Barra of Mendocino Shines Again

Gems in MY Glass . . ., Mendocino, Tasting Notes

Tasting newly released Barra of Mendocino wines had me reminiscing back to the day I first met (the late) Charlie and his wife Martha Barra well over a decade ago. Following in the footsteps of his father and maternal grandfather, Charlie began cultivating vineyards here in the 1940s. He was among the early leaders (if not the first) to practice organic grapegrowing in Mendocino County. He and his family began farming organically more than fifty years ago, and Barra has been Certified Organic for more than 30 years; impressive!

I recall my very first impression of their wines, each one was remarkable, and also reasonably priced. Tasting the following wines this month confirms that the Barra team continues to produce skillfully crafted wines, with an excellent quality to price ratio.  I appreciate their striking, classy new label, too. Martha, daughter Shelley, son Shawn, and Director of Winemaking Randy Meyer carry on Charlie’s legacy today.

2020 Reserve Zinfandel:  The tantalizing spicy, berry aroma is divine.  The decadent palate coats the mouth with flavors of a spice-accented olallieberry pie melding deliciously with notes of black raspberry jam, succulent tayberries, licorice, a whisper of vanilla bean, and well-integrated oak.  Bright, lively and immaculately balanced through the persistent finish, where a subtle tinge of mint peeks through.  SRP: $26

2021 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon:  Black fruits and a touch of cinnamon on the nose start the juices flowing with this well-structured Cabernet Sauvignon.  Black plum, savory elements, black currants, tobacco, anise seed, and leather comingle with notes of pleasing barrel spice.  Rich while beautifully balanced with firm tannins and a velvety texture, and the finish keeps on delivering long after the last sip.  Approachable now and promises continued  enjoyment ahead.  SRP: $28

2020 Reserve Petite Sirah:  A lovely aromatic of grilled plum and florality greets the nose.  The palate is juicy and mouthfilling as blackberries, dark chocolate covered cherries, blueberry coulis, earthy notes and fresh ground black pepper swirl in harmony.  Bold and expressive with a fine backbone of tannins and complementary acidity ideally balancing the deep fruit, and the lip-smacking finish is precise and long-lasting.  SRP: $28

The Barra tasting room is located in the heart of Mendocino County at 7051 North State Street, Redwood Valley, California.  It is open daily, other than major holidays (New Years Day, Christmas Day, Thanksgiving Day, and Easter Sunday).  More detail can be found at  Plan your visit soon, you’ll be glad you did! 

BARRA of Mendocino in the Spotlight

Mendocino, Tasting Notes

The Barra Family has deep roots in Mendocino County, and they continue to be a respected and valued contributor to the wine world there today.  From the first time I was introduced to Martha and (the late) Charlie Barra and tasted their wines a decade ago, I knew they were onto something special, and I have been impressed ever since.  

Charlie has often been noted as the godfather of Mendocino grape growing. He was born to Italian immigrants in 1926 in Capella (Mendocino County), California.   From the time he was a young boy, he worked side by side with his grandfather and father, gaining a wealth of knowledge and experience in the deep red soils of the Mendocino County’s Redwood Valley (which later, in 1997, became a designated appellation).    

Charlie passed away a year and a half ago at age 92, months after he completed his 73rd harvest.   Today, his wife Martha, her daughter Shelley, and son Shawn carry on Charlie’s legacy at their Redwood Valley winery, which has been family owned and farmed since 1955.  Their Barra of Mendocino brand was founded in 1997, and the Girasole Vineyards label followed in 2003.  Total production annually is 25,000 cases.  All their wines are crafted from estate fruit, and their vineyards are organic certified. 

Another one of my memorable experiences with Charlie and Martha happened back in 2012, when I participated in the SOMM Journal’s Terroir Experience.  It was an enlightening trip for our group of sommeliers, who gathered to explore the Mendocino County wine country.  I was completely enthralled with their 2006 Sangiovese; elegant, precise, impeccably balanced, and true to variety.  It was among the top new world Sangiovese wines I had ever tasted.  Here is what I wrote about that wine:  Barra of Mendocino 2006 Sangiovese is a beautiful wine crafted from the estate grown, organic-certified vineyards of Charlie and Martha Barra.  The expressive floral and earthy aromas clearly identify the variety.  On the palate, focused cherry and raspberry fruit marries nicely with earthiness, nutmeg and clove spices.  Well-structured and balanced with perfect offsetting acidity, and a long finish. 

