The Women of Wine with Heidi Barrett – Part 2

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Heidi Barrett at Work on the bottling line

We are back for the conclusion of our interview with Heidi Barrett and discuss such topics as wine making styles, the impact of wine critic scores, Screaming Eagle and much more.

Find out more about Heidi and her wines at: www.lasirenawine.com

Sponsor: CellarTracker, The Wine Mgmt System: www.cellartracker.com

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Show #85
(37:58 min 17 MB)

12 Responses to “The Women of Wine with Heidi Barrett – Part 2”


  1. 1 Brian O. Apr 26th, 2006 at 6:05 am

    Very good interview indeed. The problem is that you all at Grape Radio are not learning from the people you’re talking to. Kermit Lynch talked about how each palate is individual, how no wine tastes the same to 2 people. Heidi Barrett talks about the negative effects that critics and scores have had on wine making and the resulting over-ripe wines you find everywhere (and no, this did not start in Australia as you suggested, it starts in California). Then how do you all start your podcast? Talking about scores! The one fundamental in all of “wine education” is that one has to learn about one’s own taste and, necessarily, not pay attention to scores. If you don’t understand this then you are not “wine educators”.

  2. 2 GrapeRadio Bunch Apr 26th, 2006 at 8:33 am

    With all due respect, I feel you need to revist this show. I agree with your statement that we need to trust our own palate. In what part of the show, or any show, do you hear us PERSONALLY advocating the use of scores to make wine buying decisions? If somehow you got that impression, then I will work harder at being a better communicator. Perhaps, you could listen harder? Again, I will take ownership of the misunderstanding.

    Scores are part of the wine landscape like it or not. I choose not to ignore the reality. IMHO, there are some positive elements of scores. No doubt in my mind that scores have helped the industry strive to produce better wines. I also feel scores have helped some wineries get noticed. Lastly, I refuse to sit in judgement of those that rely on scores to make wine buying decisions. Who am I to validate or ridicule their buying criteria? How ironic it is when we tell people to trust their choices except when we do not approve of the methodology they use.

    Jay

  3. 3 Chad Apr 26th, 2006 at 9:48 am

    Here’s what I’ve learned from the GR crew and their lineup of guests. As a consumer, wine scores are a reality, period. You need to be able to understand their context, their history, and their impact on wine economy and trends. You should learn about your own personal tastes and preferences so you can make intelligent buying decisions without blindly adhering to someone else’s scoring system.

    If that’s not wine education, please let me know what is.

    As long as quality is an important attribute in the assessment of wine, people will want to use some taxonomy to describe how one wine has higher quality than another. Scores and grading systems are inevitable.

    I also disagree with the statement that “[the] one fundamental in all of “wine education” is that one has to learn about one’s own taste and, necessarily, not pay attention to scores”. For me, the fundamental axiom of my wine education is to learn enough to keep having fun. It’s probably different for you. That’s another thing that wine has taught me… don’t generalize.

  4. 4 GrapeRadio Bunch Apr 26th, 2006 at 10:05 am

    Thanks for the comment Chad. It is also important that some people buy wine as an investment, or as a way to off-set their wine buying habits by selling for a profit wines that have received high scores. This will sound like a shameless plug for the sponsors, but they provide cool services. They are showing you that VALUE (score to price ratio) could help one make a smarter buying decision than score alone.

    Jay

  5. 5 Eric LeVine Apr 26th, 2006 at 4:37 pm

    Jay,

    I appreciate the plug or non-plug or whatever… :)

    I assume you are referring to QPRWines moreso than CellarTracker with regard to scores, ratios etc.

  6. 6 GrapeRadio Bunch Apr 26th, 2006 at 4:56 pm

    Eric, I was actually thinking of both. In terms of CT, I get to see the critics scores along with the “rankings” from other users. Lets assume a wine gets a score of “97″. Lets also assume the going price “from your valuation tool” shows the wine selling for $200. I wonder if some people would think twice about buying the wine if the TN’s from users in CT showed the wine showing poorly? In some ways the ratings of hundreds/thousands of other users could act as a a force to offset the power of one critic. One of the reasons that some people buy based on scores is to impress their friends. If the very same people they want to impress give a highly rated wine a poor TN, I think that could exert downward pressure on the price.

    In terms of QPRWines, its comparing the critics scores but not those of the general community. Now if CT and QPRWines could get together so I could se the average scores of the critics along with the average “score” (Vs TN’s) of other CT users that would be way cool.

    Jay

  7. 7 Murray Apr 26th, 2006 at 7:35 pm

    As an Australian and a wine lover, I must admit I was a little surprised at the association made between Australia and high alcohol “fruit bombs” during this show. Perhaps there are export producers speficially targeting the US market, however this is just not the style of wine I would expect to find on Australian shelves.

    I will not disagree that on the whole, wines from the southern hemisphere typically present more fruit forward characters, however I am yet to drink an aussie table wine that I would say was overripe, eg: having flavours of raisins or prunes etc.

    Overall in my opinion, the general feeling down under is that the taste for “fruit bomb” style wines origionated in California and was propogated by the recommendations of a certain reviewer named Bob. It would seem that neither the US or Australia would like to lay claim to pushing the concept of ripeness over balance.

