This is part of a series introducing you to interesting people in the wine industry. For many, the journey into wine is not only intriguing but often quite an adventure. These talented individuals are what make the wine industry what it is today so follow this series to meet this group of passionate people who have dedicated their lives to wine.

Was there a specific wine, moment or place that unlocked your passion?

Terry Sullivan: In 1982, I left graduate school in Rhode Island to take a job in Monterey, California. I drove across the country in my brother’s ’78 Malibu Classic and saw the country. Before landing in Monterey, I drove down through Napa and was captivated by the vineyard… I don’t know why, maybe the agricultural combined with orderliness of a vineyard (I have 2 degrees in engineering). I almost immediately told myself that some day I’d grow grapes. 

I have had wines that directed my strong desire to grow organically and now biodynamically. One was a Brickhouse Pinot noir and then an obscure Nebbiolo from Italy that almost knocked me off my stool at a winebar in San Francisco. I didn’t know at the time but found out later that it was biodynamically farmed.

What did you study in school and what were you doing before you started in the wine industry?

TS: I have a BS in Civil Engineering (UMaine) and MS in Ocean Engineering (URI) and then spent 3 years furthering my education in Oceanography at OSU (go Beavs!).

After a number of years in research labs at universities, I started my one-person consulting company that specializes in applied oceanography and hydrography. Sadly, making 700 cases of wine does not pay all the bills so I continue with my consulting business. 

How has being in the wine industry changed you?

TS: I’ve become very bitter…just kidding! My approach with this and my other occupation is to do it for the right reason and continue to observe and learn. And that no matter what, it’s about relationships. The wine industry requires lots of selling and that I’m not so good at. When I’m discouraged by that aspect, I go back to concentrating on my farming and making my land better and hope that it shows in the wine.

What’s your favorite part of being in the wine industry? 

TS: I love the farming, not matter if it’s 100 degrees Fahrenheit or raining and 35 degrees. I also love to have people come to the vineyard and walk them around. I enjoy talking about what I do and why. I can see that it matters to them, at least most of them. And, truth be told, I do enjoy the hedonistic part of the industry, particularly when you make a meal, open a bottle, and share those things with people you like.

Looking back, was there something in your past that led you to wine?

TS: I’m Irish! Actually, there are lots of unknowns in this industry and you are always learning, if you pay attention. I LOVE variety and easily get bored but farming like this is never boring. Each vintage is different, each varietal is different and there are things that happen in the bottle that always surprise you.

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