An Extraordinary Greeting

Materra | Cunat Family Vineyards: Where Excellence in Wines And Hospitality Collide; I don’t get out much, but when I do, oh the things I learn anew!

A recent visit to Materra | Cunat Family Vineyards, in the Oak Knoll District of Napa Valley, was a most remarkable arrival. It all began in their parking lot! I don’t even know how many wine companies I’ve worked with and visited, both in the United States and abroad. Easy to say many, many hundreds, at a minimum. Never, and I mean never, was I ever greeted with such pomp and circumstance. My greeter was their Director to Consumer Manager Kevin Krueger, and I was so surprised.

When I opened my car door and looked up, there he was. I was gushing, “Oh, you shouldn’t have, Kevin!” To which he humbly said, “This is how we greet everyone.” I responded, “Oh, please don’t ruin it for me. I thought I was the only one.” We laughed as he held a tray with two wine glasses, as steadily a well balanced tray of diamonds. Silly me, “We do this for everyone arriving.” Wow, is all I could think. The reason for this pampering; Kevin grew up with two parents who were hospitality experts. They taught him well.

I had met Kevin at my Dark & Delicious Petite Sirah event in Napa, that Biale Vineyards hosted this past August 5. Kevin was pouring their Materra | Cunat Family Petite Sirah. It was so D&D and really well crafted, I was totally impressed. It’s worth every bit of it’s stature, and no doubt a really serious bargain. This story is worth a single share, because my “Welcome to your appointment,” by Kevin’s greeting gave me an fabulous story to tell. This is seriously a place you’re going to be hearing about a lot in the future, if you’ve not already heard about this gem!

Expansion Growth by the Cunat Family

Let’s start with what Materra | Cunat Family Vineyards: This is a tale of where happy happenstances collides. Doing this with two extraordinary people on a kismet trajectory, let’s start with proprietor Brian Cunat.

(For the record. The “n”  in Cunat has the sound of the Spanish name, with the tilda, like this: Cuñat)

As a young boy working on a Midwest farm, Brian Cunat developed an interest and respect for agriculture and farming. This propelled him into his life’s passion and extraordinary dreams, where the unthinkable became thinkable. Brian and his wife Miki traveled extensively, touring wineries, walking vineyards, while appreciating the flavors of food and wine. Their first visit to the Napa Valley made them realize this could be a dream come true.

In 2007, Brian and brother John purchased a 50-acre property in the Oak Knoll District of Napa Valley. It was meant as an investment. But Brian began to realize this was a manifestation of his love for wine and his dream of farming. Have you ever walked into something in life and thought, “I can do this,” or, “I can have this?” Brian began working with seasoned vineyard managers and winemakers, and just wait until you learn of his dream-come-true winemaker!

Image: Know what you do well, and do it! No expense is spared, for this bottle of Materra 2016 Cabernet Reserve.

Cunat was transformed by Merlot, Petit Verdot, Malbec, Syrah, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, and Viognier. In 2014, his state-of-the-art winery construction was completed. It’s fully capable of producing 150,000 gallons, and a beautiful tasting room. Important to note is that the current winery is extremely satisfying, honestly. It’s called, “taking the best and making it better.” The expansion will be in a growth for hospitality. Imagine a wide-open chalk board, and being able to fill it with amazing dreams. It’s going to evolve quite nicely.

The Brian Cunat family is very involved. Design: Brian and Miki’s youngest daughter has been instrumental in the designs of their labels and collateral materials. Marketing: Brian’s brother, John, and the extended Cunat family, continue to be supportive investors in Cunat Family Vineyards, as well as active brand advocates.

As a finishing thought: Their wines express the passions for their hands and lands, the insistence of quality over quantity, with the best possible conditions in Napa Valley.


Continued Growth Within The Cunat Family


Harry Heitz is the general manager of Materra | Cunat Family Vineyards; and might I say, born into the wine business. Both his grandfather and father were/are legendary, seasoned veterans in wine, and extremely well-respected by Napa Valley winemakers. Have you hear of Heitz Cellar? If not, click on the link for a historical visit. Even if you know their history, you might like to just revisit your old friends.

Just imagine the continued potential growing up. Harry learned almost every role within the business of wine – from barrel roller, to lab technician, wholesale sales, tasting room host, and it continues to be ever expanding. There’s an amazing vision for the future in Napa Valley with this union, if all planets continue lining up with the same grace.

In 2012 he rejoined the iconic Heitz Cellar, where he had worked off and on, by age 15. Harry’s life took a bit of an interesting segue from college to “Information Systems Management,” as he explored his options. He returned to Napa Valley as an IT consultant for a small firm.


By 2018. Harry joined joined Materra | Cunat Family Vineyards, working in the winemaking department. When he arrived, his wife Neena was managing the winery. Neena came to a crossroad and decided to expand her options. She left the winery to pursue her love of photography, allowing Harry to manage the winery. This is kismet, folks. If you’ve had it, you know it.

Harry now lives in Napa with his wife Neena, and according to them, anywhere from 2 to 8 cats depending on how many they’re fostering.

Regarding Winery Expansion

Quote from Harry Heitz, Materra’s General Manager, explained, “The new addition will expand and improve outdoor space, but it is primarily focused on the indoors, with a lounge space, multiple private tasting areas, and a library/museum with a rotating display of artwork and antiques.”

Some of the antiques and artwork relate to Miki Cunat’s Japanese background. Miki hails from an old samurai family in Japan. She came to the United States as a foreign exchange student to study at McHenry Community College in Illinois, where she met her husband and winery co-owner, Brian Cunat.

Images of A Visit, Worth Sharing

It was so worth the buildup, and so worth the experience. Granted, I will return, because they’re in a tremendous growth spurt, and I want to see what’s in store for Napa Valley. The expansion is for an event center, so what I saw in production will continue to stay as is, at this point in time. Enjoy the visuals.

Pristine, state of the art, newage, and definitely New World. I’ve been in more than a few wine cellars around the world. This one has the impact of welcome to a new age of wine, and we’re going to be be around for a long time to come. Show me your earth in a bottle, but spare me the don’t in your wine cellar. It will evolve as other wine regions have, but for now deliciously sparkling, and absent of brettanomyces!

What a gorgeous tasting salon. Ready for education with a tasting, and ready for larger groups, embraced by side visuals that say, “You have arrived!”

Next, Harry Heitz is welcoming my partner in life Jose Diaz, also a photographer, and is allowing me to taste responsibility. A luxury for most, people. This is an incredible wine cellar. Note the floor has a glass floor, prepared to hold more than a few people. The design is intended to show their natural terroir. What a hoot! And, when you take that first step, you feel like you need to hang onto someone else. It was like a carnival ride, right out of Disney.

Please note that art is perfectly placed around the winery. Having someone so dedicated to art in her life, as Harry’s wine Nikki is, is the reason to have an open palate, converting art to a winery’s canvas.

Full Expansion plans go way beyond what is now. I can only image the possibilities. And I want to be there!

PHOTO of Harry with their plans. It’s going to be a place to house great events…