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.
Most recently Jo has launched a new brand with her husband Glenn James – Shy Susan is a range of truly unique wines from some of Tasmania’s most exciting vineyards. The inaugural vintage of their Chardonnay won the Regional Trophy for Tasmania at the 2018 James Halliday Chardonnay Challenge.
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.
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 unchartered waters, creating the Ducks in a Row label aimed at introducing lesser known varieties to Adelaide’s’ wine scene.
One of Glenn’s passions 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 6000 years to ancient Greece. Glenn acquired an amphora, and started his white variety label Pandora’s Amphora, first in McLaren Vale and later in Alpine Valleys. He has since added her daughter, Pyrrha, a fiery redhead, to the line, focused on red varieties. They are both now under the blanket label “Claypot”, in reference to their Amphora origins.
Glenn’s next big adventure was down in Tasmania, he moved south and started work at Winemaking Tasmania in 2014. With a focus on small batch, cool climate contract work for owners of vineyards, Glenn has thrived. Since becoming chief winemaker, he has given the winery a facelift, alongside CEO Jonathan Lord, and transformed winemaking practices. The labels currently under Winemaking Tasmania have been fortunate in wine shows in Tasmania and Hobart.
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 the scenic Porepunkah, with Mt Buffalo as the backdrop.
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 fiancé Lin where they help to run the family business Bogong Horseback Adventures.
If you’ve visited the Billy Button Cellar Door then you’ve likely met our wonderful cellar door manager Grant Williams. After spending 25 years in the printing industry in the bustling metropolis of Sydney, Grant and his wife Sandy (who also works in cellar door) decided a tree change was required and relocated to Porepunkah just a couple of years before Jo Marsh moved to the region.
Jo and Grant met while working at Feathertop winery and so when Jo decided to open a full time cellar door in Bright, she could think of no better person to manage it than the outgoing and friendly Grant Williams. It appears Grant has found his true calling, taking to the role like a duck to water. Welcoming and knowledgeable Grant makes sure everyone who visits cellar door has an amazing experience.