Heidi Peterson Barrett: Napa's Wine Diva on Winemaking, La Sirena, and the Legacy of Screaming Eagle

Heidi Peterson Barrett As arguably the most celebrated, respected, envied, and in-demand winemaker in America today, Heidi Peterson Barrett is one of only a handful of winemakers who can legitimately lay claim to "superstar" status. Her wines at both Dalle Valle and Screaming Eagle resulted in multiple 100 point scores from Robert Parker (Parker himself dubbed her the "First Lady of Wine") and helped redefine both the meaning and value of "cult" wines. She rocked the wine world at the 2000 Napa Valley Wine Auction as a 6-liter bottle of her 1992 Screaming Eagle sold for $500,000, in the process setting a world record for the highest price ever paid for a single bottle of wine (a vertical offering went for $650,000 at the 2001 Napa Valley Wine Auction). Heidi Peterson Barrett is currently winemaker for Amuse Bouche, Paradigm, Revana, Barbour, Lamborn, Fantesca, as well as her own label La Sirena . I recently had the pleasure of catching up with Heidi to talk about winemaking, her own La Sirena label, and the legacy of Screaming Eagle.

Acid in Wine: A Tutorial

Let’s pretend this is Burgundy. It’s the peak of what would be the best week of your Chardonnay harvest. It’s been over one hundred days since the fruit set on the vines. In an ordinary year the grapes would be perfect, but it’s raining. It has been raining for weeks and you are beginning to taste water in the berries as you walk through the vineyard. If you try to wait out the rain, the grapes may be so dilute that making a memorable wine from the saturated grapes would be difficult.

How to Make Wine at Home: A Garage Wine Primer

One of the best parts of making wine in a professional setting is being able to see what wine is capable of – both its negatives and its positives – on a large scale. In some sense a branded wine is one that has achieved more positives than negatives and has therefore carved a niche within the industry for its particular style of winemaking. In recent years, however, scores of exceptional wines have come from very small producers who literally made their first wines in a garage. Pomerol garage wines, as well as some from California and Washington state have found acclaim in their respective markets, proving that the big producers don’t always turn out the best wines.

Mastering a World of Wine Knowledge

After ten years in the restaurant industry, six years in the wine industry, countless hours spent studying – including college level courses on the subject – I can honestly say that I still don’t “know” wine at all. It’s one of those subjects that one needs to stay on top of, like politics or the dishes piling up in the sink. The question is how do you make it from one end to the other? How do you master (or at least come to terms with) a growing world of wine knowledge?