Thursday, July 7, 2016



AMAWaterways has asked Allen Balik to host their “Enticing Douro River Wine Cruise” in Portugal’s Douro River Valley!
The cruise departs Porto AUGUST 15, 2017.  Only 20 staterooms remain.

In addition to enjoying the AMAVida grand 106-passenger vessel and its ports-of-call, Allen will be conducting a welcoming wine reception, extensive tastings, lectures and a magnificent dinner on board.  You will explore the depth and diversity of this revered wine producing region and Allen will personally select the wines presented and be completely available for all your questions throughout the voyage.
You’ll cruise the wonderfully scenic Douro River Valley, one of Europe’s most unspoiled rivers decorated with deep cleft gorges, lush vineyards, and sleepy fishing villages. You’ll begin on August 15th in Porto, and continue to the ancient and picturesque city of Lamego.  You enter Spain to visit Salamanca, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, located at the center of the Castilla y León region and then travel inland to the beautiful countryside of the Trás-os-Montes Region, visiting the palace and gardens of Mateus.  You’ll explore the 14th-century Alpendurada Monastery before concluding our holiday in historic Porto on August 22nd.

Your luxurious stateroom offers complimentary Internet access, a 42” flat-screen and ship-wide Wi-Fi.  And, you’ll enjoy superior dining options, a Sun Deck swimming pool; fitness center and spa.  To make this exceptional cruise even more significant, AMAWaterways is generously donating a portion of each fare to our Culinary Evening with the California Winemasters benefiting the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.
In addition to the 7-night cruise, Allen is planning a 3-night add-on in Porto just for the personal group of travelers.  He is working with the president of the Cork Producers of Portugal , Sogevinus (one of Port's oldest, largest and most respected producers) and other Port houses who are assisting in planning memorable visits to the area’s most notable wineries.  Your “menu” during the stay in Porto will include outstanding lunches and dinners, unique walking tours, some brilliant nighttime entertainment and a few surprises.  The 3-night Porto stay is August 12-14th.


Allen is a noted wine collector and recognized authority on California and European wines. As a member of numerous tasting groups, Allen samples between 1,200 and 1,500 wines each year, for pleasure and education. He also serves as a consultant for restaurant and retail store buyers and evaluates wine for many panels and publications.

Allen is the Founder and Co-Chairman of A Culinary Evening with the California Winemasters – a Wine Spectator Top Ten Charity Wine Auction – that pairs the talents of 45 international chefs with 70 of California’s finest wineries.

In his travels, Allen has toured wine growing areas around the world and tasted at numerous wineries, chateaux, and domaines throughout the United States, France, Italy, Spain, Australia and Chile.

Allen co-authored Guide to Choosing, Serving and Enjoying Wine. Rather than another wine primer, theGuide demystifies wine, encouraging readers to try the beverage as a normal part of their mealtime enjoyment.


The first wine Heidi made for La Sirena started as fluke opportunity – a custom crush wine for a client that fell through.  They had hired her to make Sangiovese during the 1994 vintage for a new brand, but ran into a conflict of interest situation with their family, who had other winery ties.  The wine was already made and quite delicious, but the client had to abandon the project.  They were going to put the wine on the bulk market and she thought, ‘Here’s my chance to start my own winery, maybe I could buy it!’ Once the decision was made, she needed to come up with a winery name, design a label and get approval and permits, etc. all within a 30 day time period. The wine was ready to bottle, so time was of the essence.

Heidi and her husband Bo found the name while looking through the playing cards of the Mexican card game called Loteria. All the cards are different nouns, and one was La Sirena- the mermaid (pic). As big scuba divers and ocean lovers, the name stuck out to them: here was this beautiful symbol of something magical, like wine, and a way for her to combine two great passions. Designer and friend Michele LeBlanc came up with a fun and fanciful mermaid label based on Heidi’s own likeness(pic of OG label), and with that, La Sirena began in earnest in 1994 with 200 cases of Sangiovese.

Today, La Sirena makes around 2,000 cases of 6 different wines each year: Cabernet Sauvignon, Pirate TreasuRed, Le Barrettage, Grenache, Art Bus, and Moscato Azul. All the wines are small production lots made with great care and the highest quality in mind. Based in Heidi’s hometown of Calistoga, these wines are near and dear to her heart – literally. Heidi’s home vineyards provide much of the Cab and Syrah she uses in her wines. Heidi loves having her own brand because she gets to make whatever she wants – creating, experimenting, and being free to explore and express herself through her work, while also giving her fans the delicious wines they have come to expect from her.

Remi grew up in Calistoga and began working at Chateau Montelena (during the summer and after school) at a young age. She went on to attend UC Davis to study English Literature and Creative Writing, working in the Montelena tasting room during the summer. After graduating in 2009, Remi represented Montelena at Press Club in San Francisco before officially joining the La Sirena Winery team in Sales and Marketing in the spring of 2010. When not traveling or working for the winery, Remi sings and plays in her band Vicereine.

Heidi Peterson Barrett is one of the world’s most renowned and respected winemakers. Since the 1980s, she has created some of the Napa Valley’s most famous wines, including Screaming Eagle, Dalla Valle, Grace Family, Paradigm, and many others. She started her own brand, La Sirena, in 1994, and began her collaboration brand, Barrett & Barrett, with her husband, Bo Barrett of Chateau Montelena, in 2010.

Heidi got her start at a young age. Her father, Dick Peterson, is a scientist-winemaker, and her mother, Diane, an artist. She gravitated toward both fields, and found that the world of wine was an ideal place for her to explore and combine these passions. Growing up, she worked in numerous vineyards and wineries alongside her dad, and decided to pursue it as a career, attending UC Davis for fermentation science and going on to several internships and positions in the industry.

Her career took off in the late 80s when she began working for Dalla Valle as an “independent winemaker”. She began to develop a tiny project called Screaming Eagle shortly afterwards, and from there, things escalated quickly. With 5 perfect 100-point scores for her wines in the span of just a few years, Heidi skyrocketed to international fame, setting a world record for the highest price ever paid for a single bottle of wine ($500,000 for a 6L of 1992 Screaming Eagle at the Napa Valley Wine Auction in 2000).

Today, Heidi maintains a stable of ultra-premium client wineries, including Paradigm, Lamborn, Amuse Bouche, Au Sommet, Fantesca, and Kenzo, as well as her own brands La Sirena and Barrett & Barrett. She and Bo live among their vineyards in Calistoga. In her free time, she enjoys scuba diving, flying her helicopter, making art, and gardening.

This 2013 Grenache from La Sirena is dark ruby in color with wonderful open clean aromatics of ripe red plums, currants, and dried cranberry, definitely red fruit driven. There are pretty, sassy, spicy notes in the nose as well from French oak. This wine is dense for Grenache, juicy yet has moderate textural tannins and a flavor profile that lasts several minutes. The blend is 100% Grenache from two steep hillside vineyard blocks in St. Helena. Concentrated and bigger than our inaugural release last year. Quite delicious upon release and will continue to evolve and improve with a bit more time in the bottle. Suggested pairings –Paella, hearty pasta dishes, burgers, sausage, or wild duck. Quite delicious, Enjoy!