How the Barras Created a Value Brand With Care

Girasole Vineyards is among the wine brands out there that were created years after their founders began producing and selling grapes.

When the late Charlie Barra began growing grapes at Redwood Valley Vineyards in Mendocino County, California, he did so for other winemakers, including big, well-known brands that relied on his organic grapes to produce their wines.

Eventually, the BARRA of Mendocino label was created, but Redwood Valley Vineyards continued as a commercial grower and to this day, it still is. But in 2003, the price of Pinot Noir grapes led the Barra family to create the Girasole line of wines for value-minded shoppers.

“When we started Girasole in 2003, there were a lot of Pinot Noir grapes out there and when we were only being offered $3 gallon on the bulk market for our Pinot Noir, we knew that couldn’t be done,” recalled owner Martha Barra during an interview for the July/August Vintner Magazine cover story. “So we created the Girasole label.”

Redwood Valley Vineyards is a big grower of multiple varietals, with more than 350 planted acres. Only so much fruit could be used to produce the company’s flagship BARRA wines, Barra said. So the stage was set for the creation of a value brand.

Girasole’s varietals include Pinot Noir, Zinfandel, Chardonnay, Pinot Blanc, Sangiovese and Muscat Canelli — varietals that are also represented on the BARRA side.

“There was (a lot of) beautiful wine sitting there, so we just continued to expand the line,” Barra said. 

The Girasole price point ranges between $15-16 — roughly $5-10 less than the BARRA wines. Some key differences between BARRA and Girasole include the equipment and packaging.

Girasole wines are topped with screwcaps, while BARRA wines utilize a sugarcane-based “cork” that is compostable. BARRA wines are aged in 60-gallon French Oak barrels, whereas Girasole is made in a stainless steel tank with high-end oak adjuncts, which winemaker Randy Meyer said is a common practice on wines that are around Girasole’s price point.

“Using $1,100 French Oak barrels only works when you’ve got a price point like Barra does,” Meyer said. 

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