Montesquieu Winery Partners with Heidi Barrett, Napa Valley’s First Lady of Wine
December 16, 2010, by: Lisa Duff Khajavi
As many of you know, we at Montesquieu Winery have had the good fortune of working with some of the top vintners around the globe. Our network of winemakers here on the home front isn’t bad either, especially when you consider the woman who highlights that group — none other than the legendary Mrs. Heidi Peterson Barrett.
Over the past two years, we’ve been able to secure for our clients a prime selection of highly coveted wines made by Heidi, the once and future “Queen of Napa Valley.” Through venerable wines such as Amuse Bouche, Revana and several vintages of Vin Perdu 5-liter Jeroboams, our clients seem to have fallen head-over-heels for Heidi and her ability to create wines with power and expression, while at the same time managing seamless balance and elegance no matter the varietal. Without a doubt Heidi Barrett is one of the most gifted vintners of her generation.
If you love California wine, you know that Heidi Barrett’s reputation precedes her — to put it mildly. Robert Parker has called her the “First Lady of Wine”, and it’s no wonder, as the “Cult Cab” revolution will be forever tied to Heidi and her ultra-rare wines from the early 1990s. She’s responsible for the success of some of California’s most notable labels, including Screaming Eagle, Dalla Valle “Maya”, and Grace Family Vineyards, among others.
Talent aside, perhaps Heidi’s best trait is her passion as a winemaker. It’s infectious, and when we met her at a wine auction in Napa, there was instant synergy — we share her appreciation of the artistic nature of grape-growing and winemaking, as well as her commitment to bringing wine lovers the very best from the vine.
Those shared values led us to a private al fresco dinner hosted by Heidi atop Atlas Peak, where we dined among the vines of Au Sommet Vineyard and tasted several of her upcoming releases. The conversation around the table forged a deeper bond between us, bringing with it the prospects of collaborating on something special.
We’re thrilled to announce that that vision has now become a reality with our release of the 2007 Montesquieu Dynamene Syrah, a wine crafted by Heidi exclusively for our clients. In Greek mythology, Dynamene is a sea-nymph associated with the power of the ocean who came to the aid of seafarers — an hommage to Heidi’s love for scuba diving and all things maritime. We are delighted to partner with Heidi to bring our clients such a distinctive Syrah, a Santa Barbara gem that reflects the haunting nuances of cool-climate Syrah coupled with the extraordinary depth and richness that mark Heidi’s best wines.
Heidi grew up in Napa Valley surrounded by the fortunate influences of her father, a scientist-winemaker and her mother, an artist. She has earned her title the “Queen of Napa” working from the ground up. While in high school she worked summers in wineries and vineyards taking on many jobs like sorting vine cuttings and bottling line work.
She continued her wine education at UC Davis, where she was an assistant to Dr. Ann Noble, the developer of the aroma wheel and also completed an internship at a large co-op winery in southern Germany. While in Germany, Heidi assisted production of many varieties of wine, both whites and reds, and it was there she learned the art of making balanced wines, no matter what the type.
After she graduated from Davis, she went to work for Justin Meyer of Franciscan and Silver Oak. Heidi also worked as assistant winemaker to Jerry Luper at Bouchaine before becoming winemaker at Buehler Vineyards in 1983 at the age of 25. In 1988 she left Buehler to freelance and within a week was hired by Gustav Dalla Valle and was winemaker there until 1996. It was there that she achieved new heights, crafting powerful yet elegant wines including the famous “Maya”.
In 1992 she started making wine for Screaming Eagle, going on to legendary status with the single highest bottle price fetched at auction-$ 500,000—for her 1992 Screaming Eagle.
Heidi left Screaming Eagle after the 2005 vintage in part to focus on her own winery ventures, La Sirena, Amuse Bouche and others. Past clients include Screaming Eagle, Grace Family, Vineyard 29, Hartwell/Grace, and Oakford Vineyards. Additionally, she does consulting work for Diamond Creek Winery and Niebaum-Coppola (Rubicon). Currently she is winemaker for Jones Family, Barbour Vineyards, Paradigm Winery, Showket Vineyards, Lamborn Family, Lynch, Revana Family Vineyards, and of course her own La Sirena and Amuse Bouche.
A trained scientist and an accomplished painter, Heidi has long approached winemaking as a blend between science and art. For her, the hallmark of great wine is perfect balance between technical precision and passionate expression, resulting in a pure, elegant, delicious taste experience. “Fine wine is the only true art that must be destroyed in order to be fully appreciated,” she says. In her winemaking, she strives to offer you the pleasures of both art forms.
Heidi lives in Calistoga with her husband, Bo (winemaker at Chateau Montelena) and their two daughters, Remi and Chelsea. Heidi says that she very much enjoys being a mom, skiing, painting, and her garden.
We at Montesquieu Winery are proud to work with Heidi and especially to be able to bring her unique winemaking vision to our clients.