Jo adopted her eight-year-old Labrador when he was 12 months old after his previous owner moved to Piedmont, Italy to pursue his love of Nebbiolo (Cannubi was named after a Barolo vineyard). Cannubi was great company during vintage and rarely left her side. He thrived in his role as winery dog, but his vices included eating grapes from the vine, licking juice out of the valves, and cleaning spilt grapes from the floor. Cannubi was the life of the party, in your face, always happy to meet new people, with boundless energy, and was sometimes known to wander off on his own to create his own party. Unfortunately Cannubi passed away in 2019.
The Story of Billy Button
Billy Button Wines began its life in 2014, bursting onto the scene in all its colour and glory. These premium wines are the culmination of three factors: emerging region, varietal diversity and an inspired winemaking vision. As to the question on everyone’s lips – who is Billy Button? The botanists among us will know that this name belongs to the bouncy yellow balls of goodness that colour the mountain tops of the Alpine Valleys. These flowers (Craspedia to be correct) are a native daisy and create a sea of yellow during the warmer months, blanketing the mountains of the Alpine Valleys region.
Meet the Team
While Billy Button is definitely Jo’s baby, there is a team without which Billy Button as you now know it could not be possible.
Jo Marsh, Managing Director and Chief Winemaker
Jo’s first official foray into the world of wine was jumping head first into an Agricultural Science (Oenology) Degree from the University of Adelaide in 2001. She made it through to the other side, graduating and also winning the SA Wine and Brandy Commission Silver Medal, R.H. Martin Memorial Prize for Sensory Evaluation and the Hyatt/Advertiser Award for highest fourth year aggregate. Off to a good start, then.
Jo put her new found skills to the test, landing a position in the Southcorp/Treasury Wine Estates Graduate Recruitment Program. She was soon snapped up by Seppelt Great Western, where she spent the next ten years gathering experience and accolades. In between the traditional method sparkling, red and white table wines she was responsible for, Jo squeezed in a vintage at Beringer Wines in the Napa Valley in 2007 and a stint with Frédéric Magnien in Burgundy 2010.
In 2009 Jo was awarded the Graham Thorp Memorial Scholarship in 2009 as winemaker for the Best Sparkling Wine at the Sydney Royal Wine Show with the 2005 Seppelt Salinger – the very first sparkling wine Jo produced. And in 2011 the Member’s Choice and Sommelier’s Choice at the Wine Society Young Winemaker of the Year Awards. She was also selected to participate in the prestigious Len Evans Tutorial Scholarship.
With a heavy heart, Jo made the difficult decision to leave her position of acting senior winemaker at Seppelt and went on the hunt for the next big thing. Turns out that thing was to join Feathertop Wines in Porepunkah as Head Winemaker, and this is where Jo fell in love with the Alpine Valleys. Jo elevated Feathertop to a 5-star James Halliday-rated winery and realised her dream of making exciting wines with exciting varietals in this gorgeous cool-climate region of Victoria.
But Jo couldn’t stop there, she dreamt of creating her own wines under her own label on Alpine Valleys turf. In 2014 Jo left feathertop to begin making her dreams a reality, and thus Billy Button Wines was born.
In her spare time, Jo is a regular show judge at Royal Melbourne Wine Awards, Sydney Royal Wine Shows, Royal Queensland Wine Show among other regional shows. She also organises the North East Victorian Wine Challenge and is a committee member of the Alpine Valleys Vignerons Association.
Jo Marsh can be contacted at email@example.com.
Glenn James, Chief Winemaker and Director
Glenn James has forgotten more about winemaking than most will ever know.
The born and bred Kiwi, hailing from Christchurch, followed his passion for science and horticulture to Roseworthy College, South Australia, where he completed his degree in Viticulture and Oenology in 1991.
Glenn started his winemaking career at Kingston Estate Wines and has had a long and successful career moving through the likes of Hardys Wine Company, Southcorp Wines, Treasury Wine Estates and Fleurieu Vintners on his way to greatness. During his time in corporate winemaking, Glenn was a regular judge, both locally and overseas, gathering an encyclopedic knowledge of all things wine.
The corporate wine world could not define Glenn however and he struck out into uncharted waters, creating the Ducks in a Row label aimed at introducing lesser known varieties to Adelaide’s’ wine scene.
One of Glenn’s interests is amphora winemaking. This ancient method of winemaking makes use of clay vessels as opposed to stainless steel or oak and can be traced back 8000 years to ancient Georgia. Glenn acquired an amphora, and started his white variety label Pandora’s Amphora, first in Heathcote, then McLaren Vale and now in the Alpine Valleys. He has since added her daughter, Pyrrha, a fiery redhead, and Taurian, named after the grower. They now fall under the blanket label “Clay Pot Wines”, in reference to their Amphora origins.
