Before Paul Sullivan opened Two Bad Labs Vineyard with his wife, he was introduced to wine through an im-portant pinot noir maker.
When Sullivan lived in Oregon, he met Matt Kinne, a guitar player and owner of McKinlay Vineyards.
“I fixed everything that broke,” said Sullivan, who was in the paper mill industry. “He kind of fed me wine.”
Sullivan’s friendship with Kinne continued after he left Oregon, arriving in Lewiston in 2011 to be superintendent of the pulp mill at Clearwater Paper, a position he retired from in June.
He and his wife, Heidi Sullivan, planted grapes on the property they acquired in the Tammany area. It was Kinne who challenged him to make them into wine instead of selling them.
Those grapes comprise about 10 percent of what Two Bad Labs produces today. Another 20 percent are sourced from other vineyards in the Lewis-Clark American Viticultural Area, a 479-square-mile region along the canyons of the Snake and Clearwater rivers in north central Idaho and southeastern Washington. The remainder come from other parts of Washington.
The Sullivans’ first wine, a dry reisling, was released in 2018 and has been followed by nine more.
“You’ve got to provide something for each palate to make people happy,” he said.
He enjoys experimenting. Two Bad Labs, for example, has two cabernet francs. One was made entirely from grapes in the Lewis-Clark American Viticultural Area; the second came exclusively from Washington state grapes raised other places.
That choice gives connoisseurs a chance to understand how a grape’s provenance shapes a wine.
The Lewis-Clark wine is “soft and smooth,” while its Washington state counterpart is “substantial and traditional,” Sullivan said.
Similar to Kinne, the Sullivans like to keep the atmosphere at their winery fun. They encourage people to book their by-appointment-only tastings, which typically run for 2½ hours, with groups of friends.
“We want people to feel like they’re at home,” he said.
Almost always, the sessions end the same way, with the customers asking to meet the dogs the winery was named for.
Usually the Sullivans oblige, but only after an explanation that their dogs can be truly disruptive. They have five Labrador retrievers, not two; but they have found, with that many, two of the animals are usually misbehaving at any given time.
That was the case when Paul Sullivan was planting the winery’s grapevines. Two of their dogs were outside, pulling the vines out almost as quickly as he put them into the ground.
Their unpredictable behavior mirrors the challenges that surface in the business.
The Sullivans, for instance, had hoped to grow more grapes, but the production of the well they dug on their property was less than they hoped and will only support what they already planted.
Still, Sullivan is glad he chose to operate a winery in his retirement.
“I’ve never had a bad day in the winery,” he said.
Williams may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or (208) 848-2261.
Two Bad Labs Vineyard
Tastings are by appointment only by calling (503) 680-2160.
The wines are also carried at CHS Primeland at 1200 Snake River Ave., in Lewiston.