Our guest today on California Wine Country with Steve Jaxon and Dan Berger is Martha Barra from Barra of Mendocino, the vineyards and winery. Martha was on CWC one other time, on this episode of November 18, 2020.
Barra of Mendocino is and always has been an organic farm, even before certifications existed. Their tasting room is located about 10 miles north of Ukiah. Redwood Valley Vineyards is the vineyard estate which is about 5 miles from there.
Dan mentions that too much fertility in the soil is not favorable to wine grapes. As you drive up the 101, past Hopland, there are fewer vineyards visible. When you finally get up to Ukiah, that is the last outpost for fine wine in California, and Barra is right in this zone. Then, there are just a few in Humboldt.
They open a bottle of Barra wine for tasting that Dan says is “fabulous…exotic.” It has won several gold medals and is Dan’s white wine of the year. This 2022 Pinot Blanc tastes as it is supposed to taste, made with no oak at all. It is delicious and ready to drink now, fresh.
There are 4 or 5 good Pinot Blancs around and they all come from Mendocino County. This is due to the soils, as Martha explains. They don’t get the fog influence in their weather. There is a 15 degree diurnal shift. Among all the tropical and fruity flavors that Dan discerns in this Pinot Blanc, he also detects a trace of Fenugreek. Martha mentions that this wine comes from two different clones. The older one was planted in 1962. Barra only started making wine in 1998 and Pinot Blanc in about 2000. Before that they were just growers. There are only 438 acres of Pinot Blanc and Barra has 14 of them.
Winesong is Dan’s favorite annual event. It is a wine festival held in Mendocino, a fund raiser for the local hospital. Barra of Mendocino is always there. Martha would give a bee to each guest as a symbol that Barra of Mendocino is an organic farm. Later she learned that many people would keep the bees as souvenirs.
Dan remembers the wine from Mendocino County as early as 1981. Back then the wine was not very good. The fruit had potential and eventually their winemaking skills caught up to the quality of the grapes they grow there. John Parducci was a winemaker who helped them make the leap in quality.
They also taste a Girasole wine. The name means “sunflower” in Italian. They have had to defend the trade mark Girasole from competitors who had been using the brand, which is exclusively Barra’s.
Dan reminds us that Barra wines and wines from Mendocino generally are less expensive than wines from other places, and give great value. There are only 88 wineries in Mendocino, which is not a lot. Many of them, like Barra, are small producers. A lot of the new wineries are Pinot Noir producers in Anderson Valley. Barra also makes Sangiovese and an excellent Petit Syrah.