Winemaking is not a simple or easy thing to do. It requires attention and careful techniques to produce a great quality wine. Throughout the years, wine has gained popularity and became a symbol of living a fine life. As the number of enthusiasts grow, the process of making wines has also evolved over time. Aside from making sure that the bottles produced are of good quality, winemakers have also given their personal touches in each of their wines to set it apart from the others.
The winemaking industry has been dominated by males but some women have risen in the ranks and made their mark. One of these notable women and arguably California’s most famous cult winemaker is Heidi P. Barrett.
Raised by a renowned winemaker and an artist, it is not surprising that Heidi P. Barrett was destined to become a skillful winemaker. She graduated from UC Davis with a degree in Fermentation Science and interned in various wineries in Germany and Australia. She then worked at Buehler Vineyards at the age of 25 and improved their wines which garnered her a lot of critical attention. After working for five years at Buehler, Heidi became an independent winemaker consultant and was hired by Dalla Valle Vineyards where she earned her first two 100 points for the 1992 and 1993 vintages of the Cabernet blend, “Maya”.
With the success at Dalla Valle, Heidi moved on to work at Screaming Eagle where she earned another two 100-point scores for the 1992 and 1997 vintages. This was where her career really took off. At the Napa Valley Wine Auction of 2000, a 6-liter bottle of her 1992 vintage was sold at a hefty price of $500,000. The following year, her wine had a vertical offering of $650,000.
Heidi continued to work for other wineries such as Paradigm, Grace Family Vineyards, Amuse Bouche, Lamborn Family, Showket Vineyards, Vineyard 29, and Fantesca Estate & Winery. She also has her own label, “La Sirena”, and another with her husband, “Barrett and Barrett.”
Heidi is also known as “The First Lady of Wine”, “The Queen of Cult Cabernet”, and “The Cult Diva of Wine”.
In an interview with Wines & Vines, Heidi revealed that she does not get involved in the vineyards but she discusses with vineyard managers about vines in order to have an idea what steps she needs to do. Then, she only picks a certain quality of grapes that show off the wine region’s flavors.
For every wine she makes, Heidi follows a process. She doesn’t perform extended maceration which is why she presses the grapes before they go dry. This allows her to get the maximum flavor without the excessive, bitter tannins. When it comes to oak, Heidi wants the wine to age perfectly so she does not use micro-oxygenation which pre-ages a wine. In order to make sure that her winemaking process is still on track, she tastes the concoction constantly.
Heidi believes that wines should show off the purity of the fruit. She sticks to the classic winemaking techniques and only needs high quality grapes to make a great bottle of wine.
As Fantesca Estate & Winery’s head winemaker since 2008, Heidi has crafted three wines in the line-up: her only Chardonnay, a Spring Mountain Cabernet, and a red blend. These are limited production wines which make them one-of-a-kind offerings.
The Chardonnay has a clean and citrusy aroma with a crisp acidity; the Estate Cabernet Sauvignon has a dark berry aroma with dense, rich flavors; and the All Great Things Red Blend has an aroma of fine leather, vanilla, berry compote, and black cherries with a dynamic flavor.
Experience Heidi’s Fantesca wines by booking a private tour and tasting. Once you get a taste, you will surely realize why Heidi Barrett is known as The First Lady of Wine.