Honor Your Icons
Honor your icons. Do it consistently. Recognize individual contributions. Never minimize pioneers. Accentuate your history.
All these important, but too infrequently recognized, principles are on wonderful display today in the honor being paid to Charlie Barra who recently passed at the age of 92.
Organic Wines Uncorked has a really lovely tribute to Mr. Barra who spent more than 70 years working in the California wine industry, primarily in Mendocino County. Among the things reported in Organic Wines Uncorked’s tribute post to Barra is that this is the man who gave the American wine industry the idea of using overhead watering to stave off the potentially damaging impact of frost.
Moreover, Barra was the man helped organize North Coast, California growers to demand better prices. And he was a lifelong advocate and practitioner of organic farming.
It’s also notable and to their great credit that in their daily rundown of news Wine Business Monthly put the Organic Wines Uncorked article on Barra at the top of their daily news rundown. Lew Perdue’s daily News Fetch email also gave top billing to Barra.
I’d met Mr. Barra a couple of times over the years but did not know him. What I do know is that this is a man who apparently rung all he could out of his single corporeal opportunity and we all in the wine industry are better for it as well as inspired by his life. And not to switch attention away from his memory and accomplishments, but it is to the wine industry media’s credit that they give top attention to the passing of this icon of wine who was not commonly in the spotlight as often as many better-known individuals.
I loved Charlie. When he was 84, he took us for a tractor ride through his vineyards. As we rumbled along, he shouted over his shoulder, “You know, I’ve been an organic farmer for 57 years. But I only found out about it around twenty years ago. Before that, I thought I was just CHEAP.
Wonderful anecdote, Clark. Thank you.
I idolized Charlie Barra. He was a no bullshit hard working farmer who did it all. The story about making more than the principal of his school is legendary. When he converted his vineyards to sprinklers for frost protection, he became a pump dealer to earn extra money. He was smart and smooth. I enjoyed drinking a glass of wine with him and talking farming.
I was lucky enough to spend some time with Charlie while I was working in Mendocino County. There was a farmers stubbornness to him that he tempered with charm and the combination of those attributes helped him accomplish things that the rest of us are benefitting from. Thank you Charlie.