Background on CCOF (California Certified Organic Farmers)
In order to understand the winery, it is essential to understand what organic farming and certification is all about. A very brief explanation, when Charlie Barra started the winery almost 40 years ago, he undertook a Herculean task of making it organic on his terms. In his words “Yes it’s more work (annual audits/certifications, paperwork, labor requirements), more risk (crop devastation from pests) and not necessarily a bigger payout, buts essential to the well-being of this planet”.
The BARRA of Mendocino has been CCOF for over 20 years and took 3 years of inspections prior to become complete. Charlie’s favorite saying is that he had been farming organically for over 55 years! Organic certification requires the vineyards are maintained without conventional pesticides or herbicides, synthetic fertilizers, sewage sludge, bioengineering or ionizing radiation. Crop covers, of bell beans, red clover and peas are planted between the rows of vines and when flowering are then turned back into the soil for nutrients for the vineyards/grapes. The micro-organisms in the soil allow the vines to utilize the nutrients efficiently.
History of the Winery
Charlie followed his father and maternal grandfather who migrated to Mendocino County from Piedmont, Italy in 1906. Charlie began farming grapes in the mid 1940’s and in 1954 purchased Redwood Valley Vineyards. He worked vigorously with Karl Wente, Robert Mondavi and others to be one of the first growers of many varietals planted on the North Coast. Today the ranch grows organically Pinot Noir, Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon, Sangiovese, Merlot, Petite Sirah, Chardonnay, Pinot Blanc and Muscat Canelli. Besides the BARRA of Mendocino label, they have two other labels, Girasole Vineyards and CORO Mendocino. Charlie passed in 2019 and his wife of Martha who worked with him for almost 40 years, is heading the family winery which now stands at 350 acres and a 2.8 million gallon custom crush facility. They launched the BARRA of Mendocino Brand in 1997 and the Girasole Brand in 2003. Their son and daughter also have major responsibilities to keep the “family farm” running.
The Wine, 2019 BARRA Petite Sirah
These grapes are picked from their 27 acre hillside vineyard, Bella Collina, at 925 feet elevation. This vineyard is “deficit irrigated” requiring it to work hard and producing depth of color and tannins. The wine consists of 89% Petite Sirah and 11% Zinfandel. It is aged 18 months in 25% new French oak barrels and the balance being neutral. Only 391 cases were produced.
First on the eyes, it is a dark unique ruby/royal purple in color and medium viscosity. On the nose, aromas of blackberry and pipe tobacco. On the mouth, the palate is awakened to a hearty and luscious full body wine, consisting of earthiness and black plum. The finish is drawn out due to surprisingly firm but not too sharp tannins and medium toasted oak, a bit unique in Petite Sirah, but all so enjoyable. It currently is listed at $26/bottle which is a steal for a wine of this quality and pedigree.
The Food and Wine Pairing
Last night, while having increment weather, a comfort food of warm spaghetti and meat sauce was prepared. The wine with the tannins and fruit provided the appropriate welcome to the dish. Such a hearty wine of character and earthiness was a perfect juxtaposition.
Looking forward to trying one of the other BARRA of Mendocino wines in the coming days.