Antonello Vineyard in Buffalo Creek, Alpine Valleys
Fruit sourced by Billy Button – Verduzzo
Brothers Stef and Peter Antonello planted their vineyard at Buffalo Creek in 1992. The family has a strong Italian heritage with dad Marcello working in the vineyards of Piemonte, so when Stef returned from uni the brothers followed in their father’s footsteps and planted a vineyard. The majority of the 20-hectare vineyard is planted to Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Prosecco grown for sparkling base.
In recent years Stef and Peter have started to dabble in alternative varieties, commencing with 0.4 hectare of Verduzzo grafted in 2012 followed by 0.4 hectare of Arneis in 2013. Along with recent plantings of the Bernard clone Chardonnay, they have also planted Grüner Veltliner in 2014. In addition to the vineyard, the Antonello brothers run Angus breeding cattle on their property.
Bungamero Vineyard in Whorouly South, Alpine Valleys
Fruit sourced for Billy Button: Sangiovese, Tempranillo
Brothers Tim and Mark Walpole planted the 18-hectare vineyard at Whorouly South in 1989. They selected this particular property because of its north-east aspect and well-drained gravel and red loam soils. Tempranillo was planted in 1996, while Sangiovese was grafted in 2009 using the superior Mat 6 and Mat 7 clones.
The business is run as a family partnership between Tim and Mark. Tim manages the Bungamero Vineyard at Whorouly South and Mark manages the Fighting Gully Road Vineyard in Beechworth. In addition to the vineyard, Tim and Mark also run sheep and a dairy farm on the property.
Con Mara Vineyard in Whorouly South, Alpine Valleys
Fruit sourced for Billy Button – Chardonnay, Shiraz
Situated on a hilly spot at the lower end of the beautiful Alpine Valleys, this vineyard was established in 1987 by Bob and Helen McNamara with a small planting of Shiraz (PT23 on its own roots). Additional plantings of Shiraz, Cabernet, Merlot and Chardonnay have been made between 1990 and 1998, when the last of a 15ha vineyard was established.
The vineyard has been restructuring over the last three years with the removal of the Merlot and about half of the original Shiraz and Cabernet plantings. Small plantings of Sangiovese and low-yielding clones, such as the French Shiraz clone 470, have been planted in these spots and set up to be arch cane pruned, with a strong focus on creating a low-yielding, high-quality vineyard structure.
The Shiraz sourced from this vineyard is currently made up of a number of Shiraz clones, including PT23, 1654, Langi and St Peters clones, as well as the French clone 470. The Chardonnay is sourced predominantly from Bernard clones 95 and 97 with a small proportion of H5V10.
The main workload of the vineyard and wine operations falls to owner Bob McNamara with help from his wife Helen and their three willing daughters Kate, Sally and Kim (when required). Bob and Helen also have wine made under their own label Bush Track Wines.
Croucher Vineyard – Whitlands, King Valley
Fruit sourced by Billy Button – Riesling
This is the vineyard that forced Jo to break her own rules. Billy Button was going to consist of wines made from Alpine Valleys fruit only. But Kevin and Laurel Croucher’s King Valley property at Whitlands led her astray. After years of making the Drumborg Riesling during her tenure at Seppelt, Jo was super excited to discover this vineyard, as the fruit characteristics reminded her strongly of the Drumborg wines.
Kevin bought the property in 1974 after years of cattle production and established a blueberry plot a few years later. In the early 1980s, Brown Brothers planted vines extensively in this area and their enthusiasm for Whitlands as a grape-growing spot meant they encouraged their neighbours to do the same (Kevin and Laurel were one of their neighbours). So, Kevin’s first planting of Pinot Noir and Riesling happened in 1991.
The climate is considered cool and at 780m above sea level, it snows in the winter. The soil is deep tertiary volcanic over a basalt cap. The biggest struggle is to keep the vigour under control (the beautiful soil reminds you of chocolate cake). So Kevin applies the 'treat 'em mean' approach – no irrigation or fertilisation. The vines are arch cane pruned and are hedged a couple of times a year. At over 20 years of age, the vines have settled down beautifully to be well balanced and producing fruit that ripens around mid-April with excellent retention of natural acidity. Kevin manages the vineyard with the assistance of his daughter Rachael, who now has her own vineyard at Whitlands. And they still grow berries, too.