  8. 8 paul r May 1st, 2006 at 4:58 pm

    the fun continues…

    first off, i loved the interview. heidi barrett came off as so down to earth and for lack of a better term, folksy… how wonderful and non-pretentious she seemed. for those of us curious to taste screaming eagle (i’m waiting for my invite, jay), it was “neat” to hear something from the winemaker, and how she’s just another person trying to make good wine…

    with regards to your sponsor, cellartracker.com and eric levine, allow me to give a plug… its the bomb! its nuclear! its truly a great inventory management system. being an IT and operations guy, i can truly appreciate the work that went into the design and execution of that product. i love it.

    and finally, on the topic of scores, and community tasting notes, its another interesting topic that we could debate all day long. i think they all do have a place, but it gets back down to trusting your own palate. i think blind tastings are a wonderful way to learn to trust your palate. community notes on cellartracker are great (i have written a few), but i hold them suspect the same way i hold a critics score suspect (probably in a different way). i think some community members can not help but be influenced by a critics score prior to their own tasting/rating of a wine. and that could be in a positve or negative way… there was an interesting book on the wisdom of crowds, and how a crowd can be smarter than an expert in a particular field. in order for that to be true, there can not be any undue forces on any individual that is part of the crowd. i’m just not sure that exists in a complete way with regards to wine enthusiasts’ tasting notes. (i do not do the book justice here.) i think community tasting notes are another tool to help evaluate a buying decision but i find them even more beneficial in making that when to pop a cork decision on wines already in my cellar…

  9. 9 Brian Osborne May 8th, 2006 at 9:51 am

    “Lastly, I refuse to sit in judgement of those that rely on scores to make wine buying decisions. Who am I to validate or ridicule their buying criteria?” I don’t know who you are. I do know that you you’re not an educator since a teacher or educator will certainly question the assumptions, correct or not, of his or her students. The student is learning how to appreciate the wine for themselves (and each of our palates and personal tastes is different from the rest, this is fact). Occasionally, or frequently, this will lead to disagreements with the score, therefore if the student has started out with the score as the sole criterion then he or she has made an error in judgement and a teacher will find a way to demonstrate that. Pay more attention to Kermit and Heidi please.

  10. 10 GrapeRadio Bunch May 8th, 2006 at 10:37 am

    Brian, your assumption is that people buy wine only for personal consumption. This is a flawed assumption. When the decisions are based on subjective criteria Vs objective, the teacher is in no position to argue a definitive truth. A teacher will present options to their students and let them make their own decisions. The challenge is for the teacher to encourage the student to explaoe and learn.

    You also make a false assumption that people make use scores as one source of information to make buying decisions. I am suggesting that the picture is not as black/white as you imply.

    We seem to agree to disagree on this point. No hard feelings I hope?

    Jay

  11. 11 Ryan P May 12th, 2006 at 11:24 am

    Great interview! I, like others who commented thought it was refreshing to hear the winemaker of $1500/bottle of wines to be so down to earth and pleasant. She presented a ton of great insight with humor and grace and left me with an even bigger desire to try to get my hands on some of her wine!

    Ryan

  12. 12 Scott May 19th, 2006 at 10:29 pm

    First of all, I just learned about this website tonight, and I could not wait to get home and check it out. I actually have the unique honor of working with Heidi, and all your comments are correct. She is one of the the most dynamic, humble and talented human beings I have ever met (also very attractive). She has no idea that she has a cape on her back when it comes to making wine. Let’s just all hope that she continues to make wines for a long, long time.

    As far as ratings are concerned, as a former sommellier, I am guilty of using ratings to sell wine. However, the majority of the population regards them as the Bible and to make the sale, sometimes you have to use them (we do work on commission you know). On the other side and as most of you have stated, each person’s tastes are unique, and to have one person’s rating determine whether or not a wine is worthy of 99 points is ridiculous. So it is a double edged sword that we all have to wield. Will anyone out there say that they are not guilty of proudly serving a wine that Parker, Tanzer or Speculator has scored 95+ points to make their guests feel like they are special? Wine is like art…some people think its Davinci, while others think its an etchosketch rendering. If we all had the same tastes, then there would only be one wine made.

    Here is a small description of how talented Heidi is, and how winemaking is like art. We make a Cabernet Sauvignon that is blended with Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, and Malbec. All of them are aged separately, by sections of the vineyard in barrel. Now, here is where it gets interesting…not only does she use four or more different coopers (which will impart different flavors individually), but they will also have different toast levels (generally medium to medium plus) AND be once or twice used. So for each grape varietal and vineyard section any of 24 different barrel selections could be made! To blend all of these together and make what she deems is the character of the vineyard is AMAZING! Like an artist drawing from a palette, she is an artist. Did I mention she is a very talented painter?

    Just be glad that we are able to enjoy the works of a modern day artist, and that you do not have to spend $1,000 to do so.

    Cheers!

    In closing, trust your own palette

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GrapeRadio is a wine talk show. Show topics cover issues such as the enjoyment of wine, wine news and industry trends - the hallmark of the show is interviews with world class guest (winemakers, vineyards owners, wine retail / wholesale leaders, restaurateurs and sommeliers). The scope of the show is international so expect to hear many guests from around the world.

GrapeRadio has received numerous awards and honors including the 2008 James Beard Award for excellence in Journalism.

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