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WINERY PROFILE:

La Sirena

by Charles M. Bear Dalton

Heidi Peterson Barrett is La Sirena. In an October 2007 article, Wines & Vines magazine introduces Heidi Peterson Barrett (HPB) saying "Possibly the most famous California cult winemaker, Heidi Peterson Barrett is a private person who has generally avoided seeking attention, leaving her wines to create their own aura. Most famed for making collectible Cabernet Screaming Eagle, Barrett started out at Buehler Vineyards before making such Napa legends as Dalla Valle Vineyards' Maya (which received two 100-point scores from Robert Parker), Showket Vineyards' Super Tuscan blend Asante Sana; Vineyard 29 and Grace Family Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon." With an intro like that, you don't need much more in the way of a resumé. Nevertheless, as they say on the info-mercials "But wait. There's more." Heidi Peterson Barrett is the daughter of Dr. Richard Peterson (formerly of E&J Gallo, Beaulieu Vineyards, Monterey Vineyards, Atlas Peak, and Folie a Deux and now owner of his own label Richard Grant Wines), sister of chef Holly Peterson, wife of Ch. Montelena winemaker Bo Barrett, mother of Remi and Chelsea, helicopter Pilot, and scuba diver. Heidi Peterson Barrett grew up in a winemaking family. During her high school years, HPB spent her summers in the vineyards and wineries doing everything from sorting vine cuttings to working on the bottling line. She continued her formal education in fermentation science at UC Davis where she was an assistant to Dr. Ann Noble, developer of the aroma wheel. She credits a college internship at a large winery in Germany teaching her about balance in wine. After graduating from U.C. Davis in 1980 with a Bachelor of Science in Fermentation Science, HPB went to work for Justin Meyer at Franciscan Vineyards and Silver Oak Cellars. In 1981, after subsequent crush jobs at Lindeman's Wines in Australia and Rutherford Hill in Napa Valley, Heidi became assistant winemaker to Jerry Luper at Bouchaine Vineyards. In 1983, at age 25, she became winemaker at Buehler Vineyards. In 1988, she left Buehler to become an independent winemaker, consulting for a number of small wineries. She was quickly hired by Gustav Dalle Valle at Dalle Valle Vineyards where she remained as winemaker until the spring of 1996. Her powerful yet elegant Cabernets from Dalle Valle Vineyards include the famous proprietary blend "Maya". In 1992 she began making wine for Screaming Eagle. Since 1988, Heidi Petersen Barret has developed an impressive client list of ultra-premium wineries. In addition to her very own wines from La Sirena, she is currently the winemaker for Amuse Bouche, Paradigm, Lamborn, Kenzo Estate, Revana, Au Sommet, Vin Perdu, and Fantesca. Past winemaking clients include Screaming Eagle (14 years), Dalla Valle (8 years), Jones Family (12 years), Grace Family (6 years), Vineyard 29 (6 years), David Arthur, Barbour Vineyards (15 years), and Showket (12 years). Heidi Peterson Barrett, who loves the ocean and especially SCUBA diving, began making wines under her own label, La Sirena, in 1994. She says "I was looking for a name for my wine which would be fun and magical. La Sirena, which means "the Mermaid" in Italian and Spanish is a lovely expression of my two great passions." Her La Sirena website says HPB's "winemaking style lends itself so seamlessly to the Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, her proprietery Pirate TreasuRed blend, and dry Muscat Canelli (Moscato Azul) she hand-crafts for La Sirena." The La Sirena Cabernet Sauvignon follows the same winemaking style and blend that she made in the past for Screaming Eagle. In addition to her obvious winemaking talents, Heidi Peterson Barret is an accomplished artist. Samples of her art may be found at http://www.lasirenawine.com/lasirena/page/gallery.jsp. In addition to ALL of that, she is delightful, charming, modest, and unaffected. To meet her (as I did in my office back in August), you'd never know she is a rockstar winemaker. Her voice sounded familiar. I took me a few minutes to realize that she is the vocal double of Candice Bergen in her role of Shirley Schmidt in Boston Legal. And she looks a bit like a younger, taller Candice Bergen. As to the wines in question, HPB makes the La Sirena wines at the Revana Winery (which she designed). While she is actively involved in talking with the farmers who grow the grapes for her wines, she leaves them alone to do their jobs. She says ""I work with the best vineyard managers in the business ... It's like a relay team; they hand off the grapes to me. They're very good grapes." She is not a fiend for ripeness so she directs that her grapes are picked at about 25° brix rather than the 27-28° favored by some. In the winery, her red winemaking is mostly very orthodox. About the only noteworthy variation she admits to is a shortish skin contact before pressing and letting her wines finish fermenting to dryness in tanks or barrels away from the skins. She is not a big extracter. Her wines tend toward red fruit, moderate oak, and little manipulation. They speak with the accents of their varieties and their source (terroir). The three Syrahs are very interesting as they are so different but the wine making is the same. Here are my notes on the wines we tasted, starting with the one unique white she makes. While these wines are very limited, they are available.