I just tasted a few more recent releases of Barra of Mendocino wines, and highly recommend them:

Girasole Vineyards 2019 Pinot Blanc:  This delicious rendition of Pinot Blanc opens with delicate white flowers on the nose.  Blossoming on the palate are layers of honeysuckle, fresh cut Honeydew melon, crisp Pink Lady apples, waves of minerality, and hints of pineapple.   It is smoothly textured with beautiful balancing acidity, and a nice tinge of spice adds depth to the lingering final sip.   SRP:  $14

Girasole Vineyards 2019 Pinot Noir:  Forest floor and cherry aromas shout out Pinot Noir, and this example is silky and ethereal.  Red Sweetheart cherries, exotic spice, pomegranate seeds, wild mushrooms, orange zest, gentle oak notes, and savory berry compote flow vibrantly across the palate.  Purity abounds, the wine is nicely balanced and elegant with a divine finish, and what an incredible value, too.   SRP:  $16

Barra of Mendocino 2017 Petite Sirah:  Wow, intensely built with berries and fresh ground black pepper on the nose.   Huckleberries, juicy blackberries, hints of earthiness, vanilla bean, strawberry rhubarb notes, and chocolate covered cherries swirl deliciously on the palate.  Rich and mouthfilling, with a velvety texture.   Approachable now if you can’t wait to pop the cork, however the chalky tannins, deep fruit, and precise balance promise years of enjoyment ahead.  SRP:  $22

I look forward to visiting and tasting their additional wine offerings, including current releases of Chardonnay, Sangiovese, Muscat Canelli, Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon, and CORO of Mendocino red blend (composed of Zinfandel, Petite Sirah and Cabernet Sauvignon). 

The winery is located at 7051 N. State Street, Redwood Valley, California.  You, too, can schedule a reservation for a minimal contact, outdoor tasting experience at their picturesque property, by calling the winery at (707) 485-0322.  The tasting cost of $10 per person is refunded with a wine purchase, and I feel confident you will find wines to please any palate during your visit.   For additional info, visit their website,

Gems in My Glass . . . September 2012

Gems in MY Glass . . ., Mendocino, Tasting Notes (1 Comment)

The enlightening discoveries that delightfully unfolded during my recent trip to Mendocino County, California left me quite impressed.  The focus on organic and biodynamic farming here is deeply rooted and carried through with tremendous passion and dedication.  Families continue to pass along this depth of caring for the land and its crops from generation to generation.  I highly recommend that you experience it for yourself!   Meanwhile, I hope this will give you just a taste of what you will discover in Mendocino:

Paul Dolan Vineyards 2010 Zinfandel, Mendocino County, CA:    Hold on as you will be bowled over by this juicy, berry-laden Zinfandel crafted with organic and biodynamic farming techniques.  Deliciously concentrated dark berry and plummy fruit laced with candied orange peel and savory spice drench the palate with jammy goodness.   The focused fruit is bright and offset with a nice splash of acidity keeping it fresh and lively through the delectable finish.  SRP:  $17.95

Patianna Organic Vineyards 2010 Estate Sauvignon Blanc, Mendocino County, CA:  Floral aromas rise from the glass and meld harmoniously with tropical fruit laced with citrus notes, divinely heralding Sauvignon Blanc!    Melon, poached pear and pineapple flavors at the core are framed by wet stone minerality and buoyant acidity giving a bright lift from mid palate through the sassy finish.  SRP:  $16.99

Chiarito Vineyard 2009 Negromaro, Mendocino County, CA:  John Chiarito has crafted a beautiful wine from this grape more commonly grown in southern Italy.    Inviting blackberry and earthy aromas remain consistent on the palate, with cassis, wild berry, anise and allspice notes adding depth on mid palate.   Full bodied and richly textured with firmly structured tannins suggesting many years of aging potential ahead.  SRP:  $32

Kimmel Vineyards 2009 Merlot, Potter Valley, Mendocino County, CA:  Here is a Merlot that will keep you coming back for more!  At first whiff the inviting fragrance of a freshly baked blueberry,  cherry cobbler, a hint of vanilla  and a splash of cherry-cola grabs hold and never lets go, gliding with a silky texture across the palate. Rich and elevated with lovely purity; finishes with finesse. SRP:  $38

Black Kite Cellars Stony Terrace Block Pinot Noir, Anderson Valley, Mendocino County, CA:  Intoxicating aromas of dark cherry and plum set the stage for a beautifully complex mouthful of black raspberry, cherry, mushroom, oak nuances and a broad swathing of baking spices all intertwining melodiously through the lingering finish.  That in concert with the precise balance of fruit, acidity and silky tannins will have you swooning with joy.  SRP $52

McNab Ridge 2009 Family Reserve Cononiah Vineyards Zinfandel, Mendocino County, CA:  Wow, the alluring aromatics are intoxicating on their own, but move on into the glass for even more satisfaction! Juicy plums, black raspberries and chocolate covered cherries explode decadently on the palate alongside savory spice and nicely integrated oak.  This Zin showcases beautiful purity and balance, with a delicious lingering aftertaste.   SRP:  $26

