Carmine Campione’s Story
Carmine was raised in the greater Cincinnati area. His first experience with wine was at the young age of 11. While attended the Children’s International Summer Interchange in Lyon and Paris, France, he met up with a friend of his father’s. Considering the need to bring home a gift for the Campione family, he asked this friend to sell him a “good” bottle of wine. (He had all of $40 dollars to spend in 1977, which at the time seemed like more than enough!) Instead of a sale, the friend went into his cellar and offered a bottle of 1971 Bordeaux – Chateau Dillon from the Haut Medoc region as a personal gift. Carmine returned home, where the family promptly and immensely enjoyed the gift of wine. Later, when Carmine researched the wine, he discovered its value at over $400! Suddenly and at an early age, Carmine understood the economic value of good wine!
Carmine’s earliest professional experience was with the US Army. There he served as infantry, battalion foreign weapons specialist, chemical NCO, battalion radio transmitter operator, and often point man for large and small contingents.
He Began By Helping with Harvest
Carmine has over 30 years of experience in all aspects of the wine industry in Oregon, Washington, and California (Napa and Sonoma Valley). His earliest experiences were at Redhawk Winery and Evesham Wood Vineyard in Salem, Oregon (late 1980’s). He began by helping with harvest and crush in the vineyard, managed the tasting room, and soon worked his way through various roles in the cellar, including Field Blender and Cellar Master. His most memorable experiences there involved his time producing the blended Pinot Noir “Grateful Red”. This was his first real project in wine production. This multi-sourced Pinot Noir won Best Buy by Wine Enthusiast for three consecutive years and achieved a high rating of 94 points by Robert Parker of The Wine Advocate.
A Pioneer Graduate
Realizing the potential of a career path in the wine industry, he began his formal wine studies, attending The Evergreen State College. There he earned a BA in Biodynamic Viticulture with a minor in International Wine and Fruits Trade (1994). It could be said that Carmine was the pioneer graduate in this field, since no such degree existed in the nation at the time -it had to be designed with the college! In 1997 he earned a BS degree in Whole Systems Design / Multicultural Wine Marketing with a minor in Wine Making from the same college.
While in college, Carmine worked as a Sommelier at La Petite Maison and Firenze in Olympia, Washington. Experiences at these five-star restaurants helped develop his passion for the beauty of well-paired food and wine.
“Learning from the Big Boys”
In the late 1990’s he moved to Napa Valley to (in his words) “learn what the big boys were doing in wines and wine marketing.” While there he had three significant employment experiences. Merryvale & Harlan Estate Winery; now two separate wineries, Harlan is known for producing multiple 100-point wines according to Wine Spectator. At Merryvale and Harlan, he worked the floor and wine library, trained staff, led seminars, hosted events, developed a wine club and initiated numerous marketing efforts.
In addition to his full-time employment he worked with executive wine sales for the GBD Trading Company. This employment gave him access to a diversity of sales in wine shops and restaurants in both Napa and Sonoma Valley.
Carmine’s final California experience was as a Tasting Room Manager and Tour Guide at Vinecliff Winery (2000-2001). Located in the middle of the Upper Oakville Bench in Napa Valley, this is now the most elite wine area in California.
Returning to Oregon
Upon returning to Oregon, Carmine helped Cherry Hill Winery and Vineyard to establish the state’s first ‘Pinot Wine Camp’. Cherry Hill Wine Camp hosted numerous hands-on wine education experiences. Tourists who stayed there had to work. They were taught vineyard practices, wine and food pairing, and cellar practices.
Once again returning to school, Carmine obtained a certificate from the National Association of Cider Makers. He also earned an AAS in Wine Business (2015) and an AAS in Enology/Wine Making (2016) from Chemeketa Community College’s Wine Studies Program. During these years he interned with Bethel Heights Vineyard and Winery. Throughout his 30 year career he worked with and consulted for many vintners in the Pacific Northwest, mainly Willamette Valley and Napa Valley on vineyard development, biodynamic viticulture, and wine events.
In anticipation of his own wine launch, in 2016 Carmine joined the team at Domaine Serene Vineyards and Winery. A year later, he went to work at Portland International Airport promoting NorthWest wines in order to get a sense of today’s current wine market, branding, labeling, and most importantly what the consumer desires and knows about regional wines. Now, after nearly 30 years working for others, Carmine has launched his own brand of wine. Possessed Wine’s first vintage is being bottled as this article is written.
Oregon Wine Brotherhood
In recognition of his time supporting the Oregon wine industry, Carmine was inducted into the Oregon Wine Brotherhood in 2019. He continues to give back to the wine community by serving as a wine judge and seminar leader at numerous wine events throughout the year.
While other Oregon wine pioneers were busy establishing their own estate wineries, Carmine’s is the untold story of those who labored alongside these pioneering peers, helping them to establish their vineyards, initiate their brands, and thrive in the marketplace. His touring business, Oregon Winemaker Tours, will allow him to not only share his story, but that of others who elevated Oregon Wine Country to the place it now holds in the international wine scene.
His goal is to share the best of Oregon’s cool climate wineries and wines with those who seek fun and an enlightening time in this beautiful and bountiful environment!
Footnote – The Campione family visited their homeland of Sicily to locate and spend reunion time with relatives. Once there, Carmine (in his 40’s), discovered that his entire Sicilian family was involved in the wine business!