Jan 26, 2021
The Barra Family has been farming grapes since
Charlie Barra began in 1945 when he was 19. He bought his own
vineyards in 1955 and married Martha Barra in the 1980s. The couple
made the business run in earnest, with Martha concentrating on
business and Charlie focused on farming.
In 1988, the Barras began farming their land
organically and haven’t stopped since. They started their own
brand, Barra of Mendocino in 1995, which today includes Zinfandel,
Petite Sirah, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, and
Muscat Canelli. After creating Barra of Mendocino, they created Girasole (sunflower
in Italian) Vineyards, a lighter style with no oak.
Charlie passed away in 2019 but Martha and the family carry on
with Randy Meyer, Barra's Director of Winemaking
and Operations playing a major role in the business. As you’ll
hear, Randy is a live wire and as we talk about organics about
halfway through the show, he unabashedly shares the secrets
of conventional winemaking and how it is in sharp contrast to
organics (and he knows, he spent 20+ years at Korbel and other
large wineries). And it’s awesome.
Here are the show notes.
- Martha shares the fascinating history of Barra and how Charlie Barra’s dedication to Redwood
Valley, to Mendocino and to farming the right way brought about
these excellent wines. We hear the family story, a 40+ year
- We delve into the economics of Mendocino fruit and how big Napa
and Sonoma County wines couldn’t make their wines at affordable
prices without Mendocino (the rule of 75% reigns here – only 75% of
grapes need come from an AVA for it to be stated on the label.
Where do you think that other 25% comes from?)
Yup, this is what I thought. Taken from an
old publication, Courtesy of the Barra family
- Martha and Randy tell us about Mendocino's and Redwood Valley's
geographical and weather features – and how diurnals make these
wines so special. Randy gives us a great perspective of how
Mendocino is different from Sonoma and Napa on temperature,
terrain, and culture.
- Martha tells us the basics of organic farming, including the US
laws around organic viticulture and wines. In short...
- They use no “cides” (herbicides, pesticides, etc), no
chemicals, no fertilizers and use pomace and cover crops to nourish
the vines. Martha gives us details on how it all works to get
healthy soils and healthy vines
- Martha gives us the tip off for spotting a non-organic vineyard
– “spray strips” of pesticides around the vines. It’s her tell-tale
for a chemically treated vineyard
To round out the show, Randy gives us the lowdown on organics
versus non-organic! We have a good time talking about his journey
into the world of organics from large industrial wine (he spills so
much for us and he’s hysterical!):
- Randy talks about how organic winemaking is about prevention --
getting it right in the vineyard and during crush so you don't have
to fix things later. He talks candidly about the challenge of
making wine without sulfites (they help make wine shelf stable and
- Then stuff gets real!! I ask Randy, who is really at the
beginning of his organic winemaking career, after years of working
at big wineries, to compare and contrast. We bust it all open and
Randy tells us all about the “tricks” of big wine. Randy contrasts
organic winemaking with other winemaking. You'll never buy big wine
Finally, we talk about the Barra of Mendocino's wines and the Girasole wines and how they differ
- Barra of Mendocino are wines selected from
the best grapes and aged in about 30% new French oak (We dork out
again on barrels, digging into what oak does to a wine and how
different toast levels affect the juice)
- Girasole is a fresher style with no oak
Thanks to our sponsors this week:
Visit: www.wineaccess.com/normal and for a limited
time get $20 off your first order of $50 or more!
Access is a web site that has exclusive wines that
overdeliver for the price (of which they have a range).
- They offer top quality wines by selecting diverse, interesting,
quality bottles you may not have access to at local shops.
- Wine Access provides extensive tasting
notes, stories about the wine and a really cool bottle hanger with
pairings, flavor profile, and serving temps.
- Wines are warehoused in perfect conditions and shipped in
temperature safe packs. Satisfaction is guaranteed!
Check it out today! www.wineaccess.com/normal
Thanks to YOU! The
podcast supporters on Patreon, who are helping us to make the
podcast possible and who we give goodies in return for their help!
Check it out today:
To sign up for classes (now for UK and Euro time zones!) please
go to www.winefornormalpeople.com/classes!