Amuse Bouche Winery
Heidi Barrett, Wine Maker, right and I, left
Heidi Barrett
Thursday, May 7, 2010, 11AM
Location:   St. Helena, Napa
Temp.        74 F, Sunny
Time:         11:00 AM
Entrance of Amuse Bouche
Amuse Bouche
Aging Facility
Heidi Peterson Barrett

Robert Parker calls her, The Queen of Napa Valley.  With a scientist-winemaker father and an artist mother it is no big surprise that Heidi was drawn to the wine industry
with great enthusiasm.  She graduated from UC Davis in 1980 with a B.S. Degree in Fermentation Science. She gained her experience early on by
working for Justin Meyer at Franciscan Vineyards and Silver Oak.  After subsequent crush jobs at both Lindeman's Wines in Australia and Rutherford Hill, Heidi Barrett
became assistant winemaker to Jerry Luper at Bouchaine Vineyards. Then in 1983, at age 25 became winemaker at Buehler Vineyards. It was here
that she first attracted critical acclaim by greatly improving the wine quality and taking the production from 6,000 cases to 20,000 cases.
This wide range of experience has given Heidi a unique insight into winemaking. "I think it is important to have a wide variety of experience to draw from.
You can't just step in and be the winemaker unless you have a lot of experience in the cellar. I wanted to make sure that when I finally had the title of winemaker, I had
earned it."

In 1988, she left Buehler to become an independent winemaker (freelance), making wine for a number of small wineries. Within a week she was hired by Gustav Dalla Valle
and was winemaker at Dalla Valle Vineyards until spring 1996. It was there that she took her abilities to the next level creating some powerful yet elegant Cabernets,
including the famous "Maya" cult wine, a proprietary Cabernet blend that received two perfect 100 point scores from Robert Parker ( the '92 and '93) as well as record
breaking bids at the Napa Valley Wine Auction. She started making wine for Screaming Eagle in 1992, which has also received two perfect 100 pt scores (the '92 and
recent '97). A 6-liter bottle of '92 SE 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 of this cult wine went for $650,000 at the 2001 NVWA.

Heidi also started making her own wine, La Sirena in 1994 with a tiny production of Sangiovese. "I was looking for a name for my wine which would be as magical as I think
wine is. La Sirena which means "the Mermaid" in Italian and Spanish is a way of representing two of my great passions". In 1996 she made the first Cabernet Sauvignon for
La Sirena and in 2000 the first Syrah.

In 2002, Heidi partnered with longtime friend John Schwartz and famed French artist Guy Buffet to create Amuse Bouche, a Pomerol-inspired Merlot from Napa Valley.
Recognizing that the cult wine phenomenon has created an almost aspirational class structure among collectors, the partners decided to make this limited edition wine
available to a much broader consumer base. Winemaker Heidi Barrett explains, "We have created Amuse Bouche, a limited edition, superb Pomerol style wine with the
added value of limited edition art that is available to consumers through a variety of channels."
On another sunny day in wine paradise, clear blue sky and light wind. We drove through the heart of Napa Valley, north on route 29 to get to St. Helena, where we were
scheduled with
Mr. John Schwartz, Winery General Manager and co-owner of Amuse Bouche.  We were greeted at the end of the driveway by John as he was intensely
involved with an on-site meeting with his architect and construction managers.  There was alot of chaos involving construction workers, farmers working the vineyards and
to add to all of!

We spoke with John for a few minutes outside the entrance to the winery offices.  He gave us an idea of some expansion and renovations that were taking place at the
winery, then led us on a tour through the winery.  I glanced quickly at Heidi's work Lab as we walked into a climate controlled nursery where the grape juice is babied
through a complex aging process to maturity.  An employee performing the task of racking was very courteous and helpful answering many of my questions.  John
proceeded to explain the delicate process of picking through the ripe fruits by selecting the best berries for fermentation, brett and sometimes maceration then continuing
on to oak barrel aging and finally bottling.  It was brief yet, very informative.

Heidi Barrett's leadership as an esteemed winemaker with a style that I enjoy the most. She creates complex flavors and  
wonderful balance.  We sat at the rectangular table in front of a stone fireplace that is ornamented with large formats of some of
Heidi's past and current releases with the walls decorated with Heidi's own art creations.  I did not know that she was a gifted painter
and her artistic talents are not only in her winemaking but in her brush strokes as well.  I have included below a brief bio of this wine
guru-ess of Napa Valley.  

Then came my most enjoyable part of a winery visit, Wine Tasting,  we started

La Sirena, Muscat Azul: Floral and tropical varietal aromas and flavors in a crisp dry style. Simply delicious!

2007 Pirate:  A blend of 7 varietals, this is a big wine that can handle the high alcohol content of 14.7% with interesting flavors without being aggressive.  Very deeply
colored like blackberry jam. Aromas are bold, dried black cherry, dark chocolate with a silky long finish.

2005 La Sirena, Syrah:    It is very dark with multi-layered aromas of ripe cherry, plum, and smoked meat. A round mouth-feel and flavors of black plum, dried herbs,
pomegranate, and a bit of mineral lead to a juicy lengthy finish.  

2007 Amuse Bouche, Merlot: Its dark ruby/purple color that is accompanied by sweet aromas of plums, black cherries, soy, and oak, textured, lush, and delicious. Amuse
Bouche’s finest effort to date, it can be enjoyed over the next 12-15 years."

2008 Vin Perdu-Vin Perdu: Derived from different lots; Amuse Bouche, La Sirena, Barbour, Revana and Au Sommet vineyards. This year's blend is Petit Verdot
dominated (44%) with 39% Syrah, 9% Cabernet Sauvignon and 8% Cabernet Franc.

2006 Revana Cabernet Sauvignon: Deep ruby in color with aromas of ripe blackberry, black cherry and cassis. Hints of sweet French oak lead you into the first sip
confirming this is a special wine. The wine is full, yet soft in the mouth, dense and structured with mouth coating velvety tannins. Flavors on the palate match the aromas of
ripe black fruits layered with toasty, elegant oak components.

2007 Sinatra Cabernet Sauvignon: Deep purple color with currant, black cherry and marzipan on the nose.  Very rich and concentrated cherry with hints of leather and
spice. Long finish with cherry and vanilla.

During the tasting Heidi Barrett came over to introduce herself and welcome us to Amuse Bouche.
She is softly spoken, warm and very comfortable talking about what she loves. I asked her about the chance of conducting an interview with her and posting it on our site
for our members, she kindly accepted.

The Amuse Bouche Merlot was a big hit for me.  It was named by "The Robb Report" as one of the top 100 wines of the world. I knew how scarce allocations are for this
wine due to the very limited production and the high rating it received by RP and WS, but decided to try anyway and ask to get an allocation for our members, it was not an
easy task.  Finally, mission accomplished I was able to get John to agree to allocate enough 750 ml bottles for our members.  I am certain you will enjoy this one with plenty
of bragging rights, one of Heidi's latest and greatest creations.
Please check our
Future Shipments for content and schedule.

'Till next time.

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