Brewing wine and faith at Six Waterpots

May. 16, 2014 @ 08:31 AM

A house that looks like it would fit nicely on a postcard sent home from the English countryside sits just as comfortably on the rolling hills of Hudson, surrounded by rows of vines, standing tall and distinct with its timber and plaster, Tudor-style construction.

It's the home of Jim and Dawn Sullivan, and also Six Waterpots Winery and Vineyard, which originally was Sullivan Estates Winery and Vineyard until the Sullivans learned another winery had the same name.

If Six Waterpots sounds vaguely familiar, you may have heard the biblical story, told in John 2, of Jesus at the wedding in Cana, where after the wedding had run out of wine, he told the servants to fill six jars to the brim with water and take them to the master of the banquet. The master of the banquet called the groom aside, telling him that everyone usually serves their best wine first, but this was the best wine and he had waited until the end. The act is described in John 2:11 as “the first of the signs through which he revealed his glory.”

Jim Sullivan has been teaching the Bible for more than 40 years, most recently at Mountain Grove Baptist Church in the Baton community, and Dawn Sullivan, a flight instructor at Caldwell Community College and Technical Institute, began the vineyard in 2007 and opened for business in 2010.

Another Bible influence is that one portion of the vineyard is situated in nine rows, for the nine fruits of the Holy Spirit: love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control, from Galatians 5.

“Everything has a biblical story in it,” Dawn Sullivan said. The most obvious are the vines that look like the cross when they’re pruned properly, Jim added, noting that in John 5, Jesus said, “I am the vine.”

Jim Sullivan’s family has owned and farmed the land, on James Drive in Hudson, for more than a century, traditionally raising cattle.

But Jim and Dawn Sullivan didn't have the equipment or manpower to sustain a cattle operation, so looked for a way to keep farming the land, and at first decided on raising alpacas, which are related to llamas. As they were traveling to look at alpacas, they passed a handful of vineyards, and when they returned home they decided that was the way to go, though neither of them drank any wine until they were more than 50 years old.

At first, the learning curve was steep.

“You can’t make wine overnight. It takes practice,” Dawn Sullivan said, adding that there are good batches and bad batches, recipe tweaking and learning just how much fruit to use.

The winery hosts public tastings, weddings, receptions, parties, gatherings and art events that pair drinking wine with painting. It all has brought the Sullivans guests the couple never would have met if they had stuck with cattle farming. People from California, Montana, Germany, Vietnam, Japan, Brazil and more come to Six Waterpots, all characters with different stories to tell.

“I enjoy meeting the people,” Dawn Sullivan said. “You never know who’s going to come through the front door.”

But even through all the hard work, it’s easy to tell the Sullivans have found their niche.

“It’s just so beautiful,” Dawn said. “Walking in the evening when the vines are full and the breeze is blowing, and in the morning when the dew is dripping.”