By Jasmine Lang
When we are all joining with family and friends this holiday season, we must remind ourselves of the significance of the love we are surrounded by, the love that inspires us throughout our many endeavors in life. When you are celebrating with your loved ones, you should take a moment to reflect on what inspires you to be who you are. I had the wonderful opportunity to meet Lina Carro and Don Wattenbarger, the owners of Violet-Green Winery, as they took me on a journey into understanding what inspires them to be who they are. Lina and Don are passionate wine makers who have created a local business full of family history, love for nature, and creativity.
Producing their first vintage in 2002, Lina and Don introduced Violet-Green Winery to the locals of Humboldt County. Located on seven acres of redwood forest overlooking Misty Hill Canyon near Humboldt Bay, Violet-Green Winery was named to honor the violet-green swallow’s annual spring migration to the winery as a symbol of nature’s promise of renewal. Its obvious Lina and Don’s love for nature has inspired them throughout their journey as wine makers, but family has played a remarkable role as well. Lina remembers her parents’ teaching her to make wine, bread, and sausage. Her parents, both born in Italy, passed the Italian tradition down to Lina, where she developed a passion for the craft behind creating. As she reflects on her childhood, Lina says, “I can remember drinking a little wine with dinner even as young as age five.” Don’s interest in wine was sparked by his uncle, who was quite the wine collector. Soon after, Don became a passionate scholar and collector himself. While on a visit to the Napa Valley, with the encouragement of wine maker friends, Lina and Don discovered the beginning of Violet-Green Winery. Today they celebrate the winery’s 12th anniversary of making Syrah, Cabernet Franc, and Bordeaux blends. The winery also bottles a second value-priced label, Kativa, offering Merlot, Rose, and Syrah.
Fermentation is managed by hand at Violet-Green; the process begins with the best handpicked grapes, which Lina and Don and a loyal crew of friends hand-sort. Both Lina and Don feel managing the wine making process by hand offers more intuitive control over how the wine develops. The grapes are often cold-soaked for extended maceration to develop full complexity during the primary fermentation, and are then pressed off into barrels where the wines acquire Violet-Green’s signature style. At this point the wines are aged for a total of 18-20 months in French oak barrels before they are bottled.
“We are both wine makers and the owners, so our passion and attention to detail can be found in everything we do at the winery–since we do everything!” Lina says. “We joke that we are the owners, the wine makers, the truck drivers, barrel washers, you name, it but it’s true.” As a business solely operated by these two, with the help of family and friends, Violet-Green has developed into a business that has become part of Lina and Don’s family. They professed their love for each wine by saying, “We think of our wines as being a part of the family and even kid about the personalities of each ‘child’ when we discuss the profiles of each vintage.” They never take any shortcuts during the wine making process, ensuring they provide each wine with constant support and a commitment similar to the love and dedication a child may receive from its parents. The love from their own parents is abundant for Lina and Don. Don’s mom helps them keep up with their local accounts and also provides them with generous love and encouragement along the way.
When you are enjoying your wine this holiday season amongst your family and friends, a glass of one of Violet-Green’s luscious red wines may remind you to keep the inspiration of love in mind. Not only the love and support that you receive from your family that impacts your daily life, but also the love you express in the things you do. Lina and Don express that love by saying, “Each bottle of wine is like sending out a piece of yourself to our community, which also feels like family to us since Humboldt has been our home for more than 30 years. We love when locally-owned businesses where we have shopped for decades carry our wine, because it feels like a very loving circle of energy.”
In the near future, Violet-Green Winery will be trying new things artistically. This year they have released their first Syrah made with certified organic grapes, and there will be another variety soon to follow. If you’re interested in some holiday favorites, Violet-Green has some wonderful Merlot blends that are full of flavor and will match perfectly with your grilled meats, grilled veggies, and are able to withstand any spicy foods! Violet-Green also offers special wines available online that aren’t in the stores. For special unreleased wines, I recommend becoming a member of Violet-Green’s Wine Club! For club members they offer free local delivery. If the love and passion that Lina and Don have for what they do isn’t already evident enough, let the flavor of each sip of their wines grant you that taste of passion.