“Delicious and interesting wines give a lot of joy to a lot of people. It’s nice to be able to have something to do with that.”
Steve Webber is the winemaker/manager at De Bortoli Yarra Valley. In his typically understated fashion, winemaking was something he “just fell into”. After finishing high school his father Ron suggested he give the wine business a try and organised a job for him at Leo Buring winery in the Barossa Valley.
After a year in the cellars waxing concrete tanks and learning basic cellar work, he completed his studies in winemaking at Roseworthy in 1982 and gained valuable winemaking experience at Leo Buring and Lindemans over the next 7 years. Lots of terrific wine mentors along the way.
In 1989 he married Leanne De Bortoli and the family approached them to head up operations at the family’s newly acquired winery in the Yarra Valley.
Steve and Leanne, like many before them instantly fell for region, loving “the beauty, the climate, the seasons, the proximity to Melbourne”. They’ve lived on the Yarra Valley Estate from the get go, raising daughters Kate and Sally and have become renowned for their casual, and occasionally rowdy, feasts on the back deck of their home.
It wasn’t only the lifestyle that appealed to Steve, it was the challenges that this new patch of dirt offered. Steve describes the transition “a steep learning curve”, understanding the seasons, learning about the different aspects, experimenting with varieties and clones, all with the goal of making wine with a sense of place.
Always a straight talker he says “Great wine is rare, it is textural, charming, tastes of place, has poise and elegance, and the bottle is empty before you know it.”
Steve has won several major awards including Gourmet Traveller Winemaker of the Year in 2007 and the Jimmy Watson Trophy in 1997. Over the last 25 years, he has been a Wine-show judge and was instrumental in some of the recent changes to the Melbourne Wine Show.
His fellow winemakers at the Yarra Valley Estate tend to agree.
“Steve is a dynamic person with fantastic vision and is never afraid to put a new idea on the table” says winemaker Andrew Bretherton.
Sarah Fagan describes working with Steve as “mostly exciting, sometimes manic, always interesting.”
Dynamic and energetic he certainly is but Steve’s mission statement is pretty simple: “to make wine with character and interest and have some fun doing it.”
"Drink what you enjoy. You don’t have to spend a lot of money to find an interesting bottle."
Steve and Leanne started producing pale, dry textural rosé a decade ago. “It’s terrific that people are finally understanding the joys of this 'grown up' style of Rosé”, he says.