BARRA of Mendocino – A New Label and an Astonishing 2020 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon

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This is a longer story, but covers the new logo, about CCOF, the winery, the wine and the food & wine pairing.

The New Logo

(Photo from BARRA)

BARRA of Mendocino has a new label for their line of Reserve wines which are all CCOF (California Certified Organic Farmers). It is in honor of a historic oak tree found on its home ranch on the Redwood Valley Vineyards.  It is both a foiled oak and grape leaves, embossed on a black background. On the back of the bottle it states it is symbolic of their 70 year history making wine as in “Like an old oak tree, our roots run deep”. Martha Barra, winery owner and co-founder stated “A powerful icon in our vineyards, the oak tree represents wisdom and knowledge, strength and endurance, stability and honesty”.

About 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”. His vision was remarkable.

BARRA of Mendocino has been CCOF for over 20 years and took 3 years of inspections prior to becoming 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.

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 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 – 2021 Barra of Mendocino Cabernet Sauvignon

(Photo ©Michael Kelly

The first thing that needs to be mentioned is be prepared to have your mind blown as to what kind of Cabernet Sauvignon can come out of Mendocino!!  This was simply a wonderful surprise opening this bottle. The wine comes from their 50 acre vineyard site located at 764 feet in elevation and has been designated certified organic since 2007. The wine rested 18 months in 30% new French oak barrels and the balance being neutral.

First on the eyes a deep royal purple with glistening hues around the rim. Medium to medium-heavy viscosity. On the nose this was no ordinary “milk toast or weak cousin” Cabernet Sauvignon from Mendocino, but immediately intense aromas of cherries and blackberry wafted into the senses.  On the palate cocoa and vanilla coffee along with blackberry swirled lively in the mouth. On the finish, a slight “sweetness” was present but most notably was the smooth and silky, yet notable tannins providing a Cabernet Sauvignon that was “Napa worthy”. It is 95% Cabernet Sauvignon with 5% Petite Sirah. Only 427 cases were produced and is listed on their website for $28. Without a doubt one of the best Cabernet Sauvignon’s and at $28 if a flat out bargain!  This just made my annual Best Wines Tasted in the year, not just for a remarkable taste but such a bargain price. That list comes out in December each year.

The Food and Wine Pairing

(Photo ©Michael Kelly

Pulled this wine out of the cellar last evening to pair with our winter comfort food of a roast beef. Cooked perfectly medium rare and accompanied by a medley of sautéed fresh vegetable (broccoli, asparagus and string beans. Note I only ate the string beans!), brown rice and a fresh garden salad. My wife literally thought we were drinking a $50-60 bottle from Napa Valley. It made a wonderful food and wine pairing.

Truly a remarkable wine and if you like Cabernet Sauvignon, this is it!!




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