Heidi Barrett comes from an incredible heritage in the art of winemaking in the Napa Valley. With her father, a scientist-winemaker, and her mother, an artist, her path was perfectly paved to not only see the beauty and life of the agriculture, but the science of making world-class wine. While she was in high school, she spent her summers working the vineyards and bottling lines. She went on to get a formal education at UC Davis in “Fermentation Science”, and was a personal assistant to the woman who developed the aroma wheel, Dr. Ann Noble. She is married to Bo Barrett of Chateau Montelena, whose father was Jim Barrett. Jim died last year in March at the age of 86, but the winery continues to be run by the family, as Bo is the head winemaker. Although Heidi married into a famous family, that didn’t stop her from carving out her own way as a winemaker. If you’ve ever seen the movie, Bottle Shock, (if you haven’t, you should), you can see the introduction to the concept of a female winemaker in 1975 named Sam Fulton (played by Rachel Taylor). Interestingly enough, in 1987 Bo married Heidi Peterson, a young woman with serious grit and something to prove. Heidi had drive, determination, and was ready to fight her way to the top. And when I say top, I mean the very top. Not only was she the first winemaker for Screaming Eagle, but her 100 points, awarded by Robert Parker for the 1992 and 1997 vintages, quickly accelerated her fame in the Napa Valley to be crowned “The First Lady of Wine”.
Of course, you don’t just wake up one day and make a cult wine. Heidi definitely paid her dues along the way, making wine in the past for Buehler, Dalla Valle, Jones Family, Grace Family, Vineyard 29, David Arthur, Barbour Vineyards, Revana, and Showket. She also has consulted for Diamond Creek Vineyards and Niebaum-Coppola, and is currently the head winemaker for Amuse Bouche, Paradigm Winery, Lamborn, Fantesca, Kenzo Estate, Au Sommet, and Vin Perdu. If that isn’t enough to keep her insanely busy, she even has her own wine called La Sirena.
La Sirena means “the mermaid” in Italian and Spanish, and was the perfect name for her personal project. Heidi has a fascination with the ocean and is an avid scuba diver. She said, “I was looking for a name for my wine which would be fun and magical!” She also has a passion for art and some of her personal pieces can be found on the La Sirena website (shown below). Here is a rundown, in Heidi’s own words, of the five different wines from La Sirena and the most current vintages of the time of writing:
2011 La Sirena Cabernet Sauvignon (88% Cab, 7.0% Merlot, 3.0% Petit Verdot, 2% Cab Franc)
“Our 2011 Cab is a gorgeous deep garnet color. The aromas are of ripe fruit with layers of berry, cherry and plum enhanced by sweet and spicy toasty French oak. From the first enticing sniff the wine leads you to a round lush tasty mouthful of Cabernet Sauvignon. The flavors mirror the aromas nicely in this soft and silky, easy-to-love Cab. The tannins are very light and refined yet the wine has good depth and length… a delicious Cabernet blend that will be easy to approach at release and an earlier aging wine. Enjoy!”
2011 La Sirena “Pirate TreasuRed” (Syrah, Cab, Merlot, Grenache, Petit Verdot, Cab Franc, and Petite Sirah)
“There’s no reason you can’t have a bit of fun with high quality wine and, trust me, we did! I make wine from a number of different varieties each year to be able to have more blending options…The first year I worked on this wine (07), the result was not what I expected, but something even better… Because the original blend used seven varietals, the ‘treasure of the seven seas’ idea was a natural and so was the Pirate name… As you can imagine, it’s a pretty big, black, raucous blend, completely mouth filling and bold, yet made with finesse. It’s actually a serious wine but with fun packaging.”
2009 La Sirena “Le Barrettage” Syrah
“Announcing our brand new 2009 “Le Barrettage” wine… It’s a fusion of my last name with the classic Rhone wines from L’Hermitage. Just makes ‘ya smile! There will be even more smiling when you taste this amazingly rich, silky and absolutely delicious wine. We have kept the Rhone style bottle but the new label has some delightful surprises. The blend comes from our own Barrett Vineyards, a tiny little 2 acre estate vineyard at the foot of Mount St. Helena as well as another favorite Syrah vineyard in the eastern hills of St Helena. Both are exceptional vineyards, quite rocky and steep, producing an incredibly layered, textural, and complex wine. I was only able to make 200 cases of this special bottling so I hope you will get a chance to enjoy it.”
2009 La Sirena “Art Bus” Red (80% Syrah, 18% Cabernet Sauvignon, 2% Cab Franc)
“Art Bus Red celebrates the Art of winemaking. I have often compared the art of blending to painting, like having more colors on my palette and palate! In both, the artist uses different hues (flavors) to create something truly unique and delicious. In this rich layered blend, I sought to capture the thrill of art as a tribute to artists everywhere. Strive to create beauty… Our label shows one of our “found” object art projects – an abandoned bus we gave new life to as a fanciful Central-American inspired Art studio complete with cargo on the roof… The aromas are open, deep, rich, and enticing of black cherry and ripe plums, with notes of graham crackers, cinnamon, cedar, and smoked meats. In the mouth the flavors are bursting with ripe fruit, crushed blackberry, deep meaty tones, and a touch of sweet toasty French oak. Flavors persist several minutes. This is a big, intense, mouth coating wine. I love the layered flavors, mid palate texture and silky yet big balance of this blend. It’s unusual but delicious! While tasty now, this is a wine that is also cellar-worthy, easily 10-15 years.”
2012 La Sirena “Moscato Azul” (100% Muscat Canelli)
“A white wine from La Sirena? Sure. But it’s not just any white wine. This is a dry-style Muscat Canelli – unique because most Muscat is made into sweet, dessert wine. Not this time. With Moscato Azul you have all the beautiful perfumy, floral character of varietal Muscat Canelli, without the sugar! Light straw in color with brilliant clarity, the 2012 Moscato Azul has a beautiful perfumy, slightly tropical floral aroma of honeysuckle, jasmine, and delicate white peach. Very clean and silky in the mouth with bright fruit flavors and a lush creamy mouth feel. Reminiscent of dry Riesling on the palate, but with the unmistakable perfumy, spiciness, and floral qualities that are the hallmark of true classic Muscat varietal character… Absolutely delicious!” // lasirenawine.com