Winemaker Interview: Randy Meyer

Posted by | Posted in Interviews | Posted on 01-22-2021

Randy Meyer

As our regular readers know, from time to time, we pose a series of questions to a winemaker to probe their winemaking philosophy and to gain insight into how they became who they are. This week, we are featuring Randy Meyer, the Director of Winemaking for BARRA of Mendocino in Mendocino County, California.

Randy graduated from UC Davis and then spent more than two decades at Korbel. He started as a cellar worker, moved to winemaking, and held various titles and responsibilities – including, at one time, brewing beer at Russian River Brewing Company. Randy joined BARRA of Mendocino in June 2019.

The Barra family has been growing grapes in Mendocino County since 1955. That of course makes them true pioneers in the region. Charlie Barra was one of the first grapegrowers on the North Coast to plant Chardonnay, Riesling, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Pinot Noir. After focusing exclusively on grapegrowing for four decades, in 1997, the Barra family began making their own wine under the BARRA of Mendocino brand.

Check out the interview below the fold!

Where were you born and raised?

Santa Rosa, California.

When and how did you get into wine?

My sophomore year at UC Davis is when I switched from pre-med to Fermentation Science. During this period of time I got my hands dirty doing various harvest jobs at Piper Sonoma, Far Niente, and Domaine Chandon.

What has been your career path to where you are?

After college, I started as a cellar worker for F. Korbel & Bros. I spent 23 years with Korbel, starting out in the cellar learning the ropes of racking, blending, and press operation. After a year in the cellar, I moved into the lab for two years, which helped prepare me for four years as an enologist working under the senior winemaker. In the mid 1990s I had an incredible opportunity to become the original brewer at Korbel’s Russian River Brewing Company. Over the next 11 years with Korbel, I would add Winemaker, Business Analyst, and Director of Grower Relations to my list of responsibilities. After leaving Korbel, I became the Senior Winemaker for M. Draxton for several years and, before joining BARRA of Mendocino, I was a Senior Winemaker / Operations Manager for Geyser Peak.

In your view, what makes your vineyards special?

The Barra family has been farming vineyards in Mendocino County for over 65 years, so by default, this makes us pretty special! In 1955, Charlie Barra started with a 175 acre home ranch in Redwood Valley, and today the fruit I work with comes in from 350 acres spread across three different estate grown, certified organic vineyards. In addition to our organic farming techniques, I would say that our vineyard locations and their unique microclimates also set us apart.

What is your general winemaking philosophy?

I am all about balance. My goal is to balance intensity with finesse and live by the rule of “fruit first, oak second.”

What’s your biggest challenge as a winemaker?

People – without good people, one can’t make good wine.

Who are your favorite winemakers in history, through personal account, or their wines?

Dennis Martin. Wayne Donaldson. Corey Beck. All unique and extremely talented in different ways.

What new winemakers are you most excited about and why?

I really respect and admire the up-and-coming winemakers who are choosing to work with organic fruit. It takes a whole other level of knowledge, expertise, and creativity. One name that comes to mind is Brianne Day out of Oregon. We share the same distributor in Illinois and in Quebec, actually. She is doing some really interesting stuff.

What’s your favorite wine region in the world – other than your own?

New Zealand – amazing Pinot Noirs and Sauvignon Blancs.

What’s the best wine you’ve ever tasted? The most interesting?

Rafanelli Zin and Williams Selyem Pinots from the late 1990s.

What’s the oldest bottle in your cellar? The most expensive?

In all honesty, I like to buy wine and then I like to drink it. On special occasions I might spend $30 on a great Pinot, but it had better be worth it!

What’s open in your kitchen right now?

Girasole 2019 Zinfandel – luscious and fruity!

If you had to pick one red and one white to drink for the next month with every dinner, what would you choose?

Barra 2018 Zinfandel. Any 2019 Russian River or Dry Creek Sauvignon Blanc.

Is beer ever better than wine?


How do you spend your days off?

Gardening, home improvement, golf, skiing.

What would people be surprised to know about you?

I’m actually not very social.

If you weren’t making wine for a living, what would you be doing?

Something blue-collar, working with my hands.

How do you define success?

A happy marriage, raising successful, caring and grounded daughters. I’ve never sought the spotlight in my Winemaking career.

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