Glenn’s next big adventure was down in Tasmania, he moved south and started work at Winemaking Tasmania (now Tasmanian Vintners) in 2014. With a focus on small batch, cool climate contract work for owners of vineyards, Glenn has thrived. Since becoming chief winemaker there, he gave the winery a facelift, and transformed winemaking practices. The labels currently being produced under Tasmanian Vintners have been fortunate in wine shows in Australia and internationally.
Glenn joined Billy Button in 2015 alongside his Winemaking Tasmania position. With years of expertise and experience behind him, he balances Jo’s fast paced energy perfectly. The two married in late 2016 in scenic Porepunkah, with Mt Buffalo as the backdrop.
Jo and Glenn created a new brand Shy Susan, featuring traditional varieties from exciting cool-climate vineyards. They launched it with a bang in 2019, winning the Best New Winery in the 2020 James Halliday Wine Companion.
Glenn James can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Melissa Fettke, Senior Winemaker
It is with much pleasure that we announce the appointment of Melissa Fettke as Senior Winemaker at Billy Button Wines, who started with us late last year, 2022. Melissa will report directly to our Chief Winemaker Glenn James, and will be responsible for all day to day winemaking at our winery.
Melissa is no stranger to Jo and Glenn as they were colleagues at Winemaking Tasmania!
Melissa brings to her role a broad and exciting set of skills and experiences.
Initially a BSc honours graduate in Oceanography, she graduated in 2002 with BAgSc (Honours) in Oenology from the University of Adelaide she gained early on-ground experience at Rosemount (McLaren Vale, SA), Monticello (Napa Valley, California) and Henschke (Eden Valley, SA).
Melissa has actually lived and worked in the North East previously, as a Winemaker at Campbells in Rutherglen, in the mid 2000’s.
A divergence in 2007 brought a change of scenery when Melissa became Cidermaker Brewer at Little Creatures, Fremantle WA.
At Little Creatures, Melissa created a landmark in the cider landscape, with the creation of Pipsqueak – one of the first ‘craft’ ciders in the Australian market.
This was followed with the development of a Pear version of Pipsqueak, at Little Creatures’ sister company, White Rabbit, in Healesville in the Yarra Valley.
In 2013 Melissa became Brewer at Knappstein Enterprise Brewery in the Clare Valley, South Australia.
Then in 2017 our paths crossed when Melissa took on the role of Cidermaker at Winemaking Tasmania, where more creations came into being, in the development of Black Devil and Blushing Lady ciders.
The winds of change saw Melissa return to Knappstein Wines in the Clare Valley and to winemaking once more. Then, a chance meeting at the Good Food and Wine Show Melbourne, June 2022, a conversation was started that ultimately led to Melissa’s appointment with Billy Button Wines.
Melissa will bring much colour and movement to our team with an eclectic range of hobbies and pursuits!
These include macro photography (think mosses and lichens , tiny mushrooms and any tiny creatures), knitting and crochet, gardening (with a particular fascination in insectivorous plants), making soap, jams, pickles and tonic water (therefore a love of GIN… yay!!).
All this is rounded out by a love of science fiction (the real reason for the appointment), the Muppets (that’s what she said), whiskey and all things sporty. Melissa actually does archery and taekwondo too!
Melissa Fettke can be contacted at email@example.com.
Alex Phillips, Winemaker
Alex Phillips was born and bred in South Africa, one of the world’s most vibrant wine-producing countries. Her innate desire to make wine was gratified at South Africa’s University of Stellenbosch, where she walked away with a Bachelor of Science in Agriculture in 2013, as well as the Prof PA van der Bijl medal (awarded to one of two best students in BSc Agric) and was crowned the Best Academic Student: Viticulture and Oenology (U.S) 2013 by the South African Society for Enology and Viticulture.
But could her academic aptitude translate to success in the practical world of winemaking? It seems so. Alex played second fiddle to celebrated winemaker Adam Mason with an internship at Mulderbosch Vineyards, Stellenbosch. Adam mentored Alex until she decided to spread her wine-wings and travel to Australia in 2014 for an extended harvest at Kirrihill in the Clare Valley.
It wasn’t all bad, this Aussie caper, so Alex spent the next year travelling and working her way round rural Victoria, and lo and behold, where does she land? The Alpine Valleys, otherwise known as home to Billy Button Wines. It was here that Alex met her future fiancé.
Staying in the Alpine Valleys was not an option at this point though – in fact, the call of the springbok was loud enough to lure Alex back to South Africa for a harvest gig at Steenberg Vineyards in Cape Town in 2015. Once done here, it was Sonoma, California – another harvest gig at Girard Winery. Budding flying winemaker? You bet.
