Following in the footsteps of his father, Antonio Barra, and his maternal grandfather, Giuseppe Rovera (who immigrated to Mendocino County from Piedmont, Italy in 1906), Charlie began farming grapes in the mid 1940’s. By 1954 he had purchased Redwood Valley Vineyards, the ranch that is now home to over 265 acres of organically grown Pinot Noir, Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon, Sangiovese, Merlot, Petite Sirah, Chardonnay, Pinot Blanc, and Muscat Canelli.
When Charlie started farming Redwood Valley Vineyards, farmers were averaging as little as $40 a ton for their grapes, as the demand for quality wine based on true varietals had not yet been established. Most growers were still farming what Charlie called “standard” grapes that were used by the major wine producers to make Burgundy and Chablis--the basic table wines of the times. But after a few short years of growing “vin ordinaire”, Charlie could see the tide was turning. He began working with Karl Wente, Robert Mondavi and others on moving to a varietal-focused vineyard.
Charlie was one of the first growers on the North Coast to plant Chardonnay, Riesling, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Pinot Noir. And over the next 35 years, Charlie would add another six varietals to the soils of Redwood Valley Vineyards including Petite Sirah, Sangiovese, Merlot, Pinot Blanc, Muscat Canelli and Zinfandel.