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Summer Itself
By Mary Ewing-Mulligan
Jun 17, 2014
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La Sirena, Napa Valley 72%-Paso Robles 28%, Moscato “Azul,” 2012 ($30):  I first tasted this wine at a luncheon in New York City in early April, on a rare, sunny Spring-like day after a long and difficult winter.  The wine and the weather conspired to create a mood of utter pleasure and delight.  Everyone was captivated.  Now that we can finally take summer weather for granted, this wine still delights.

La Sirena is a winery owned by renowned California winemaker Heidi Peterson Barrett.  Barrett’s intense red wines produced for Dalla Valle and Screaming Eagle earned her cult status and acclaim, from wine critics and the mainstream media alike.  La Sirena is her own operation, which she started on a fluke in 1994.  Under the La Sirena label -- “the mermaid,” a tribute to her love of diving -- she produces mainly red wines in the powerful style that she is famous for.  And then there is this Moscato.

Moscato Azul (named for its cobalt-blue bottle) is a dry Moscato wine made entirely from Muscat Canelli grapes.  That’s the classic, finest variety of Muscat, the same type that makes the delicious Moscato d’Asti wine in Piedmont.  The wine is, appropriately, very different from Moscato d’Asti, however.  It is dryer and fuller.  In fact, it is a style of Moscato that seems not to resemble any of the classic styles of Muscat in the world.

The wine has a pronounced aroma typical of Muscat, floral and peachy like the grapes themselves.  In your mouth, flavors of honeysuckle, delicate white pepper spice and white peach are intense.  But it has more body and character than you might expect from a wine with such captivating aromas and flavors.  It is a dry, medium-bodied, un-oaked white wine with creamy texture and a strong backbone of acidity.  It shows concentration of fruit character that’s unusual in refreshing-style Muscat wines -- and ditto for its depth and its length across the palate.  For as delicious and delightful as it is, this wine is also serious.

The 2012 Moscato Azul has 12.8 percent alcohol, enough to rank as a substantial wine but lower in alcohol than most of today’s California wines.  Its 5 grams of residual sugar qualify it as dry, and the wine’s high balancing acidity contributes to the impression of dryness.  In a market of sweet Moscato wines, Azul is a tru exception.

Remi Barrett, Heidi’s daughter who is involved in marketing the La Sirena wines, told me that her constant plea about this wine is, “Please, not with dessert!”  In fact, the wine pairs beautifully with meals.  It’s particularly delicious with salads, Asian-inspired dishes, and the fresh mozzarella-tomato combo that we eat so much of during the summer.

It probably goes without saying that this is a wine for drinking now, not for cellaring -- and in any case, I’ve said it.

90 Points