A labor of love
May 12, 2017
The Barra family's roots have been deeply intertwined in the winemaking industry for more than six decades.
Truckee local, Lori Barra, is one of three daughters to Pete and Beatrice Barra. She and her sisters were raised on the family's vineyard, working the land, side-by-side.
"My parents have had a vineyard in Mendocino in the Redwood Valley for a long time — about 60 years," Barra said.
"For most of that time they've grown grapes for wine and sold them to various wineries, though we always talked about making our own wine."
When their mother Beatrice passed away in 2012, the family came together to honor her legacy — they finally had the perfect motivation behind developing a family wine in their mother's honor.
"The perspective my family and I have is that we're not out to really make a huge bang in the wine business; it's very competitive and there are a lot of good wineries," Barra said.
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"We just wanted to find a niche to highlight my father's efforts, he's been a farmer for such a long time and we wanted to create wine that was our label and not someone else's."
Barra Vineyards grows grapes for their label, Mia Bea Wines, whose namesake is in tribute to their mother, Beatrice who went by "Bea".
Pete Barra is of Italian origin and called his wife "Mia Bea"; the hand holding a rose on the bottle's label is the girls' father's hand and the flower is symbolic of their parents' love story.
"The logo is my dad's hand holding a red rose," Barra said. "Dad would always give my mom roses and we have a lot of rose bushes around the property; it's his signature thing."
Mia Bea Wines introduced their 2014 Chardonnay varietal in the spring of 2016, followed by a 2015 Chardonnay and their newly added 2015 Petit Sirah, both of which came out this year.
"One thing that we feel strongly about and one thing our winemaker is especially passionate about, is our Chardonnay's unique flavor," Barra said.
Rather than age their Chardonnay in typical oak barrels to give the expected oaky, buttery flavor, the Barras age their Chardonnay in steel barrels using an "unoaked" technique which gives the wine a crisper, more pure-grape flavor.
The Barras' vineyard grows three varietals of grapes, which they use to create their own wines and participate in competitions, recently earning gold at the California State Fair for their Petit Sirah.
"It's a little softer than some," Barra described of the Petit Sirah's flavor. "It's not very old and will get even better with time, but we operate with the idea that most people want to buy red wine to enjoy it right away rather than storing it; so ours is very drinkable at 2 years old and is only going to get better."
Mia Bea wines are available at locations in Tahoe-Truckee, Fresno, the Bay Area, Mendocino County and are growing.
Through the wine's success, Barra says her family is most touched by honoring their mother's legacy as a woman of inspiring faith, strength and grace.
"The tribute to my mom is the one thing we've really enjoyed over the past few years," Barra said.
"It's a product that people really enjoy and like to talk about and it thrills me when I'm able to have someone try our wine and they really love it — that's the case with anything, you're proud of something and someone else enjoys it, it's really fulfilling and fun to see how people react to it."
Perfect Mia Bea Pairings:
Chardonnay: Pair with Asian food, fish or even fruit and cheese if you're looking to go the traditional route. The crisp flavor balances nicely with spicy food and is perfect on a warm, sunny day.
Petit Sirah: Pair with barbequed meats and Italian food. Pete Barra would recommend any type of red sauce with this varietal. His daughter Lori opts for dessert, "it's really good with chocolate, you can't go wrong there," she said.
Purchase Mia Bea in North Lake Tahoe:
Mia Bea wines are available for purchase at Zander's Spirits, Sticks Market and Glenshire General Store in Truckee.
Mia Bea is also available to be poured alongside your entrée at North Lake Tahoe restaurants including: PlumpJack Café, Spindleshanks, River Ranch, Pfeifer House, Moody's Bistro, Bar & Beats, and Pianeta Ristorante.
Cassandra Walker is a features and entertainment reporter for the Sierra Sun. She can be reached at email@example.com, 530-550-2654 or @snow1cass.