Barra of Mendocino
Summary: Barra of Mendocino produces all-estate wines. The tasting room is located close to Route 101 in Mendocino County and offers a delightful stop for visitors to taste quality wines and enjoy unique architecture. Charlie Barra, winemaker, vineyardist and owner with his wife Martha, is a pioneer in the California wine industry. The year 2009 was Charlie's 64th harvest.
The Barra of Mendocino tasting room can be discovered just off Rt. 101 in Mendocino County. Charlie and Martha Barra own the winery. The Barras are a wonderful and friendly couple who are very interested in the production of quality wine from their own estate grown organic vineyards.
Charlie Barra has been involved in growing wine grapes for decades. Charlie recalls that his parents immigrated from Italy where they had been descendents of families who worked in the vineyards. Charlie himself was offered the opportunity to lease a vineyard in Mendocino while he was still in high school. He was able to work out a schedule that he would attend school in the morning and work in the vineyards in the afternoon.
Today Charlie, his wife, Martha, and their children are the proud owners of Barra of Mendocino, including vineyards and winery. The property consists of a tasting room, winery and three separate vineyards - Redwood Valley Vineyards planted in 1950, Redwood Valley Cellars Vineyard planted in 1976 and a smaller hilltop vineyard with beautiful views of the valley. The Russian River runs along the edge of the winery. This is an “ideal climate for the grapes.” The grapes are certified organic. Charlie is very knowledgeable about growing grapes. He invented and made much of the farm equipment used in the 200 acres of vineyards.
The winery produces a little over 25,000 cases of wine however the capacity is for as much as 40,000. The Barras also sell wine in bulk and store wine for other wineries at their winery. All wines with the Barra label are estate grown and produced with organic grapes. The winery also does custom crushes.
The Redwood Valley Vineyards, planted in 1950, has 170 acres consisting of Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Muscat Canelli, Vidal Blanc, Pinot Gris, Petite Sirah, Zinfandel, Petit Verdot, Merlot and Sangiovese. Charlie has been farming organically for decades. Bell beans, red clover, peas and vetch are planted between the rows of vines and disked into the soil to provide nutrients for the benefit of the grapevines. Chemical fertilizers are not used in the vineyards. Five reservoirs are located on the property. Two are dedicated to wildlife while the other three are for water for the vineyards including frost protection.
Wildlife is abundant on the property. Deer fencing is used to protect the vineyards from deer. An osprey nest was placed at a top of an evergreen and it wasn’t long before ospreys found the nest and had babies. Charlie uses a unique approach for keeping turkeys out of the vineyard during harvest. Charlie mentioned that it isn’t the turkeys’ fault that they like to eat grapes. Before harvest, Charlie places a path of feed from the vineyards to a bag of feed. The turkeys gather near the bag of feed and leave the vineyards alone.
Redwood Valley Cellars Vineyard, with fifty acres, has Zinfandel and Cabernet Sauvignon grapes. This vineyard surrounds the winery and tasting room.
The architecture of the unusually shaped brown building encourages one to ask, “I wonder what that is?” A brown umbrella shaped center piece is accented with stone sidewalls.Outside of the tasting room olive trees are thriving in large planters. Nearby picnic tables under shade are available for visitors. Discover upon entering a delightful tasting room with long curved pieces of wood stretching from the floor to the high ceiling, 40 feet above. The tasting room was built in the 1970’s in the shape of the then typical champagne coupe glass popular in the 1960’s, although upside down. The architecture of the tasting room is interesting. Inside one can stare in amazement at the arches that curve upwards towards the center of the ceiling. A fountain is a delightful focal point of the tasting room. The facility is available for private rentals including weddings, business parties, employee picnics and art exhibits.
Chardonnay 2008 Barra was barrel fermented and aged on the lees for nine months. The result was a wine with oak nuances on the aroma. The taste was smooth with notes of apple and baked bread. The wine finished with hints of apple and caramel. Pinot Grigio 2009 Barra reminds one of a fruit salad with all kinds of fruit nuances. This wine had a crisp finish. Pinot Blanc 2009 Girasole Vineyards was light and refreshing. The aroma and taste had notes of lemon while the finish was crisp with citrus notes.
Sangiovese 2005 Barra was a sienna color. The aroma and taste were like cherry notes. The finish was crisp with cherry nuances. Zinfandel 2007 Girasole Vineyard offered an aroma of dark fruit and caramel with oak notes. The taste was of dark fruit especially plum. The finish was crisp. Sangiovese 2008 Girosole Vineyard offered strawberry nuances on the aroma and taste with strawberry notes and a hint of smoke on the finish.
Pinot Noir 2006 Barra offered strawberry and oak nuances on the aroma with strawberry notes on the taste. The finish also had strawberry and oak hints. 59th Harvest 2004 Pinot Noir commemorates Charlie’s 59th harvest. Charlie signs each individual bottle. This wine is a sienna color. The aroma and taste offer strawberry and plum jam nuances. The finish had light tannins and was layered with fruit.
Charlie and Martha believe in treating the workers like family. In return Charlie says the workers “work like family.”
Enjoy a visit to Barra of Mendocino tasting room. The winery has a Wine Club to participate in.
BARRA of Mendocino Winery
7051 North State Street
Redwood Valley, California
GPS: N39º 14.783’ W123º 12.503’
Related article on Examiner.com National Edition
Charlie Barra celebrates 65th grape harvest article
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