Winemaker Profile

La Sirena Napa Valley wines by Heidi Barrett - Winemaker ProfileHeidi Peterson Barrett grew up in the Napa Valley in a winemaking family and was destined to become one of the world’s foremost winemakers.  It is said that winemaking is a combination of science and art.  With her father a scientist-winemaker and her mother an artist, it’s no surprise that Heidi’s natural born talents led her to the wine industry.  With great enthusiasm, a love for what she does, and an abundance of experience, Heidi’s instinctive gift of integrating the art and science of winemaking is unparalleled.

During her High School years Heidi’s summers were spent in the vineyards and wineries diligently working every task from sorting vine cuttings to working on the bottling line.  She continued her formal education in fermentation science at UC Davis.  While at Davis she was an assistant to Dr. Ann Noble, developer of the aroma wheel.  It was during a college internship at a large winery in Germany that Heidi learned the art of making balanced wines, no matter what the variety.

After graduating from U.C. Davis in 1980 with a B.S. degree in Fermentation Science, she 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.  Wearing the title of winemaker for the first time, Heidi attracted critical acclaim by integrating her unique style of winemaking.  Demand for the wines grew, allowing Buehler to more than triple their production to 20,000 cases. 

This wide range of hands-on experience has given Heidi a distinctive approach to winemaking.  “It is important to have diverse knowledge in all aspects of winemaking.  You can’t just step in and be the winemaker unless you have adequate experience in the cellar and the vineyards.  I wanted to make sure that when I finally had the title of winemaker, I had earned it.”

Heidi Barrett in the vineyardIn 1988, she left Buehler to become an independent winemaker, consulting for a number of small wineries.  Within a week she was hired by Gustav Dalle Valle at Dalle Valle Vineyards where she remained as winemaker until the spring of 1996.  It was there she took her talents to the next level, creating wines of “cult” status.  Her powerful yet elegant Cabernets from Dalle Valle Vineyards  include the famous proprietary blend  “Maya”  which received perfect 100 point scores in two consecutive vintages ( ’92 and ’93) from Robert Parker and record-breaking bids at the Napa Valley Wine Auction.  In 1992 she began making wine for Screaming Eagle, her most celebrated and, undoubtedly, her most successful project to date.  The 1992 and 1997 vintages garnered another set of perfect 100’s from Parker.  A 6-liter bottle of the ’92 Screaming Eagle set a world record for the highest price ever paid for a single bottle of wine at the 2000 Napa Valley Wine Auction selling for $500,000.  A vertical offering sold for $650,000 at the 2001 NVWA. These coveted accolades coupled with her philosophy of winemaking have earned her such great respect from Robert Parker, Jr. that he tipped his hat by proclaiming her the “The First Lady of Wine” and TIME magazine dubbed her “The Wine Diva of Napa Valley”. 

Heidi, who loves the ocean and especially SCUBA diving, began making wines under her own label, La Sirena,  in 1994.  “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!”  Heidi’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.

Since 1988 she 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, 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), Revana (10 years) and Showket(12 years).

As well as her winemaking talents, Heidi is an accomplished artist and helicopter pilot and lives in Calistoga with her husband, Bo (winemaker at Chateau Montelena) and their two daughters, Remi and Chelsea.