Happy International Women’s Day!
We would like to raise a glass to the everyday women in our lives. This is the perfect time to take a moment to acknowledge them. We’d like to share the stories of five women of De Bortoli who are anything but ordinary in celebration of today.
EMERI DE BORTOLI
“Other than my family, my garden gives me great joy...I love working in it, dreaming about how it will look and planting something that will provide pleasure and sustenance.”
Emeri’s determined temperament and love of cooking and gardening were a good match with a family that still sits down to talk through (and sometimes argue about) business over lunch every day, eating dishes made with produce pulled from her garden. She was never in any doubt how central the family business would be to her life.
It’s no surprise for her then that her four children – Darren, Leanne, Kevin and Victor - have inherited their dad’s passion for the company.
Over the decades, Emeri acted as a crucial sounding board for Deen while he was alive and now continues to do so with her children as Company Chairperson.
Emeri’s personal legacy becomes clearer every year, via the gardens she’s created and helped plant…. to being a matriarch, mother of four and grandmother to thirteen grandchildren.
A TIP FROM EMERI
"It is important to take the time to sit down together for a family meal, even more enjoyable with a glass of wine."
LEANNE DE BORTOLI
Leanne De Bortoli’s childhood playground was the winery established by her grandfather Vittorio. With the family living opposite the winery, work and play blended seamlessly.
Living on a winery is in the blood. Leanne and her winemaker husband Steve Webber now run the De Bortoli winery in the Yarra Valley, living and working on the estate. It’s where they raised their two daughters Sally and Kate who, like their mum and uncles, grew up helping out in the winery and playing amongst the vines.
“Thinking back on it, it is pretty cool having a winery as a playground when you are a kid,” says Leanne.
It’s a busy life in the Yarra Valley with a 180 Ha vineyard, winery, Cellar Door and restaurant facility to run and Leanne is also active in promoting the region. She entertains often and cooks delicious meals using recipes handed down from her mother and grandmother with produce picked from her own veggie garden. The meals, usually served on the back deck of her home are accompanied by beautiful views over vines.
A TIP FROM LEANNE
“Don’t be frightened to try new wine styles – that unpronounceable variety may be a taste sensation”
SENIOR WINEMAKER, DE BORTOLI BILBUL ESTATE
Julie Mortlock has been working for De Bortoli Wines for more than 25 years. Not only is she a great cook, and a sports fanatic, she’s also Senior Red Winemaker at the Bilbul Estate and helps oversee the company’s extensive fortified wine portfolio. Since 2000, she’s also assisted Darren De Bortoli with the iconic Noble One Botrytis Semillon.
When she first joined De Bortoli, Julie never expected to become a winemaker. But her background and experience helped put her on the path.
Julie grew up on a dairy farm and had ambitions to be a chef before a passion for science kicked in. This led to working for the dairy industry before moving to Griffith, NSW where she worked in the lab for De Bortoli Wines.
Julie became interested in winemaking and began studying for a Bachelor degree in Wine Science and then another in Wine Business at Charles Sturt University. She began looking after all the white wines produced at Bilbul, before moving onto reds and fortified wines.
The fortified wines are a particular favourite. To add to her successes, Julie was shortlisted as 'Sweet Winemaker of the Year' in the 2016 International Wine Challenge.
“Selecting the best parcels of fruit to produce fortified wines that will age well and then tasting them from the barrel as they change overtime is a bit like watching a child grow up and mature,” she says.
A TIP FROM JULIE
"The best way to enjoy wine is with good friends over a meal."
WINEMAKER, DE BORTOLI WINES YARRA VALLEY ESTATE
Asking Sarah Fagan to choose between winemaking and snow skiing might have her pausing to think. She’s a woman who loves to travel and both winemaking and skiing, two of her favourite things, have enabled her to do just that. Sarah has done vintage in America, Italy and Germany and has skied in Australia, Canada and Japan, achieving a happy balance between work and play.
Sarah has been a winemaker at De Bortoli Wines since 2005 but joined the company in 2003, working as a cellar hand in the Yarra Valley. She grew up on a farm in New South Wales and wanted to work in agriculture, enrolling in an Agriculture degree at Sydney University before transferring to a Wine Science degree at Charles Sturt University. While completing her degree she applied for a three-month job at De Bortoli. She never left. Chief Winemaker Steve Webber saw in Sarah someone who was “imaginative with great attention to detail and a very good palate” and had her join the winemaking team, first with white wines before moving onto red wines and rosé.
Sarah was a Len Evans scholar in 2008 and a Gourmet Traveller Young Winemaker of the Year award winner in 2009.
A TIP FROM SARAH
"Don't stress too much about the right glass for the right wine. Really chilled rosé out of a tumbler on the back deck is still a pretty nice thing."
Kate Webber, fourth generation family member has recently joined the winemaking team in the Yarra Valley as assistant winemaker.
Kate grew up on the family vineyard in the Yarra Valley and like her mum Leanne, has early memories of playing games with her friends around the winery and vineyard. With an interest in music, Kate learnt to play the piano at school and then took up singing lessons. With a strong sweet voice, Kate played the part of Cosette in Les Miserables in her school production.
“Mum and Dad would often ask me to sing songs for any visitors to the winery” says Kate.
Kate spent a year in Lyon, France as an au pair and attended language school where she learnt to speak fluent French and develop a real interest in wine.
Returning to Australia she completed a science degree at Monash University before travelling some more. Kate has worked in the Yarra Winery as a cellar hand for the last few years as well as working vintages in the Napa Valley, Mac Forbers in the Yarra Valley and more recently at Vincent Girardin in Burgundy.
Kate is the first of the 13 next generation family members to come back into the business full time and looks forward to making her mark within the business.
A TIP FROM KATE
“If the weather is hot, you can still enjoy red wines by chilling them slightly for a few mins.”