Alabama Native Used Pandemic Downtime to Start Wine Label | Alabama News

By TYLER HANES, The Cullman Times

CULLMAN, Ala. (AP) — Getting paid to drink wine and go to unique areas doesn’t look like it could possibly be a profession, however that’s precisely how Cullman native Heath Porter describes his job.

Porter is the proprietor of Heathen Wines & Wine Tours, and hosts excursions across the U.S. and to different nations to supply friends an insider’s perspective on wines and spend a while with winemakers at work of their vineyards. He additionally not too long ago launched his personal Heathen Wines label, with two wines at the moment obtainable on the market and extra within the works.

Porter grew up in Cullman, and obtained his begin within the meals business by getting a job washing dishes at Cracker Barrel. After he graduated highschool in 1990, he made a transfer to Hawaii and stayed within the restaurant enterprise, working as a cook dinner, busser and server all the best way up the ladder to normal supervisor.


“I knew I wasn’t going to go to college, I didn’t have the money and I never liked school, so I said ‘I’m going to move to Hawaii’ and stayed in the business,” he stated.

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Along the best way, he continued to educate himself about wine and meals, and labored at a number of resorts as a sommelier. He used that information to ultimately go into enterprise for himself internet hosting excursions to nationwide and worldwide wine scorching spots.


Once he determined to begin his personal enterprise, the identify got here simply.

He stated folks had been calling him “Heathen” since he was 10 years outdated — for apparent causes — so when it got here time to begin his personal enterprise after which department out into wines, he determined to persist with that identify.

When the pandemic struck, wine excursions got here to a halt, and whereas he was nonetheless internet hosting digital wine tastings over Zoom video calls, he had a bit of an excessive amount of time on his palms — which led to what Porter described as perhaps the riskiest choice he might have made throughout the pandemic.

“Obviously when you eat, drink and travel, when the pandemic starts, you lose your entire existence,” he stated. “I thought to myself, ‘What’s the stupidest thing you could do? I know, I’ll start my own wine label like a moron.’”


Of course, making your personal wine is made a bit of simpler when you’ve a rolodex and cellphone crammed with contacts who rank among the many finest wine consultants and cooks on the planet, and after he started reaching out to a few of these pals and receiving an emphatic “no” in response, considered one of them reconsidered — and determined to make the leap with Porter.

“I started the red blend with a friend of mine named Chad Melville who owns one of the best wineries in California, and we did the Syrah-Cabernet blend,” he stated. “The next thing you know, I made 200 cases and people actually liked it, which was like encouraging the fat kid with cookies.”

After the profitable launch of his Cuvée Cremisi mix, Porter stated he regarded to a earlier restaurant venture with Melville that had not panned out however had produced a Chardonnay, so he put the Heathen label on that and started promoting it as effectively.

So far, the opinions of his wines have been good from the wine consultants who’ve sampled them, Porter stated.

“It’s been really well-received,” he stated.

Porter will not be resting on his laurels with simply two wines, nonetheless, as he’s at the moment engaged on a brand new purple mix and is in conversations with folks in Italy, New York and Washington about probably making a brand new white or a glowing rosé.

Porter stated excursions have began to choose again up once more, with just a few already scheduled for 2022, however engaged on his non-public label provides him one thing else to do and offers some extra earnings whereas there’s nonetheless some uncertainty. Plus, engaged on a venture like that forestalls him from making some other questionable selections.

“I’m not good with free time. Any time I have free time I end up starting a restaurant, taking over a huge resort or I just do something that’s magnificently stupid,” he stated.

Heathen wines can at the moment be present in Cullman at Werner’s Trading Company and the All Steak Restaurant, and could be ordered on-line and shipped to 35 states — together with Alabama — on

The newest Heathen Wine Tour info could be discovered at, or the Heathen Wines Tours Facebook and Instagram pages.

Porter stated he tries to come again to Cullman a minimum of two or 3 times a yr to see the household he nonetheless has within the space and meet up with outdated pals, and it additionally provides him an opportunity to see a number of the assist that he’s nonetheless receiving from metropolis residents.

He hosted a wine tasting at Werner’s final week after which made a cease on the All Steak earlier than heading again out of city, and stated he was stunned on the turnout from numerous people who find themselves cheering him on from residence.

“I think it’s really cool to get that kind of support from your hometown when you don’t really ask for it or have a clue it’s really going on,” he stated.

Visiting sometimes additionally makes certain that he doesn’t put on out his welcome amongst those that have invited him over, Porter stated.

“I get invited a lot of places once,” he stated. “It’s one of those things where maybe they’ve forgotten what an idiot this dude is, and it doesn’t hurt that I always show up with really good booze.”

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This materials might not be revealed, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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