Heidi Barrett's family has been making wine in Napa long before the valley became a world-renowned wine destination. Barrett is one of Napa's rock-star winemakers, best known for bringing in perfect scores from some critics for her work at Screaming Eagle. If you don't care about Napa, or rock stars, or scores, you only need know that Heidi makes exceptional wine. Ever since leaving Screaming Eagle when the label was bought in 2006, she has made exceptional wines for several different clients, though their wines are too pricey for this column.
Barrett has however also produced her own wine, La Sirena, since 1994, and therein lies our price target, and our wine(s) of the week.
When Ferrari bought Maserati out of bankruptcy, they effectively kept the name and logo while re-engineering everything else. People took to saying buying a Maserati was like buying 80% of a Ferrari for 40% of the price. While we won't argue that Heidi's $40 Syrah drinks 80% of the way to the perfect vintage of Screaming Eagle, it's a very good wine, a good value, and worthy of your attention.
Barrett makes six wines under the La Sirena label, but we'll focus today on the two that hit our price target of $40-ish or below, two that also happen to fit amongst our favorites.
Wine: La Sirena 2011 Moscato Azul
The blue bottle and synthetic blue cork are a signature of this wine. It's a dry Moscato, not a sweet wine as many might expect.
Notes: Pale, almost to the point of tinted water in color. Fresh and tropical on the nose with notes leaning toward pineapple and papaya. Dry, tight, and brightly acidic initial flavors wash through your mouth. Then tropical notes splash about a bit, but in a restrained way behind the tight acidity and dry presentation. Pleasant green apple character closes this mermaid's swim across your palate. (Sirena means mermaid, but you likely guessed that by now.)
Clearly a wine awaiting Spring, and since we seem to be getting plenty of that mid-winter, perhaps now's the time.
Sells For: $30
Wine: 2006 Syrah Santa Ynez
There are three Syrahs in the La Sirena line, and this is the entry price product. Still, this wine's sophistication and elegance could convert you to a Syrah drinker, long after you outgrow the in-your-face fruit bomb Shiraz that probably got you interested in the grape in the first place and ultimately also caused you to abandon it.
Notes: Dark garnet color. Noses like all well stocked humidor. Dry cedar and rich, maduro cigar leaf with a hint of the fruit behind the feeling. The first thought as the wine hits the tongue: clean and unadulterated. Nothing is getting in the way of this wine -- it has a purity to it. Soft, mid-tannic, dark cocoa with a light speckling of dark cherry and a modest note of roasted nut meats, even to the meatiness of chestnut. There's a sense of warmth, of substance, of a place to go on a cold to crisp fall-winter day, perhaps while you warm you hands on fire.
Sells For: $40.
Where to score La Sirena:Ferry Plaza Wine Merchants, K&L, and Gallery Market Union Square.
Insider Tip: Remi Barrett, Heidi's daughter and a breath of fresh free-run across the table from you at any tasting, will be pouring and selling the wines at Press Club on Thursday evenings from 6-9 pm throughout March. Press Club will also be pouring a flight of La Sirena that month as well which is a great way to get acquainted with the wines.
Contact Ben Narisin at firstname.lastname@example.org . Follow us on Twitter: @sfoodie, and like us on Facebook.