The old adage that ‘ everything is bigger in Texas ’ should be amended to include the state’s will to grow grapes and make premium wines – no matter what. In no other major wine producing American state does the tantalizing exploration of wine’s possibilities continue to embolden and elude the producers of the area.
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.
In a previous article, we examined Brunello’s 100 plus year history . In Italian wine expressions, that is a relatively short period. Nevertheless, Brunello has established itself as one of the premium wines, not only in Tuscany, but also in the entire world. Brunello di Montalcino has an even more brief history in Italy’s wine regulations. Brunello did not become a DOC until 1966 and has only been a DOCG since 1986. Brunello’s DOCG regulations require that 100% Sangiovese grapes be used. The wines are then aged for a minimum of 4 years (5 years for the Riserva). Traditionally, Brunello required a minimum of three years ageing in wood barrels. That has now been relaxed to two years ageing in wood. In addition, four months must be in bottle (six for the Riservas). The finished wine cannot be released for sale until January 1st of the year five years from vintage year. For example, the 2003 Brunello’s could not be released until January of 2008. Geographically, there is a strictly identified zone surrounding the town of Montalcino, in which the Sangiovese grapes used to make Brunello must be grown and the wines must be bottled. So what type of experience should a good Brunello provide? This simple question is controversial at the moment. Traditionally, Brunello, like other Sangiovese wines, is a pale ruby color. The wine is transparent in the glass with lovely perfumed aromas of cherries and floral notes. It has a powerful elegance about it.
Domingos Meirelles, Portuguese born in Angola, has been living for 6 years in Sao Paulo, Brazil. He studied International Trade in Portugal, did his MBA in Sao Paulo, and finally the OIV Masters in International Wine Management to gain a broader perspective on the wine world. He is now the Director of Expovinis Brasil and personally dedicated to promoting Brazilian wine culture and generally pushing the country onto the global wine playing field. I recently caught up with him on a trip to Santiago, Chile visiting local wine producers and was able to ask him about the Brazilian market and the significance of Expovinis which is rapidly approaching.
“I want a 90 point wine,” Peter Koehler tells me. I think to myself that it’s certainly good to have goals. “I want to be one of the twenty most recognized wineries,” he adds. His comment sinks in and, yes, that’s more specific. After all, Koehler Winery sits on the “Fifth Avenue of wines” in Santa Barbara County. He is referring to Foxen Canyon Road, just north of tiny Los Olivos, a beautiful stretch of pavement that is home to many well-known wineries in Santa Barbara wine country.
Three decades ago, author and journalist George Taber turned the wine world on its head with his famous four paragraph Time magazine story on the Judgment of Paris . That story, often referred to as "the most significant news story ever written about wine" put California alongside the world's top wine regions and sparked a "who's better?" debate that rages to this day. Now Taber has turned his attention to the latest raging debate in the wine world: Corks.
All the grapes have been harvested. They have been crushed, de-stemmed, macerated, the musts have fermented. The once exhaustive aromas of carbon dioxide and alcohol have subsided. For those of us in the wine-production industry, it feels as though the leviathan wind that threw open the doors and windows and scattered our effects has finally left the building.
When veteran winemaker Steve MacRostie went looking for a new vineyard to plant his chardonnay, pinot noir and syrah he discovered Wildcat Mountain in the Carneros/Sonoma region. "I felt Wildcat would push the envelope, something untried. The cooler climates, the stressful site, the thinner soils; this is not a safe place to set up a farming operation. In a business sense it was probably rather stupid," he said plainly.
He's been named as one of the “fifty most influential people in the wine world" by Decanter Magazine . Bartholomew Broadbent The company he founded was nominated "Importer of the Year for 2005" by Wine Enthusiast . Prior to launching his own firm, he worked for a "Who's Who" list of the world's elite wine establishments with names like Harrod’s, Harvey’s Fine Wine Merchants, and Christie’s in London, the Rothbury Estate and Yalumba Winery in Australia, Hennessy and L’Academie du Vin in France, and Schenley in Canada, gracing his resumé. His work in Canada even resulted in the Canadian press labeling him the "Wayne Gretzky of Wine". He's widely considered to be one of the world’s foremost authorities on Port and Madeira. He's also credited for the growth of North American Port consumption during the mid 1980’s and was responsible for the re-introduction of Madeira to North America in 1989.
Charles Gill is the CEO of Winemetrics LLC , a company providing on-premise market intelligence to the wine and restaurant industries. Winemetrics recently released The 2007 On-Premise Wine Distribution Report , which summarizes varietal, brand and product distribution from of over 10,000 U.S. restaurant wine lists. This report is the source for the content referenced in the article below. Before revealing our brand ranking, it is important to realize how different the wine market is from other alcoholic beverages or consumer goods.