapes from their forty acre estate property, the family – who realized that winemakers were earning accolades with the grapes they were growing – decided to move into winemaking as well.
Sustainable Winegrowing and Vineyard Management
The Cunat Family Vineyards are located on the valley floor in the Oak Knoll District of Napa Valley – North of the cooler Los Carneros region and South of the warmer, upper valley appellations. Morning fog and cooler evenings moderate the growing climate, giving the Oak Knoll are suited for many different grape varieties. Our property is located in a cooler microclimate of the district, making our vineyard ideal for both Merlot and Chardonnay.
Our Oak Knoll vineyard features the characteristic alluvial silty clay loam soils derived from the Dry Creek alluvian fan. The temperate climate keeps the soil warm, extending the growing season. Cover crops are planted to prevent soil erosion. Currently, we are planting winter wheat between our vineyard rows.
We are blessed with a fairly high water table, which allows us to dry farm most of the time. Only in years of extreme drought would we need to water, and when we do use water, it is drip irrigation to minimize water use. We also landscape with drought tolerant plants, further reducing the need to water for landscape maintenance.
Reduce Chemical Use
As the vineyards are being re-planted, we are changing the orientation of the rows to take advantage of maximum sun exposure, which, in addition to yielding higher quality fruit, also reduces mold and fungus. We are also currently planting winter wheat as a cover crop. Each year, soils are tested to determine which nutrients they may be lacking, and then a cover crop is chosen that can best replenish the deficiency. This allows us to naturally fertilize the soils without chemicals. In our offices and tasting rooms, we choose only environmentally sustainable cleaning products.
Reduce Energy Use
Our new production winery and vineyard facility will be 100% solar powered, satisfying all energy needs for the property. All Cunat Family Vineyard facilities use energy efficient fluorescent lighting, timed thermostats and low flow water fixtures. Shipments to the winery and to our customers are consolidated to reduce truck traffic and fuel consumption.
Our office, production and vineyard management practices all emphasize recycling. We recycle all waste and unused cardboard, glass, plastic and paper from our production facility and tasting room, and we compost all organic waste during harvest including grape skins, seeds and stems.
We have protected the tall mature Oak and Walnut trees that border our vineyard on two sides. We have also planted native Redwoods. These newly planted and mature trees make excellent habitat for a variety of small birds, owls, hawks, and other birds of prey. Hawks and owls keep rodents out of the vineyard. These trees also provide a home for bug eating bats and western blue birds. We have added blue bird houses to help support our thriving population of western blue birds and plan to install owl and bat houses, too.
We have bordered the property edge that is adjacent to the river with native red woods. These trees are very unappealing to bugs and mites. We are planning to continue planting native species that are bug resistant. Our goal is to use only plants that are native to the area.
Responsible Pest Control
In our vineyards, we rely primarily on sulfur, an organic fungicide, to control mildew and rot when the condition is present. Cover crops and crop waste provide our primary sources of fertilization.
Organic farming uses preventive methods instead of correctional additives to manage the overall health of the vineyard. One of the primary benefits of organic farming is the amount of time spent in the vineyards, being able to respond to small changes in the ecosystem. Becoming certified organic requires adherence to strict standards for farming practices to maintain soil fertility and crop nutrition. It typically takes 3 or more years for a Napa Valley vineyard to become certified. As the Cunat Family Vineyards are planted, we are intently focused on these requirements and practices and look forward to completing the certification process.
This voluntary program is Napa Valley’s “best practices” land use and wine production program. Participating wineries gain certification through restoration, enhancement and preservation of their vineyard properties and by utilizing production processes that conserve water and energy, prevent pollution and reduce solid wastes. As the Cunat Family Vineyards are planted and the winery is built and operational, we look forward to participating with our neighboring wineries in this sustainability certification.