Wine-Up Wayne

By Hilary Berg

As the job market continues to lag, many jobless yet well-qualified professionals are forced to look at self-employment for a paycheck. To succeed, it takes diligence, determination, confidence and passion. Some people have it. Others don’t.

Wayne Oppenheimer is confident he has what it takes to make it in the entrepreneurial sector, and, with his passion, he’s convinced his endeavor can’t be anything but successful.

In mid-January, Oppenheimer launched, an online video blog about wine. For those wine geeks out there, you know that this is not a new idea; Oppenheimer knows that, too.

In fact, he’s met Gary Vaynerchuk, who produces and stars in, the most popular online wine show that attracts about 80,000 viewers a day. Oppenheimer spoke with him at Powell’s Books after the wine host’s book-signing and discovered Vaynerchuk tastes only about 700 wines on his show in a year.

Oppenheimer couldn’t believe it.

“That is a small number considering California alone reached 2,800 wineries this past year,” he said. “Think about the different offerings each winery has, and you’ve got a lot of wine with no camera time.”

With his own show, Oppenheimer wants to increase that number and give more focus to the Pacific Northwest. Although he will discuss wine from around the globe, he says he wants to champion his home turf; he is proud of his roots.

Born and raised in Beaverton, Oppenheimer left Oregon in 1995 for Napa Valley. He worked at Mondavi for a while and then opened a tour business, a wine club and a bottle shop.

A divorce brought his time in Napa to a close, and he moved to Los Angeles and worked as vice president for a clothing hanger company. While in LA, his passion for wine continued with a part-time job at Vendome Wine & Spirits in Beverly Hills.

After about 8 years, he was laid off from his day job, and his ex-wife announced her wishes to move back to Oregon to raise their children. Oppenheimer was ready for a new start; so he joined his children and moved back home in July 2008.

Shortly after arriving, his father broached the subject of his son’s unemployment. Oppenheimer’s dad wanted to know his plans; and his son had an answer. He decided to start a wine tour business, Oregon Wine Tours & Tasting.

He developed a website, bought a vehicle and started networking with concierges in downtown Portland. He had steady work all summer, but looking ahead, Oppenheimer knew he had to have a business plan for the not-so-busy wine country winter months.

His sister mentioned www.Wine as a possible business idea. She was convinced her brother could not only do the same, but do it better.

“I thought, ‘I can do this,’” Oppenheimer said. “It is not like I would be opening up a Seattle’s Best Coffee next to a Starbucks next to a Dutch Brothers next to a Stumptown? There is really only one wine show, WineLibraryTV. And everybody needs some competition.”

The small push from his sister was all he needed, and in a matter of days, he had secured the name and started making plans and crafting his brand, which, you might say, is quite colorful.

On Fridays, he plans to transform himself into the Wizard of Wine, complete with a purple cape for his online audience; and this summer, he intends to buy an old Winnebago, paint it purple and call it The Winobago for his shows on the road.

It is a bit quirky, but it his charisma and confidence that he hopes will draw people in, making his business a success.

“I live wine. I breathe wine,” Oppenheimer said. “I wear a corkscrew earring and bowling shirts with “The Wine Wizard” printed across the chest. If somebody wants to discredit me or laugh at me, so be it. I am 48 years old, and at my age, I don’t care.”

Alongside his wine videos and tour business, Oppenheimer has resurrected his wine club from his Napa days, International Wine Discoveries, and has started a blog, All of it can be found at

All of these business pieces have been developed in the last several months. For most, this pace would certainly overwhelm, but Oppenheimer believes he has the energy and drive to make it a go.

“It’s all about passion,” he said. “I am very charismatic person. I don’t mean for that to sound egotistical, but if I don’t have confidence in me, no one can have confidence in me.” 


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