Taking the Plunge!
Why Billy Button? Why the Alpine Valleys? Why now?
When I'm making a decision on buying a car or buying a new appliance, I research it to death, endless hours spent on the internet looking up reviews and comparisons before I will commit to purchase, a process that generally takes weeks. I am in general quite indecisive. However, when it comes to the big decisions in my life I tend to make them spontaneously on gut feeling alone, with little or no research and planning. I make a decision, I commit to it and I get on with it.
The first such decision that has lead me to where I am today was my decision to study winemaking. In my final year at school I wasn't really sure what I wanted to do for a career, I was good at chemistry and maths, so I decided to study a Chemical Engineering and Science double degree at Adelaide University. I was in my second year of this course, not really enjoying my studies or where it was likely to lead me, when I had a conversation with a fellow student who told me of their plans to work in the wine industry when they graduated. At this point I didn't even really drink wine, just the occasional taste, but it got me thinking. It sounded like it would be fun and involved living in beautiful country areas (I've never been much of a city chick!). By the time I got home that night my mind was made up - I was going to be a winemaker! The next day I withdrew from my courses, went and toured the Waite Campus where the Oenology course was run and submitted my transfer papers. The rest, as they say, is history! But I still vividly remember that moment in my life when I made the decision.
My decision to start Billy Button Wines was not dissimilar. I moved to the Alpine Valleys at the start of 2012 and immediately fell in love with the region and and the people, I had never felt so at home or welcome in any of the regions I had previously lived and worked. Within 2 months I had bought a block of land in Porepunkah and 12 months later had built a house - I knew immediately that this was the area I wanted to settle down. But 2 years on despite doing what I loved doing, living where I loved living and being surrounded by an incredible bunch of people I still didn't feel completely satisfied - was this all life had to offer? The answer came to me one afternoon in late 2013 while I was emptying barrels at Feathertop, where I worked as winemaker. "Why don't I start my own brand?" Just thinking about it made me feel so happy that I knew it was what I had to do. By the time I'd finished emptying those barrels, I had it all planned out and there was no going back. In typical Jo fashion there would be no gentle transition, but instead I jumped right in the deep end deciding to commit to it full time. The next day I handed in my resignation and then began planning how and if I could make it work financially. I clearly remember the response I got from my financial planner when I told him - "it's not too late to get your job back is it?".
From that very first thought, I wanted my wine brand to be sourced exclusively from the Alpine Valleys because I had come to recognise the quality and potential of this region that had become so dear to me. During my time in the area I had developed friendships with many of the amazing growers of the Alpine Valleys so sourcing top quality fruit was not difficult. The next decision was what to name my brand - I wanted it to be fun and accessable and most importantly have a link to the region. Billy Button fit the bill perfectly, these little native yellow daisies grow prolifically on the tops of Mt Bogong (Falls Creek), Mt Feathertop (Mt Hotham) and Mt Buffalo over the summer, creating fields of gold. Thanks to my aunt Maureen for the suggestion!
There have been plenty of ups and downs along the way, but there have been no regrets. Now, 9 months after the idea first popped into my head I'm ready to release my very first wines!