Barra of Mendocino

Connor Barra Girasole

who? what? when? where? why? how?

who grows the grapes at Barra of Mendocino? who makes the wines?

The Barra Family own and farm more than 200 acres of organic vineyards in Mendocino, California. For years the fruit that they grew was sold to some of the iconic names in California wine production before the family began to bottle their own wines. We would suggest without hyperbole that if a Mt. Rushmore of American Wine were ever to be carved into the side of a cliff, that Charlie Barra’s deceptively impish grin deserves a place in the pantheon as his life’s work includes contributions to the creation of the first American appellation, the creation of a grower’s union that broke the monopoly that stifled small farmers’ growth and too many technical advances to list here.
Charlie and Martha Barra: Pioneers in Northern Mendocino

Martha Barra, Charlie’s wife, along with son Shawn and daughter Shelley, manage the business of the winery today, and their acumen proves everyday that organically grown wines can and should compete on quality and price alone, and win.   All of their wines are CCOF (California Certified Organic Farmers) and consistently more layered and nuanced than one might expect at the price.

This video on the winery was shot partly in Chicago at Candid Wines – still pictures are from the vineyard.

what wines do they make at Barra of Mendocino?

Barra of Mendocino produces Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, Petite Sirah, and a late harvest Port style wine that we carry at Candid Wines. The Barra wines are generally from the family’s older vines on the hillside vineyards that were planted in the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s.

Across the board, use of oak is careful and measured. Most barrels are one year old when first used at Barra, ensuring that the flavors of wood do not interfere with the work done in the vineyard. Production of each is small, ranging from 350 to 600 cases per variety.

Petite Sirah, Zinfandel, Pinot Noir and Cabernet from Barra

Click here to log in to SevenFifty for a list of our wines from Barra of Mendocino in stock. 

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when did Barra of Mendocino start?

Technically, Barra of Mendocino was born as a winery in 1997, but the real story begins in 1944. That was the year the Charlie Barra, then a junior in high school, skipped class in the fall to help his uncle harvest grapes. At that time, most of the men who would have been picking were fighting in Europe or the Pacific and the opportunity was too strong for a dyed in the wool entrepreneur to ignore. Charlie earned $10,000 that harvest. That’s $10,000 to a junior in high school in 1944. Accounting for inflation, that’s roughly $115,000 to $125,000 in 2012 dollars. Charlie summarizes the lesson he learned that first year saying “I’ve never missed even one harvest. Do you know why? I only get paid once a year, so I’m going to show up for harvest to ensure I get paid!” 2011 marked Harvest #67 for Charlie, and he’s been early to work every time.
Charlie Barra

where is Barra of Mendocino?

The vines and the winery are in and around Ukiah, California in the north of Mendocino County. If you were to fly into San Francisco, you’d have a two to three hour drive north, well beyond Napa and Sonoma before you reached this remote and stunningly beautiful area. This is Redwood country, and one of the greenest counties in the US, where the balanced, cool climate paired with a progressive culture has lead to widespread organic farming and a ban on the agricultural use of any genetically modified organisms (GMOs), a law that Charlie Barra helped push into existence.

The area is reminiscent geographically to the rolling hills of Piedmont; a draw to Charlie’s grandparents who arrived in the region, direct from northern Italy generations ago.



why is Barra of Mendocino a candid wine? why might you want a taste?

We first read about the Barra Family when a writer we enjoy called their Girasole Pinot Noir one of the best values in American Pinot. That lead us to discover the Girasole and Barra wines and started our relationship with the Barra family. We’ve always loved that our introduction to the wines was based on a qualitative review and had nothing to do with their exceptional farming and business savvy. Our relationship with the wines is based on what’s in the bottle first and foremost. The value the wines present and “the boxes” that they check off in terms of being certified organic and vegan are important but it all starts with the juice.
Barra family

We like to show the Barra wines to folks looking for purity from California. The Barra’s never embraced the race for points and alcohol. Their dedication to the fruit first simply runs counter to the idea of picking anything that is overripe, to manipulation in the winery, and to masking the flavors of the grapes they’ve grown in oak. We’ve found that the wines live gracefully for a decade after harvest.

how is the wine made at Barra of Mendocino?

The Barra of Mendocino wines are made in ways that aim first and foremost to preserve the nature of the fruit that the family grows. They a picked with balance in mind, when the grapes’ flavors need no alteration in the winery, and vinifications happen without a pursuit of extremes, whether they be extremes of extraction or extreme use of oak. The barrels are generally neutral and come from both French and American forests.
Charlie standing by the water wheel