But as the year 2016 loomed, it had a decidedly Aussie flavour, particularly that north-east corner of Victoria with those bright yellow bouncy balls of flora… and so it was, in January 2016, Alex made a return to the Alpine Valleys and in pursuit of her continued winemaking education sort out Jo Marsh. The two hit it off immediately and together form quite the dynamic duo.
When she’s not doing her thing in the winery, Alex lives on a picturesque horse property in the Victorian High Country with her now husband Lin and their 2 girls, where they help to run the family business Bogong Horseback Adventures.
Alex Phillips can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Meg Wallace, Winemaker
Growing up along the South coast of NSW, Meg was more interested in the beach than Agriculture. After years spent living the city life, the last thing Meg expected was to find herself living and working in rural NSW and Victoria.
At eighteen, Meg fell into a job working at the local pub while studying. It wasn’t long until she ditched Uni and found herself in Sydney, where she spent most of her 20’s bouncing around hospitality venues in the City and Circular Quay. Always having an appreciation and interest in food and wine (and let’s face it, booze in general), it wasn’t until Meg moved to London and spent some time travelling around Europe, that she really started to take notice of this appreciation. Quite serendipitously, the day after she arrived in London, Meg wandered into a wine bar tucked away by a beautiful little church yard, not far from London Bridge. She landed a job on the spot and worked there for 2 years, taking off for little adventures around Europe whenever possible. During this time, she was exposed to some incredible wines. A whole new world was opened to her. Teamed with some travelling through Europe and an amazing homestay spent with a friend and her family in Tuscany, Meg’s curiosity was well and truly piqued.
Arriving back in Australia in 2011, Meg settled back into Sydney life, but late nights and hospitality had lost some of its sparkle and she decided to make the move to rural NSW to be closer to family. A friend was studying Winemaking at Charles Sturt University in Wagga Wagga, who slung Meg some of her study notes – and the rest is history!
While studying, Meg worked for five years at Tumblong Estates, Gundagai, as Assistant Winemaker under Paul Bailey. Although predominantly working with Shiraz and Cabernet, year after year, Meg found herself drawn to the smaller parcels of Italian varieties, such as Sangiovese, Nebbiolo and Barbera.
One day at work during a benchmark tasting Meg was bowled over by the 2016 Billy Button Nebbiolo. She gave Jo a cheeky ‘follow’ on Instagram and watched this energetic winemaker in the Alpine Valleys, make small batch alternate varieties – with a black Labrador and ‘miniature’ pig as sidekicks – and often joked that it would be a great place to do a vintage!
Graduating with a Bachelor of Wine Science in 2018, Meg parted ways with Tumblong Estates for a new adventure. After her time at Tumblong and a vintage at Agnew Wines in the Hunter Valley, Meg had an inkling that she wanted to work in a smaller operation, with a focus on small batch winemaking.
Late in 2018 the vintage position she had lined up fell through and Meg found herself on the hunt for a last-minute vintage job. Early 2019, on a long drive back from holidays in Adelaide, Meg was discussing options for the new year with her partner and while aimlessly scrolling Instagram, she stumbled across a post advertising a vintage position at Billy Button Wines. Stars aligned! Meg joined the Billy Button team for vintage 2019 and has never left.
Meg Wallace can be contacted at email@example.com.
Furry team members, Brand Ambassadors
Thelma and Fig
Thelma is a (not so) miniature pig. She couldn’t be without her furry best friend Cannubi. Brimming with personality and a colourful vocabulary, she knows how to get her own way. Vineyard visits and fruit deliveries were Thelma’s favourite parts of vintage, along with creating a trail of destruction full-time.
After Cannubi passed away and Thelma grew larger in size and personality, it was time for her to move out of the house and into some new purpose build lodgings on Jo and Glenn’s property in Porepunkah. Fig, another ‘miniature’ pig who had outgrown her house was looking for a new home and so it was that she joined Thelma at Porepunkah.
Pigs of leisure, they spend their days grazing and lazing about in their little log cabin that Jo built for them.
Bingo, a 12 month old Miniature Dachshund joined the team in late 2020. With big shoes to fill as resident winery dog, following on from Cannubi, Bingo’s personality is much bigger than her stature. She loves vineyard visits as much as Cannubi did, but luckily can’t reach the fruit for any ‘sampling’.
Following the tradition, after our precious and beloved Labrador Cannubi – who you may remember from his adventures with Thelma the pig – Sarmassa is also named after a historical vineyard in Barolo, Italy, that offers exceptional quality Nebbiolo.
She’s such a good girl, making fast friends with Bingo, Sarmassa, Thelma and Fig.
Furry team members can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
With a wealth of established vineyards in the region tended to by dedicated growers, there was no reason for Billy Button to establish our own vineyards. Instead we work with a number of highly accomplished local growers to secure some of the best fruit available in the region.