Let’s Talk About Merlot with Materra Cunat Family Vineyards!

Over the summer I was invited out to Materra Cunat Family Vineyards in Napa Valley.  I was really excited about this visit BECAUSE it was about to show a different side of Napa, the Merlot side. Materra stands for “Mother Earth” in latin.

If you did not know, Napa Valley is well known for their Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon, but for years, they have also quietly excelled in another varietal: Merlot.  For this varietal, it’s definitely had a rough few years, thanks in part, to a well known movie, Sideways, however, what I’m finding, as of late, is that there’s no reason to overlook it, instead, it’s time to explore it!

A recent spokesman from the Napa Valley Vintners even stated, the movie Sideways was probably a good thing for the Merlot Varietal, because, it only left those producers still making it with the passion for this grape varietal, and that passion is showcased in their wine in the valley.

As for myself, I’ve had a love and hate relationship with the varietal myself. In the beginning, I thought I absolutely hated the grape varietal.  It was too strong for my palette, but as my palette evolved, and I began to taste Merlots that began to blow my mind, I soon realized, that there’s a lot to offer with Merlot, and when you come across a good Merlot producer, it will show, and you will find yourself loving the varietal as well! I soon realized it wasn’t the grape varietal, but finding the right Merlot Wine for me! And I must say I was incredibly impressed with the quality of Merlots being produced at Materra Cunat Family Vineyards!

Brian Cunat overlooking his Consulting Winemaker, Michael Trujillo

For Brian Cunat, the passion for Merlot is alive and well! And the passion for agriculture, and being a farmer started from a young age. 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.

And from visiting the Bordeaux region of France, he and his wife always tended to veer to the Right Bank while in town, and that’s truly where his love for Merlot began.

So in 2007, when he began to get serious about making his dream of owning a vineyard a reality, he knew he wanted to find a property in Napa Valley that would excel in making good quality Merlot Wines! That’s when he came across the property location in the Oak Knoll District of Napa Valley. He purchased this 50 acre property, and worked with an entire team of vineyard managers and winemakers to transform the property with Merlot, Petite Verdot, Malbec, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Viognier. This 2017 Harvest marked their official 10th Vintage!

Brian and his family are very involved in the winemaking process and vineyard management from selecting the grapes to helping to decide the final blends of the wines.  His oldest daughter Neena is also involved, residing over daily operations and PR Efforts. His younger daughter has been instrumental in helping with the label designs and collateral materials. And his brother, John, and extended family have been investors and active brand advocates! And they have 2 Consulting Winemakers that help the Cunat Family with the decisions in vineyard management and the winemaking processes: Bruce Regalia and Michael Trujillo.

Before we get to the Merlots, I just want to chime in that if white wine is your thing, they do carry  a few varietals including Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, and Viognier.  The Sauvignon Blanc is a perfectly crisp, well balanced wine, that showcases the beautiful white stone fruit found throughout the Napa Valley. It is the perfect drinking companion when you’re craving white wine, or want something to enjoy on a nice, warm day.  For those that love a nice, Napa Chardonnay, they also have one available.

And now onto the beautiful Merlots.  The Materra Cunat Family Vineyards have created Merlots from the grapes that resided on the property prior to them replanting, and also Merlots from their new plantings on the property.

The 2009 Merlot ($40): This was their 3rd Vintage of their Merlot.  Upon first smell, you’ll pick up on notes of blueberry, ripe raspberry, and blackberry notes along with the earthiness of lavender and thyme. Upon first taste, those fruits will carry you into a well balanced, very drinkable wine that can easily age in the cellar for 10 years!

2010 Merlot ($42): They say it was one of their BEST vintage years.  And as Brian describes it, a “Not Wimpy” wine either. This is definitely a full bodied Merlot, but one that carries on elegance with plum characteristics and baking spices of cocoa.  Tannins are more prevalent here, a wine that would pair nicely with a fatty red meat.

2012 Materra Right Bank Merlot: ($50): Paying homage to the very area that inspired Brian to go after his love of Merlot is the 2012 Materra Right Bank Merlot.  This classic Merlot, grown with a backbone from their estate property brings up aromas of bright red fruits along with floral notes.  The perfect meal wine.  As the temperatures cool down, this wine would go with your favorite comfort food stew, or a cheese made from sheep’s milk (which we had that day: the Campo de Montalban: a mix of sheep, cow and goat’s milk). This was their first vintage with the grapes they replanted on their property!

Picture Above is the 2011 Cunat Reserve

The last and final tasting of the day was the 2012 Cunat Reserve Merlot ($110): Their Reserves are limited production wines and are only available to their Club Members (Dean’s List, named after Brian’s father!). Of course, saving the best for last, as this went down smooth and well, showcasing all the things to love about a good, quality Merlot.

It is because of winemaking styles like the above that really solidify why Merlot is such a good wine to drink, and pair with your meals.  It is also one of the better food friendly wines out there!  But for those of you that just have to have Cabernet Sauvignon while in Napa, the Materra Cunat Family Vineyards have you covered there, as well.  BUT, trust me, when I say this, you need to try their Merlots!

