Wednesdays with Winemakers – Rob Campbell
Rob Campbell is a 4th generation San Franciscan. After growing up in San Francisco and nearby Daly City, Rob decided to travel a great distance for college—30 miles!—ending up at San Jose State University’s Jazz Studies program. He graduated with a BA in Jazz Studies and a master’s degree in saxophone performance. It was here that he met his future wife, Tina.
During Rob’s master’s degree studies, he discovered that a professional musician’s income would not easily support living in San Francisco. Recognizing that, he put his computer skills to good use while completing his master’s degree by working at Hewlett-Packard, Apple, and ultimately, Digidesign (now a part of Avid Technologies) in the early 1990s. Rob worked his way up the company over the next ten years, eventually becoming the Hardware Product Manager of digital audio workstations. He left product design and became a consultant for Avid’s worldwide training organization as an author, lecturer and Master Trainer. After enough global hopping, Rob decided to stay home in San Francisco and help run the pre-eminent post-production audio facility, One Union Recording, as the Operations Director. It was during this time that Rob took over management and operations of Story Winery.
Rob likes to say he first met his future in-laws at their house on a fateful night after they returned from a winemaker’s dinner at Mirassou Winery in San Jose in 1991. Needless to say, their common interest in wine was apparent from their first encounter. While Rob was dating Tina, her parents, Bruce and Jan Tichenor, bought Story Winery from Ann Story-Ousley. Rob and Tina were actively involved in all aspects of the winery business for the first ten years of their marriage until they decided to have kids and devote themselves to their careers.
Rob and Tina now reside in nearby El Dorado Hills with their three sons, Ethan, Miles, and Chase.
Why did you become a winemaker?
Took over the family business.
If you weren’t a winemaker what would you be and why?
Recording & live sound audio engineer. Music and sound was always my first passion.
What is your greatest strength as a winemaker?
A solid vision of what the final wine will be in the future.
What is your biggest weakness as a winemaker?
I failed chemistry in high school, does that answer your question?
What’s the one mistake you made in the cellar you would never repeat?
Making sure the press doors on the press are closed before rolling the press.
What is your proudest achievement?
Winemaking—winning a Best of Class and double gold at the SF Chronicle Competition in my second vintage.
What was your scariest vintage to date?
What is your favorite word or saying?
What is your most prized possession?
The watch my entire family gave me for my birthday—it reminds me of them every time I look at it.
What’s the oddest thing about you?
Ethnicity. Half Native American, half Irish.
What song best sums you up?
What is your favorite memory?
It’s a tie between the first moment I saw each of my three sons born and the first moment my sons met their little brother.
Which of the five senses is your strongest?
Tie. Hearing & Taste.
What is your biggest motivation?
Creating a legacy for my children. And my children’s children.
Which bottle of wine would choose to be stranded with on a deserted island?
Our Chardonnay if it’s a tropical island, our Syrah if it’s a cold island.
What is the difference between a good and great wine?
A sense of identity (varietal, terroir, region) and absolute balance.
Name three individuals you would like to have dinner with.
Dalai Lama, Pope Francis and Bob Marley at the same time!
Who is your winemaking hero?
Combine Bob Mondavi, Heidi Peterson Barrett, and Dom Perignon together and you get the “hero.”
What does the concept of “balance” mean to you?
Everything in its place.
What is the one thing you want people to remember about your wine?
The history behind the grapes and wine.
Best comment made about your wine? Was it by a consumer, trade or press?
We’ve been hearing this in our tasting room a lot lately: “Every single wine you make is good.”