Listening to Charlie Barra, owner of Girasole Vineyards in Mendocino County, describe growing conditions at his vineyards, you may come away with the impression that he has found a perfect location to farm organic wine grapes since 1955. Charlie told us that “we’ve been organic for 60 years and didn’t know it for the first 40 years.”

Dry, low humidity weather in the summer allows Girasole to eschew sprays for mildew, and large growing season diurnal temperature swings, as much as 50 degrees; keep the bad bugs at bay. Fava beans planted between rows of grapes and plowed under in the spring provide the nutrients that the vines require. In addition to the organic vineyard practices Girasole also severely limits the amounts of sulfites that they add to their wines. Some sulfites are naturally produced during fermentation and winemakers add additional sulfites to help to preserve the wine from spoilage.

Charlie told us that while most wines contain about 300- 350 ppm of sulfites that Girasole wines typically contain only 50-60 ppm.

We recently met with Charlie Barra and his wife Martha to hear about Girasole Vineyards and to taste their wines. The eye-catching Girasole double sunflower label is easy to identify and aptly reflects that the word girasole translated means sunflower in Italian. Our favorites from our tasting are as follows:

Girasole Vineyards Pinot Blanc Mendocino 2008 ($13). If you like pinot grigio you’ll like this Italian styled white wine. Very nice medium bodied wine with nice pear and apple favors, and crisp acidity that would taste terrific with spring and Summer al fresco meals.

Girasole Vineyards Pinot Noir Mendocino 2008 ($15). Charlie told us that the wholesale price of pinot noir went up over 7 times after the 2004 debut of the movie “Sideways” This wine is elegant, medium bodied, and easy to drink with nice cherry flavors and a distinct pinot noir flavor profile. Very nice.

Girasole Vineyards Muscat Canelli Mendocino 2007 ($13). This is an awesome summertime dessert wine. Melon and honeysuckle nose, and flavors, and a wee bit of residual sugar that is balanced with good acidity would make this the ideal partner to a fresh fruit tart.


Genesis Columbia Valley Meritage 2007 ($16). There is a lot of rich, desnse flavors for the price. From Washington state, this meritage is a blend of merlot, cabernet sauvignon, malbec and cabernet franc. The dominance of merlot gives it a soft mouthfeel. Lots of blueberry and blackberry flavors.

Bodega Septima Gran Reserva 2007 ($25). Good power and authority in this Argentina blend of malbec (50 percent), cabernet sauvignon and tannat. Aromatic aromas and jammy strawberry and blueberry flavors.

Sbragia Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley Howell Mountain Rancho Del Oso 2006 ($75). Cherry cassis lead pencil nose. Cherry coconut and cedar flavors in the mouth that blossomed in the glass over a half-hour. Complex, bold, and pleasing.

Murphy-Goode Claret “All In” Alexander Valley 2005 ($45). Fifty-nine percent cabernet sauvignon, 28 percent merlot and 13 percent petit verdot. Leather cassis and a hint of oak in the nose. Cassis and black cherry in the mouth with nice oak notes. A bit of a European style to this wine that developed even more after 24 hours and refrigerated.

Folie a Deux Zinfandel Amador County 2007 ($18). Delicious reasonably priced zinfandel from hot Amador County. Plum and berry nose and flavors in a nice soft delivery. This wine just tastes good.

Santi Solane Valpolicella Classico Superiore Ripasso 2007 ($16). Made from the classic Valpolicella grapes corvina and rondinella. Great structure and a lovely elegant dried cherry expression. Rich, fruity, soft and a terrific value. Would go well with Italian styled meats, and red sauced pasta dishes.

Rodney Strong Cabernet Sauvignon Sonoma County 2007 ($21). A complex nose of berries, olives and herbs. Rich cherry flavors, with a hint of oak. Very complex and pleasing.

Clos de los Siete 2008 ($19). We have liked this wine over several vintages. Michel Rolland is the consultant to this Argentina producer and manages to preserve the malbec character but adds to the blend merlot, syrah, cabernet sauvignon and petit verdot to create a very unique wine. We love it. Ample dark fruit flavors with good complexity and fine tannins.

Plungerhead Lodi Zinfandel 2008 ($16). This is a wild blend of zinfandel (87 percent), syrah, alicante bouchet. Rich texture, loads of jammy berry fruit and a dash of chocolate. It would be a great wine to pair with ribs or other barbecued foods.

Pfendler Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir 2007 ($45). This excellent pinot noir from the Sonoma Coast was a nice surprise to us. It has jammy raspberry and plum flavors with a brambly mouthfeel and a good dose of creamy oak.


Tom Marquardt and Patrick Darr have visited vineyards all over the world and have been writing a newspaper wine column for more than 20 years. Contact them at: [email protected]



Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.