Recently, I was fortunate enough to take advantage of an opportunity to taste wine with 2 legends of Napa Valley, Bo and Heidi Barrett.
A little about them…
In 1976, Bo Barrett, working at Chateau Montelena with his father, submitted Montelena’s 1973 Chardonnay to the “Judgment of Paris” competition. The Napa Valley wine was up against several top white French Burgundies – and Montelena won. The American victory stunned the wine world and put Napa on the wine map overnight. What’s even more impressive is that the wines were rated by French wine experts.
Heidi Barrett, Bo’s wife, was THE wine maker responsible for Screaming Eagle, a California cult Cab, when the wines achieved 99 and 100 point ratings from Robert Parker and started commanding in excess of $1,000 PER BOTTLE.
At the event, Bo gave his take on biodynamics: “It’s bullshit.” He talked about how difficult it is to get a good crop when you have to fight against weather, parasites, insects, birds, rodents, etc. Not all of this can be solved with biodynamics.
However, to paraphrase, he said “We do all of the right things at Chateau Montelena, We are Napa Green, we use solar. We have kids and dogs on that land. I wouldn’t put anything into the land that I wouldn’t put into them.”
Bo seems to have struck the right balance between what is right for the environment and what is necessary to run a successful business.
Bo criticized overblown wines that are over oaked and have excessive alcohol– “cocktail Cabernets” because they are drank at bars and like liquor, don’t go as well with food. They also don’t age as well and have less antioxidant (healthy) qualities.
Bo, the farmer (or wine grower) and Heidi the winemaker, make a great “team”. What is strange is that until now, they have not presented wines together nor have they produced a wine together.
On to the wines….
1. La Sirena Moscato Azul 2009- $30. Refreshing nose, clean with floral, mineral and citrus. Like a great Riesling. You can drink it by itself or pair it with just about any food. A really pretty wine.
2. Chateau Montelena Napa Valley Chardonnay 2008- $50. The one that beat the French. It is a big, round wine with good acidity and some oak. This is a food wine and will probably age nicely. It is a great example of proper winemaking, not too oaky, not too buttery. Lots of fruit and a long finish.
A good bargain considering a 1973 bottle recently sold at auction for $11,325.
3. Chateau Montelena Estate Zinfandel 2007-$30. Red fruits and spicy with a touch of “heat” that I usually perceive as high alcohol although they said that the alcohol is not that high??
4. La Sirena Syrah, Santa Ynez 2006- $40. Medium bodied, 100% Syrah. Very juicy and fruity. I like this wine. Not overdone and very easy to drink.
5. Chateau Montelena Estate Cabernet 2002-$100. Very interesting nose that smells like mint tea. I am not getting a lot of fruit from this.
6. La Sirena Cabernet Sauvignon 2007-$150. This wine kicks ass. It has lots of fruit, black currant and nice oak. It is a Bordeaux style blend with 12% Merlot and 2% Cabernet Franc. This is the wine that Heidi says she can’t tell apart from Screaming Eagle-she should know since she crafted that wine.
An expensive wine for sure but Screaming Eagle costs over $1,000/bottle at auction and you can’t even buy it when it is released- you have to be on a waiting list that can take years for someone to drop off.
7. Chateau Montelena Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2007-$150. The wine of the night for me!! Even though Heidi’s wine was very good, this wine was EVEN BETTER. This wine typifies the term “iron fist in a velvet glove”. It has tremendous depth and power after being open for over 1 ½ hours but the tannins are VERY smooth, not bitter. When asked about this, Bo said that it has very high tannin BUT he uses no seed tannin and doesn’t overdue the skin contact (maceration). It is perfectly balanced and something that I would definitely recommend if you wanted to splurge and try an example of what California Cabernet should taste like.
Both of the Cabernets in this tasting proved that 2007 is an excellent vintage for Cabernet in Napa. These wines are both drinking extremely well, young, and will probably only continue to get better as they age.
Also be on the lookout for the new label from husband and wife team (1st time working together)- Barrett & Barrett.
This was another great event by Astor Wines. If you ever have the opportunity to hear Bo or Heidi speak and/or drink their wine you will be in for an honest to goodness treat.