Heidi Barrett
Artistry In (and On) the Bottle


Published On: August 18, 2023
Heidi Barrett in a orange jacket posing with her colorful paintings of wine, vineyards and flowers
Photo above by Remi Barrett

Walking into the artist’s studio attached to Winemaker Heidi Barrett’s home perched on an exceedingly private parcel of Napa Valley land, one immediately gets an overwhelming sense of whimsy and joie de vivre from the extensive collection of her paintings. According to Heidi, “None of them have deep messages or angst or anything like that. It’s happiness, joy, and the zest of life. They are always a little playful.” 

Barrett has been called the “First Lady of Wine,” and Robert Parker gave her the moniker the “Queen of Cabernet,” but she’s also a gifted artist, unbeknownst to most. Inspired by Henri Matisse, she often references his work. “This [painting] came from different Matisse things,” she said as she motioned to a lively painting of two chairs and a table. “This was a tiny little tray in one of his paintings. I referenced it with my own interpretation of colors.”

She’s always been an artist – her late mother, Diane Brisbois Peterson, was a lifelong artist as well. It’s a passion she’s nurtured as much as she has her winemaking, and with her wine La Sirena (there are mermaid references sprinkled about the property), she’s blending the two—her imaginative artwork is on the La Sirena “Studio Series” label. 

“I don’t know why I didn’t do it sooner,” Barrett said. “It took my marketing whiz daughter (Remi Barrett) to push me to do it. I have another partnership brand called Amuse Bouche, which has an artist series on the labels, but those are by famous artists like Wayne Thiebaud, George Rodrigue, and Tony Curtis. We thought it would be fun to do a wine series showing my art on the label each year.”

3 bottles of La Sirena wine with painted labels by Heidi Barrett

Photo by Layne Randolph

This year marks La Sirena’s fourth vintage of Studio Series, and the Napa native is about to choose the art for the next in the series. “The first label has a white barn with red soil. It makes me happy just to look at it. And it is something I made up from all these years living in Napa Valley. I know the mountains so well that I can create various versions of those shapes, and there are all these large sweeping views. I like the exaggerated red soil with the green and how the colors play off each other. It is a classic, fanciful version of Napa Valley. So, that had to be the first one in the bottle series.”

The painting for the second vintage shows whimsical wine bottles, and the third vintage showcases an explosion of intricate and flamboyant flowers. “Adding the artwork component [to winemaking] is fun because I have done it for years and enjoy it. It’s the right-brain, left-brain thing. When I paint, I completely shut down the other side, and hours can go by. Art time is different from normal time.”

Because painting and winemaking are both forms of creative expression, there’s an interesting correlation. “It [winemaking] is very science-based. There’s the picking, making, and fermentation process. But then, when you get down to blending, there are no set-in-stone rules. So that’s the hand of the winemaker that shows their experience level, viewpoint, and preferences.” She laughs, “I’m always shooting for delicious.” After all, she is the First Lady of Wine.