In the tasting room with Gibson Campbell

Gibson Campbell at the Mattituck winery. (Credit: David Benthal)

Gibson Campbell at the Mattituck winery. (Credit: David Benthal)

Gibson Campbell.

As dignified-sounding as it is melodic, the name evokes an era long past, when Old Hollywood actors chain-smoked their way to fame in the latest film noir.

But while he’s never schemed alongside Barbara Stanwyck à la 1944’s “Double Indemnity,” the real Gibson Campbell is a rising star in his own right, as a jack-of-all-trades at Mattituck’s Macari Vineyards.

“We kind of wear many hats here because we’re a boutique winery,” said Campbell, a 30-year-old Mattituck native who lives in Wading River with his girlfriend, Marcie Post. “We’re not big on titles because we all do so many things.”

Campbell, who was hired six years ago as a part-time tasting room employee, is now in charge of selling the winery’s products wholesale to restaurants and liquor stores across Long Island. In addition to working in the tasting room, he’s also the Bergen Road vineyard’s cheese buyer.

And while he graduated in 2003 from SUNY/Binghamton with a bachelor’s degree in English, general literature and rhetoric, the North Fork is exactly where Campbell wants to be.

“As a kid, everybody wants to get out of the town they grew up in, but I feel like the wine industry has grown so much that there’s no place I’d rather come back to,” he said. “I think it’s really cool the wineries out here afford people the opportunity to come back to their hometown and make a living in an exciting industry.”

Credit: David Benthal

Credit: David Benthal

Q: Tell me about your most memorable on-the-job moment.

A: One of the more memorable is when we won [NY Food & Wine Classic’s] ‘Winery of the Year’ in 2014 because it’s such a high honor to win that award. When we got the news in the office, it was such a cool moment for everybody. When all your hard work pays off, it’s really gratifying.

Q: How about the most embarrassing?

A: When an entire bar full of people watched me push a cork into a jeroboam bottle of rosé, which is essentially four bottles of wine.

Q: What do you enjoy most about your job?

A: Getting to take part in different facets of the business. I’m out on the road a lot of the week selling wine, but I also get to taste the wines as they’re being brought in. I get to go downstairs and talk with [winemaker] Kelly [Urbanik Koch] and see how she did the blend and taste from the tank. It keeps it interesting. You’re never doing the same thing every day. Also, I’d say forming relationships with my vendors and customers. A lot of them I now call my friends.

Q: On the flip side, what is the most challenging aspect?

A: Traveling is kind of hard for salesmen; you’re all over the place. Basically anywhere from Long Beach to Montauk is my territory. But it’s also a blessing because there are so many good restaurants on Long Island. That’s a challenge, but it’s a challenge that I like.

Credit: David Benthal

Credit: David Benthal

Q: What’s your favorite budget-friendly wine?

A: You can always find good deals on gamay Beaujolais. They’re really food-friendly wines that you can drink when they’re a little bit younger, so they tend not to fetch as high as a price. Or rosés are always awesome in the summer because they’re always under $20.

Q: Which varietal do you like best?

A: I like a lot of the Loire Valley varietals because we tend to grow them well here on Long Island also. So: sauvignon blanc, cabernet franc. They’re kind of our superstar grapes out here. I like wines with balance, so I tend to like wines that have some good acidity but are also are balanced with fruit. I feel like those two varietals kind of hold those qualities.

Q: Is there a varietal you think is overrated?

A: No. I’ve learned to never say you don’t like something … Chardonnay used to not be my favorite varietal. Then you have a white Burgundy that blows your mind and you’re like, “Oh, I love chardonnay.”

Q: What is your favorite North Fork restaurant?

A: Oh, that’s tough. I can’t pick a favorite restaurant. [Laughs.] We have such great relationships with so many restaurants that it’s hard to figure out which would be my actual favorite. We’ve done a ton of events with all the restaurants in Greenport; I had my birthday party at First and South.

Credit: David Benthal

Credit: David Benthal

Q: Who do you admire in the local wine industry?

A: All the winemakers and the people who have started from the ground up out here and created their own brands or made their own wine. I think that’s a really challenging thing to do. And winemaking is so technical that it’s a really interesting thing to be part of.

Q: What advice would you give prospective visitors to Macari Vineyards?

A: Come with an open mind and do a little bit of research before you come if you’re not familiar with wine tasting. There are plenty of YouTube videos about how to taste wine. Also, don’t be afraid to ask questions because it’s ultimately a learning experience.

This story was originally published in the spring 2016 edition of the Long Island Wine Press