Tech: 13.8% Alcohol. 100% Muscat fermented and aged all in stainless steel tanks. Straw in color with good legs; dry, light-bodied with crisp acidity. Delicious, fruit bomb but absolutely dry. Perfumed but very nice in the mouth. Classic Muscat perfume but dry and clean. Almost Moscato meets higher end Vinho Verde. Excellent. BS: 91.

LA SIRENA Moscato Azul, Napa Valley, 2008 12x750ml $27.30 $307.44

Tech: 15.1% Alc. A blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Cabernet Franc, Grenache, and Petite Sirah fermented using pump-overs and aged 22 months in French oak barrels (40% new). Deep purple in color with well formed legs; dry, medium-ull-bodied with balanced acidity and moderately chewy phenolics. Supple-spicy-juicy Cab-Syrah-and ... and ... offering red and black fruit with black pepper. Spicy, complex, fun. The winemaker is clearly having fun here but he wine is still seriously good. Excellent. BS: 92.

La Sirena PIRATE "TreasuRed", Napa Valley, 2007 6x750ml $63.70 $358.68

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La Sirena

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12x750ml $40.95 $461.16 Tech: 15.2% Alc. 100% Syrah fermented using pump-overs and aged 20 months in all French oak barrels (38% new). Deep purple in color with well formed legs; dry, full-bodied with balanced acidity and moderately chewy phenolics. Deep, dark, delicious, much more black than red fruit. Notes of coffee and spice with black pepper and a hint of white pepper. Very Syrah. Excellent. BS: 92.

La SIRENA Syrah, Santa Ynez Valley, 2005

Tech: 15.3% Alc. 100% Syrah fermented using pump-overs and gaed 22 months in all French oak barrels (35% new). Purple in color with well formed legs; dry, full-bodied with freshly balanced acidity and chewy phenolics. Lovely, supple, rich, like Cabernet with a twist. Lots of dust and a bit of tobacco. Black fruit with just a bit of red. Lovely in the mouth. Feels like Cabernet, tastes like Syrah. Yum. Excellent. BS: 94.

LA SIRENA Syrah, Napa, 2005 12x750ml $54.60 $614.88

Tech: 14.5% Alcohol. 100% Syrah (steep site, rocky, small berries) aged 22 months in all French oak (45% new). Deep purple in color with well formed legs; dry, full-bodied with freshly balanced acidity and chewy phenolics. Dusty, stony. Black fruit. Big, dense, focused, and rich. Coffee grounds and black pepper. Hints at white pepper. Excellent. BS: 93+.

LA SIRENA Barrett Syrah, Calistoga - Napa Valley, 2005 12x750ml $72.80 $819.84

Tech: 14.8% Alc. 94% Cabernet Sauvignon, 2% Cabernet Franc, 4% Merlot. fermented using pump-overs and aged 22 months in French oak barrels (33% new). Inky-deep purple in color with well formed legs; bone dry, full-bodied with freshly balanced acidity and moderately chewy phenolics. Lovely, juicy, lively great pure Cabernet. As much black as red fruit with notes of black pepper, tobacco, dust, cedar, and oak. Fresh and alive. Fine balance and feel. Lovely in the mouth. Outstanding. BS: 96+.

La SIRENA Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, 2006 12x750ml $136.50 $1537.20

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