Dalbosco Vineyard in Porepunkah, Alpine Valleys
Fruit sourced for Billy Button – Chardonnay, Friulano, Shiraz
Brothers Mick and Paul Dalbosco are well-weathered grape growers, having planted their eight-hectare vineyard on their property at Porepunkah in 1994. The majority of the vineyard is planted to Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, which is grown for use as sparkling base. The 0.8 hectares of Shiraz were planted in 1994, while the 0.8 hectares of Friulano were planted in 2010. Controlling vigour is the major challenge at this vineyard – the Alpine Valleys is a super fertile patch of land. The Shiraz is grown without irrigation, and careful canopy and crop management is required to ensure the vines are balanced and ripen fully and evenly. The Friulano is certainly proving a challenging (and cheeky) variety to grow in the cool, moist climate of the Alpine Valleys but we all believe the results are worth the hard work.
Mick and Paul enjoy being busy, so they run cattle on their property at Porepunkah and also operate a hay contracting business. Mick has a degree in winemaking from Charles Sturt University and makes his own wine under the Dalbosco label. In his spare time, well, he can’t remember what that is…
Ferraro Vineyard in Myrtleford, Alpine Valleys
Fruit sourced by Billy Button – Vermentino, Sangiovese, Barbera
The Ferraro Vineyard is owned by Antonio (Tony) and Josie Ferraro. Tony was inspired by his parents Francesco and Carmela Ferraro, who began growing grapes in Merriang in the beautiful Ovens Valley in the 1960s. His parents recognised the potential to produce grapes for the Italian community in the valley who made their own wine (what a self-reliant lot they were). Francesco and Carmela planted 2.4 hectares of vines and together with Tony’s nine (yes, nine!) siblings, they all pitched in to manage the vineyard and pick the grapes at vintage time.
Tony and Josie planted their first vineyard in 1996 on an eight-hectare plot on the outskirts of Myrtleford. In 2001 they commenced planting their 1.6 hectare vineyard on their home property with Italian varieties, the make-up of which comprises Sangiovese (0.6 hectares), Barbera (0.4 hectares), Vermentino (0.4 hectares) and Nebbiolo (0.2 hectares). The vines are grown on the Ovens Valley floor, about 200m above sea level, on well-drained soil. The vineyard has overhead sprinklers for frost protection and a drip system for irrigation. The Ferraros get around the vigorous growth of the area by shoot-thinning, bunch-thinning and trellis type.
The Barbera was planted in 2001 and is F6V4 clone on S04 rootstock. The Sangiovese was planted in 2001 and is MAT 7 clone, grafted onto S04 rootstock. The Vermentino was planted in 2009 and is VCR1 clone, grafted on 110 Richter rootstock.
Tony and Josie are also champions of multitasking, producing lucerne hay on their farm, running 40 cows and calves, and growing onions for seed. They also have a small winery of their own producing wine under the Ferraro label.
Greenacres Vineyard in Merriang South, Alpine Valleys
Fruit sourced for Billy Button – Tempranillo
The Greenacres vineyard was established in the late 1980s and was purchased by Brian (Bri) and Linda Lewis in 2006. This couple shares a passion for wine and growing quality fruit, and love the ability to watch their young family grow, afforded by living in this wonderfully quiet countryside.
The vineyard is situated at Merriang South in the Alpine Valleys and is elevated from the valley floor on undulated sloping land. It enjoys early morning sun but loses the warmer part of the day early due to a high nearby ridge line, giving the vines an early “cooling off” period, with fresh mountain breezes throughout the day.
The Tempranillo vines were planted in spring 2010, using the clone DV8 12 on 101/14 rootstock. The vines are planted on a ridgeline (elevation ranging 270m-290m), running down both sides in the north-south direction, with excellent drainage and a soil type classified as a rich medium-textured loam. The Lewis’ arch cane prune the vines. Bri and Linda are also establishing their own wine brand with the first wines to be released within the next 12-18 months.
Souter Vineyard in Happy Valley, Alpine Valleys
Fruit sourced for Billy Button – Gerwürtraminer
This vineyard may be small, but it’s certainly very happy, given the name of its location. Allan and Kay Souter bought this vineyard in 2003 but it was established in the 1980s, making it one of the oldest vineyards in the Alpine Valleys. It’s planted to Gerwürtraminer, Chardonnay, Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon. The plantings are traditionally managed, the vines hand-pruned and the grapes hand-picked. Production is kept low, optimising fruit intensity. Allan and Kay also have wine made under their own label, Souter’s Vineyard.