In the world of winemakers, Heidi Peterson Barrett is a household name, and not just because she shares a last name with her husband, who founded the only winery that can rightfully claim to be a full-fledged movie star.
That Heidi Barrett is a household name, a winemaker’s winemaker, can be attributed to two words: Screaming Eagle – Napa’s Cult Cab among Cult Cabs, manifest in concentrated style, produced in small quantities and regularly fetching over $1000 per bottle.
Those slugging back bottles of SE in the comfort of the temperature-controlled cellars inside their custom yachts probably don’t know that Heidi Barrett landed her first head winemaking job back in 1983, when at the young age of 25 (now that I’m nearly forty, I can call 25-year-olds “young”) she was hired by St Helena’s Buehler Vineyards (for more on Buehler, check out my interview with owner John Buehler’s daughter Helen, who now looks after their Social Media and Sales).
So when I was invited to talk shop over lunch by long-time wine biz veteran (and very nice guy) Bob Trimble, I was intrigued by the selection he picked to help us wash down our meal – Buehler’s Napa Cabernet Sauvignon from 1985 – since it was not only a glimpse into Napa Cab’s past, and into Buehler’s past, but also an opportunity to turn back the clock on Barrett’s (now storied, but then just promising) career…
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Earlier this month, a guest on Gary Vaynerchuk’s Wine Library TV caused a bit of a stir.
That is, if you consider over 550 comments and an eight-page forum thread devoted to the episode “a bit of a stir.”
The guest was Helen Buehler, who is a member of the family behind Buehler Vineyards, whose 2006 Napa Valley estate Cabernets have become members of the ‘90+ point review club’.
I missed of all the Wine Library TV hoopla involving Helen, as I’m not a regular viewer of Gary’s show – this has nothing to do with Gary, and everything to do with the fact that I’m borderline ADD and can’t watch any on-line video that’s over 3 minutes long. In fact, I hadn’t seen the episode until Helen contacted me asking if I’d seen it, and generally wondering what my impressions were about the whole thing (my response, in a nutshell, was “I don’t think it’s a big deal.”).
Not one to miss an opportunity to selfishly capitalize on a prominent media event gain insight into the winemaking world, I thought it would make interesting reading to see what Helen had to say about the WLTV episode, get her take on what it’s like to grow up around wine, and see what changes she thinks the Millennial generation will bring to the wine market. Helen agreed, and kindly accepted an interview invitation.
It seems ironic to me that one of the criticisms laid out against Helen from her WLTV appearance was that she lacked passion; while she may not come off on video as being passionate about wine tasting, she certainly comes off as passionate when she’s discussing winemaking.
If you’ve seen Helen’s WLTV appearance, then this interview will give you another perspective on Helen’s place in the wine world; if you haven’t yet seen it, then you can check it out at the end of this interview, formulate your own opinion on Helen’s representation of Buehler Vineyards, and (as always) share your thoughts in the Comments…
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