Be sure to call ahead to book an appointment.  They offer tastings both indoors and outside.  Also, be sure to stop by their Cellar, where yes, the Mother Earth Soil is shown below ground!  The photo above does not  do it justice!

Materra Cunat Family Vineyards

4326 Big Ranch Rd.

Napa, CA 94558

Hours: Open 10am to 4pm.  Call for current hours or visit the website.

Private Tastings and Tours available for up to 10 people.  Call for Appointment.



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California Fires, writing it down!

It was 2 weeks ago when the devastating California fires began in Santa Rosa, Glen Ellen, Sonoma, and Napa.  And just now, I finally feel like I can sit down and write something.

I’m not writing this for sympathy.  I’m not writing this for popularity.  I’m writing this to get things off my chest, but more importantly, to get the resources out there to help my community members.

Ledson Winery: the Hillside behind it was completely on fire during the fires

When I went to bed Sunday night, I didn’t think much of it.  It was like any other night.  I browsed facebook like I usually do, and I do remember reading through some of my local groups a few people asking if they smelled “smoke” in their neighborhoods of Santa Rosa.  I honestly didn’t think anything of it.  I then set the alarm, put the phone down, and went to bed.

In the morning, 5am, to be exact, I woke up to the smell of smoke.  I instantly shut the window, and grabbed my phone.  I browsed, and instantly saw that there were fires in Santa Rosa, Kenwood and Glen Ellen and also Napa.  I freaked, knowing how close my in laws resided to the Glen Ellen/Kenwood area, and how a few co-workers resided in Santa Rosa.  I instantly sent texts out around 5:30am.  I knew it was early, but it was genuine concern.

I soon found out that my in laws were safe, but one of my co-workers had to evacuate. A few days later I found out her house ended up being okay. I was in shock.  As the morning continued, I soon learned that highway 101 was shut down completely.  It was then, I knew, how serious it was.  Freeways rarely get shut down unless its something major.  I woke up my other half, freaking out, there’s fires, you can’t go to work today, they’ve shut down the freeway!

And then I was glued to facebook, to the news stations, to anything with information about the California Fires.  I didn’t go to work that day, I just couldn’t.  I felt like my whole world around me was collapsing.  That day, we put together our bags that we would bring with us, if we needed to evacuate.  (This was a first for me, in my entire life).

The next day, Tuesday, I decided to go to work, but within minutes of arriving to my first store, it was overwhelming.  Walking through the parking lots, I’d see animals in the vehicles, knowing, that those were animals of people that had to evacuate their homes instantly.  As I entered the stores, they were busy with people picking up food, and supplies, cases of water, or anything they needed.  Stores were loading up their stores with pallets of water for the evacuees.  People were also on the phones talking to loved ones, telling them they were safe or that they had to evacuate, and others had their dogs on leashes with them as they walked the stores.

After that first store, I walked back to my car, and just sat in my car for a few minutes with tears in my eyes before moving to the next store.  This time around, getting into neighborhoods that have completely lost power.  The smoke, that day, was so thick, and I was getting closer to where the fires were.  As I drove around, there’d be conveys of police cars, firetrucks, and ambulances along the streets next to you.  Part of me just wanted to drive straight back home to stay off the roads for the first responders, the other part of me knew I should help the stores out, that were having a hard time keeping up with how busy their stores were, along with not having enough people coming in due to the fires.

That evening my other half went to his mom’s to help them pack up their personal belongings.  That night, he came home in a panic, and I knew then, how close the fire was getting to their place.  And how hard it must have been for him to pack up their belongings, not knowing, if they will have a house in the near future or not.  The following day, they finally made the decision to evacuate.

And then the stories started to come in, from those who had close calls from escaping the fires, or those that jumped into a swimming pool to try to survive the fires, or those that had to leave their animals behind while they escaped, to return to their home, and their animals came to greet them.  And then there were the stories that had a sad ending, such as the woman, who passed away in her husbands arms, in a swimming pool, or the couple that was 98 in Napa, that passed away in their home, or those that lost their animals completely.  It was overwhelming.

But that day, Wednesday, finally brought a bit of good news.  Fire crews from across the state were coming to Sonoma County and Napa to help with the fires, and that day, they were finally getting some containment on the fires, not a lot, but it was at least 2 or 3%, it was a start!

And that’s when the community really began to step in, donations started to arrive at the evacuation centers, businesses started to help out by feeding the evacuees and first responders.  There were a lot of GREAT things happening in our community too.

A few places you can donate to are:

Redwood Credit Union

Community Foundations of Sonoma County’s Resilience Fund

Napa Valley Community Foundation  Disaster Relief Fund


By that Thursday and Friday, we finally began to see the aircrafts working in the sky, which brought a lot of relief to the community.

The 944 Dropping Fire Retardant over the Pocket Fire in Geyserville, CA (Oct. 12, 2017) photo credit: David Smith

The following Monday came, a week after the fires began, and it was the first morning I truly woke up, feeling, as if I could start to try to get to back to normal.  And a little bit of relief washed over me, but it was hard not thinking about all those that lost so much more.