Meyer Family Cellars 2009 Syrah, Yorkville Highlands Mendocino County, CA:  Lush, concentrated berry and plum fruit and subtle expression of oak wrapped around a firm back bone of tannins is what this lovely, precisely balanced Syrah is all about.  Tea spice, licorice and vanilla accent the pretty fruit as it flows across the palate; elegant and pure from first sip to long, memorable finish.   Approachable now and cellar worthy, too.   SRP $28

Londer Vineyards 2009 Gewurztraminer, Anderson Valley, Mendocino County, CA: Brimming full of expressive floral aromas, this Gewurz opens with a tantalizing explosion of crisp green apple, crunchy Bosc pear, lime peel, stony minerality and exotic spice flavors that flow generously across the palate.  Complex, nicely textured and full bodied; a gorgeous Gewurztraminer.  SRP:  $24

Brutocao Cellars 2009 Hopland Ranches Vineyard Quadriga, Mendocino County, CA:   This lovely blend of 34% Sangiovese, 28% Primitivo, 23% Barbera and 15%  Dolcetto opens with juicy, plummy, black cherry fruit that melds  attractively with an old world earthiness.  The dense, rich fruit broadens in the mouth with brown spice and earthy accents; nicely balanced with a good level of acidity and ripe tannins.   SRP: $24

Girasole Vineyards 2010 Pinot Blanc, Mendocino County CA:  Made with 100% estate grown grapes from Charlie and Martha Barra’s organic-certified vineyards.  Charlie is celebrating his 67th harvest this year!   This Pinot Blanc offers stunning aromatics of citrus blossom and white flowers.  On the palate, a display of clementine, lemon zest, homemade applesauce and a trace of butter blend in perfect harmony, richly coating the palate.  SRP:  $13

Topel Winery 2007 Topel Estate Red Wine Blend, Mendocino County, CA:  This red blend (50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Syrah Noir, 5% Merlot and 5% Petit Verdot) greets the nose with inviting earthy, berry notes.  At first sip, flavors of dark plum, cassis, blueberry and a trace of bell pepper come alive and continue to broaden lavishly on the palate.  The velvety texture surrounds a backbone of firmly structured, generous tannins, and the wine finishes with nice length; a complex and balanced wine worthy of cellaring. SRP:  $36

Esterlina Vineyards 2010 Cole Ranch (Dry) Riesling, Mendocino County, CA:  The enticing fragrance of stone fruit and a fresh white flower bouquet infuse magnificently in the mouth with white peach, pear, delicate herbs and focused minerality.  Fresh, lean and artfully balanced with lively acidity.  A terrific wine to sip on its own, or pair with herb-accented goat cheese or grilled white fish.  SRP:  $22

Phillips Hill Winery 2009 Toulouse Vineyard Pinot Noir, Anderson Valley, Mendocino County, CA:  Enthralling forest floor and wild berry aromas completely wow the nose.  Upon entry, black cherry, fresh brambly wild berry and raspberry fruit meld heavenly with tea spice, earthy notes and pretty oak accents.  Well structured with a meticulous level of balance between the fruit, acidity and tannins.     SRP:  $40

Mariah Vineyards 2006 Mendocino Ridge Syrah, Mendocino County, CA:   The rich fragrance of dense berry and tobacco spice reel you into the glass, where you will delight in sumptuous layers of tart huckleberry, sweet fresh blueberry, a hint of bitter sweet chocolate and a generous sprinkling of spice.   Powerfully built yet very elegant and lively on the palate, with a finish that is deliciously persistent.   SRP:  $18

Graziano Family of Wines Monte Volpe 2011 Pinot Grigio, Mendocino County, CA:   A brilliantly clear hue catches the eye, and delightful bright tree-ripened fruit aromas whet the appetite.  This crisp Pinot Grigio expands fully onto the palate with flavors of fresh melon, white peaches and green apples intermingling with a touch of citrus and well defined minerality.   Beautifully balanced, and oh so refreshing.  SRP:  $15

Donkey & Goat Winery 2009 Broken Leg Vineyard Syrah, The Recluse, Anderson Valley, Mendocino County, CA:   This dense, full bodied wine showcases intense black fruit and spice-infused meat from the aromas through the complex layers on the palate.   Blackberry, black cherry and olallieberry converge with tobacco spice and smoky bacon notes, and a floral element shows through from the touch of co-fermented Viognier.  A compelling, well-crafted wine.   SRP:  $40

Additional impressive Mendocino wines will also be featured in my “21 Wines to Watch” article in the Winter issue of the AWS Wine Journal (, which will be published soon.