Napa Valley AVA
Heidi Barrett and her great wines have raised the stature of California wines
All that is necessary to introduce this incredible Diamond Wine Club selection is two words - Heidi Barrett. Make those three words, Heidi Peterson Barrett.
Dubbed by none other than wine guru Robert Parker as the “First lady of wine”, Heidi Barrett’s resume is a veritable Who’s Who of top wineries and entities that have made the term ‘cult wines’ a staple in modern American wine folklore.
Before we go further, the middle name Peterson refers to Richard Peterson and his wife Diane, Heidi’s parents. Peterson is the iconic Napa Valley winemaker who must be considered whenever relating to California’s status as a major wine producer. His winemaking techniques are legendary as well as his authoritative writing on anything wine related for industry periodicals. Heidi assisted her famous father from a young age and has held practically every job pertinent to the wine industry.
But Richard Peterson’s greatest gift to the wine world might just be his daughter Heidi, a person who commands a world of respect in her own right. Ever since her Screaming Eagle 1982 Cabernet Sauvignon garnered a 100 score, it is safe to say that Heidi Barrett’s career was certainly ‘en fuego’.
A graduate of non-other than UC Davis, Barrett worked for Justin Meyer (Franciscan Vineyards and Silver Oak Winery), and Jerry Luper (Bouchaine Vineyards), both celebrated winemakers. In 1988, she became an independent winemaker and added the likes of Dalla Valle Vineyards, Grace Family Vineyards, Vineyard 29, Showket Vineyards, Paradigm Winery, Lamborn Family Vineyards, Fantesca Estate and Winery, Au Sommet, Kenzo Estate and others. A 6-liter bottle of Screaming Eagle set a world record of $500,000 at the 2000 Napa Valley Wine Auction and was followed the next year by a vertical offering that was hammered down at $650,000.
Heidi Barrett also has a unique insight into winemaking. “I think it is important to have a wide variety of experience to draw from,” she explained. “You can’t just step in and be the winemaker unless you have a lot of experience in the cellar. I wanted to make sure that when I finally had the title of winemaker, I had earned it.”
Her Amuse Bouche (usually hyphenated, amuse-bouche is literally enticement for the mouth. Accordingly, amuse-bouches are bit sized appetizers. They are never on the menu but are offered gratis by the chef to favored customers) project began some 15 years ago in conjunction with her long-time friend John Schwartz. Seeing that the cult wine phenomenon had created an almost aspirational class congregation at the collector level, the pair created a limited edition Pomerol-style Merlot (think Château Petrus, King of the Pomerols) blend that would be available to the general public at a much more realistic price point. Additional blends have been added since inception to the Amuse Bouche portfolio.
The success of the original Merlot/Cabernet Franc blend (it varies from vintage to vintage) has been incredible with scores to match.
The 2014 Vin Perdu (loosely ‘lost wine’) is no exception. It is composed of four Bordeaux varietals (68% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Cabernet Franc, 4 % Merlot and 3% Petit Verdot) that bring together Southern France’s finest qualities. Its fine bacchanalian artwork supports an equally fine Bordelaise Blend inside.
Nearly thirty years ago, Heidi Peterson married Bo Barrett, himself a world-renowned winemaker (after his father Jim Barrett) at heralded Château Montelena, the storied Napa Valley victor of the famous Steven Spurrier Judgement of Paris Wine Tasting in 1976.
While Château Montelena changed the course of American viniculture, it can be argued that Heidi Barrett and her great wines have raised the stature of California wines to an elevated position among world-class wines. These wines command prices at the same level as France’s (Bordeaux) first growths and have shown an ability to age that is comparable to many of their Bordeaux counterparts.
When Heidi Barrett and John Schwartz began their Amuse Bouche project, their aim was to blend the winemaking art and painting art in much the same manner as blending a wine.
We sincerely hope that Heidi Barrett and John Schwartz continue their practice of offering Classic Cult Wines to consumers.