On Tuesday, as I drove North, for the first time, since the fires broke out, it’d be the first day where I’d actually see some of the devastation.  It was overwhelming to see, and the emotions started all over again as I drove through it.  That evening, I lost it completely, and let the tears just come out, as I sobbed and sobbed, and also wrote this:

If anyone asks, I’m really not okay… but I wrote this…

I sit here, feeling helpless.
So many around me, have lost.
Lost family members, lost homes, lost animals, lost cars, lost jobs and more.
In a flash, in minutes, their lives changed forever.

Our community will rise again,
But it won’t be tomorrow,
Or a month from now.
It will take TIME.
But we WILL rebuild.
This time around, stronger than ever.

We are OKAY
And we will MOVE forward.

But October 2017 will forever be etched in our hearts and minds forever.

We thank the firefighters, EMTs, First Responders, Police, Medical Personal and Linemen
For keeping us safe, healthy, and for getting our power back on.
But, we all know, from this time forward,
We will never be the same.
We will always remember.

The hillside seeping into Bennett Valley area, where the Nuns Fire took place.

That day, was a good day, as evacuations started to be lifted and people that were evacuated were finally allowed back to their homes.

Over the next few days, more neighborhoods would be let back in, and those neighborhoods that lost homes completely, were finally being let back in, to see the damage in person.

This is the worst California Wildfire to EVER hit the state of California.  This is what I want people to understand.  This instance, and any natural disaster, doesn’t just affect those that lost their homes, but it affects an entire community.  A community of people that have memories built around them, a community of people that spent their entire lives here, or even just a few years, or perhaps a couple of months, this event had an impact on everyone in the community.

It affects us as we drive by the devastation, the city of Glen Ellen, Santa Rosa and Kenwood, Sonoma and Napa will never be the same after this.  We will rebuild, we will become stronger, but the memories will always remain with this fire.  And we may just have a bit more fear anytime we smell smoke, or hear a siren.

But, this was a community effort to stop these wildfires.  Thank you SOOOOOO much to all of the neighboring firefighters that came up to help us with these California fires.  Thank you to all of the Police Officers, Military Personal, Animal Care specialists, Medical Personnel, and Lineman for all the hard work the past few weeks and what’s to come ahead of us.  Thank you.

From the Sonoma Index Tribune

An entire page of all the organizations that came to help us in the fight against these California fires.  THANK YOU. THANK YOU. THANK YOU.

But, as I write this, I want you to know, that Sonoma and Napa need you NOW more than ever to come visit, to come enjoy their wine, spend money in their communities, and lift them up again!  One of my favorite Sonoma County events is coming up the weekend of November 4th and 5th with the Wine Road’s, a Food and Wine Affair, I would love to see you there.  If you’re coming, please let me know, I’d love to meet up with you.

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5 Tips When Purchasing a Car!

Disclosure: This is a sponsored post.  All opinions are my own.

I remember the first time I went looking for a car.  I had just turned 16, and it was that time to look into getting a car.  We did our RESEARCH in what to get.  Because, I was just starting out, we went the used car route, and finally found the one for me.  A 1991 Ford Escort for just 400 dollars, which, for a 16 year old, was a pretty big score!  It got me from point A to point B!

But, during that search, and through other purchases over the years, I’ve learned a few things about Car Buying.

2018 Alfa Romeo Stelvio

  1. Research

The research is the MOST important part when purchasing a car.  Knowing what kind of car you want for you, your family, and your personal needs.  Does it seat all the kids comfortably?  What is its Safety rating?  Have there been any recalls on said vehicle?  Or perhaps, how long will the engine last? Cars.Com is a great RESOURCE when looking up information about Cars.

2. It’s Time to Test Drive

This is the thing I recommend doing always when searching for a NEW car.  Head to a dealership, and test drive a few vehicles that you are considering.  Yes, the car dealerships may TRY their hardest to get you to purchase something that DAY, however, you don’t have to!

Use that time to Test Drive the vehicles, and get a feel of the cars.  How do you feel in it?  Are you comfortable backing up in the car?  Is the car too big for you, or perhaps you feel too claustrophobic in the car.  You get these answers by test driving!

3) Should You Buy New or Used?

Whatever you decide, no matter what, be happy with your decision! You just gained a new vehicle in the family.  Congrats!  But before you sign the dotted line on a new vehicle, it’s a good idea to do the research on used vehicles.  You might find a better deal!

4) Budget

The other thing we tend to forget about is the monthly bill that also comes with a new car purchase.  If purchasing a new car, more than likely, you’re being financed for 5 years, so that’s 5 years of payments!  Are you committed to getting it done?  Is it in your budget to do so?  These things definitely need to be thought about before that BIG purchase (I mean, it is the 2nd BIGGEST purchase in our lives after a house!)

5) You Know When Its Right

The Car Buying process can be a long and tedious process, but in the end, it’s worth it, if you feel you made the BEST decision for you and your family.  The key is to NEVER SETTLE.  When you find the right car, you will know.  It’s something we just always seem to know!

The next part is to just sit back and enjoy it… safely… of course




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