The Calabria family winemakers are a diverse team, who all work together collectively, led by Chief winemaker, Emma Norbiato. Each winemaker brings a unique dimension to the wine portfolio, but follow the same mission to produce wines of great density and finesse, wines that the consumer wants to enjoy.Together the team have over 85 years experience and work strongly to uphold Calabria’s proud history of creating wines of excellence.
BILL (WILLIAM) CALABRIA, AM
"If the definition of a Regional Hero is someone who has almost single-handedly put a region on the quality wine map against all the odds and did whatever it took to follow his dream - even if it meant resorting to washing bottles to make it happen - and be a model citizen along the way, then Bill Calabria is a true Regional Hero.”
—— Wine Business Magazine.
Bill (William) Calabria, was the ninth and last child born to Francesco and Elisabetta. In 1962, Bill was only 14 years old when he and his brother Tony were obliged to take over the modest family business. Bill had a burgeoning boxing career ahead of him but he followed his father's wishes and took over the selling of barrels of wine to the locals and across Sydney.During the early '70s, the brothers release their first bottled wine, under the ‘Calabria’ label and Bill also met his wife-to-be, Lena. In 1974, Bill and Lena married and two years later welcomed their first son Frank, followed by Michael a year later. Life was busy as it was still all hands on deck at the winery, with the family also living on-site, running the daily operations and raising two energetic little boys. The business was going smoothly right up until the late 1980s when the Australian economy was facing a recession. The wine industry was in the doldrums, sales had dried up, and vines were being ripped out across the country’s leading wine regions. Bill needed to make the heartbreaking decision to put the family winery on the market which also saw him inherit a lot of debt and owe a lot of money to the bank. Bill vowed to do whatever it took to keep food on the table for his family.Bill, his wife Lena and children; Frank and Michael started washing wine bottles and two litre flagons for other wineries in the Riverina, using an old soft-drink bottle washing machine that he salvaged from a paddock in the back-blocks. The idea of washing bottles was never ideal but it allowed the winery to keep functioning and believe it or not that old machine got the family back on track at the right time. The family wine business was in a better position when the 1990s brought new interest and prosperity to the wine industry, with the demand for export.It was the start of the decade and Bill made the conscious decision he did not want to become a big bulk producing winery, instead he vowed to produce quality wines, wines that would soon win him accolades internationally. Thirty successful years later, Bill is no longer washing bottles for other wineries, he has grown his Riverina winery and cellar door base, while extending his portfolio to the Barossa Valley region with three remarkable vineyard sites & a cellar door.“For 40 years our family has united around the kitchen table. A table overflowing with good food, great wine and very passionate (or some may say robust) conversation about the future of our family business. My children are custodians of Calabria Wines today and together they will continue to thrive beyond three generations because of the determination, vision, and loyalty they have to each other.” says Bill.
Bill received a Member of the Order of Australia in the 2013 Queen's Birthday Honours List for supporting dozens of cancer charities. The AM following his name is in recognition of this honour. Bill was also honoured at the 2015 NSW Wine Awards receiving the Graham Gregory Award for his outstanding contribution to the state's wine industry,Bill is at the winery every day, even on the weekend - he says when you are passionate about what you do, it just becomes your way of life! Bill enjoys spending time with his grandkids; “They love coming to work with me at the winery and playing around in the vineyards.”Even though Bill is busy overseeing the day to day operations at the winery, he will always find time to play in his band ‘The Echoes’. “We started playing when I was 14 and have now decided to dust off our guitars to play at local events, which I really enjoy.”
Down-to-earth Chief Winemaker, Emma Norbiato, quietly does it all with grace, good nature and style.Working with Calabria Family Wines has become the perfect balance for Emma – caretaking for vineyards and winemaking entwined with looking after her growing family.A career spanning over 20 years starting in the Riverina, studying at Charles Sturt University and working in many fine wine regions around the world including Castelgiocondo in Tuscany, Penfolds and Casella.Emma has received widespread recognition for her winemaking skills, including ‘Winemaker of the Year’ in 2016 at the Australian Women in Wine Awards and a finalist for Gourmet Travellers 2019 'Winemaker of the Year', she is a respected wine judge and a Len Evans Tutorial Scholar. She is passionate about alternate varieties, the Riverina region and crafting wines with balance and texture. Emma also credits the team she works with, ‘having a talented and dedicated team is our biggest asset’. Together the winemaking team have produced over 40 trophy winning wines.
In 2019 Emma collaborated with fellow female winemakers, Sue Hodder, Rebekah Richardson and Corrina Wright, to release the world’s first wine produced by women to raise funds for women in wine. ‘Hear Me Roar’ was a multi-regional South Australian shiraz made by four of this country’s best winemakers. 100% of profits from the sales of the wine went to assist women to flourish and succeed in their chosen profession in the Australian wine industry.
Raised on a vineyard in the Riverina, Sam Mittiga experienced the vintage lifestyle from a young age. Sam would visit local wineries with his Dad to deliver grapes during the harvest season and recalls wondering “what happens to the grapes now?”.It is no surprise this curiosity led Sam into a winemaking course at university in 1993. During his studies, Sam got his first job as lab/assistant winemaker in 1995 and so began his winemaking career. Sam joined the Calabria winemaking team in 2016 and oversees our Walla Avenue site in Griffith NSW, the center of the Riverina wine region.On the Riverina, Sam says, “I love the diversity of grape varieties grown here. Even though some are trickier than others, they set me a challenge to get the most out of them. I also really love working with the Barossa Valley Shiraz and our Grenache is awesome!”Sam’s go to wine at the moment is Montepulicano. “It has good depth of flavour and length and pairs beautifully with my favourite food….Italian of course!”
Sam recalls his most memorable wine experience, opening up my first bottle of a 1971 Grange and just thinking WOW, this wine is 20 years old and still has plenty more years in it!
Born and raised in Griffith, Tony Steffania’s family has always had a passion for farming, quality wine and fresh food.“Growing up on a farm has certainly influenced my life. During vintage, I would join my family in hand picking the grapes after school and on the weekends and we were one of Calabria Wines first grape suppliers.”Tony’s burgeoning interest in wine led him to working at Calabria Family Wines as a lab assistant, which then evolved into other areas of the winery such as cellar work and then into winemaking. “Working in an initially small size winery at the time was of great benefit. It allowed me to get involved in many areas of the winery production, gaining a greater understanding from start to finish. Having strong mentors guiding me along and nurturing my interest in winemaking, made a huge difference to my knowledge and experience today.”Tony has been with the Calabria’s as their wine grew and also notes how the local industry has changed a great deal,“new varieties, winemaking styles and improvements in production have helped push the industry along. Nonetheless, I’ve always believed that good quality fruit speaks for itself, minimal intervention where possible.”Tony says he’s really enjoying the Calabria Private Bin Montepulciano at the moment, “it’s äromatic and juicy, balanced with savoury, lengthy tannins. Goes well with anything from cheese and salami to rich meaty dishes.”
Tony began working at Calabria Wines when he was just 17 and has nearly reached his 20 year milestone. “The Calabria’s have always treated me like family, so it seemed like a natural progression to continue my career as a winemaker here”.
When Jeremy was a young boy, he used to spend most weekends following his dad around at work at the old Cranswick winery, which is where his passion for wine was born.“Dad had always worked in the local wine industry as an Engineer, and I used to love following him around the winery. I think mum just needed a break from me to be honest, but I loved going either way!”Pair that with a love of Chemistry, and Jeremy, like his dad, began his own career path in the wine industry.“My first job when I left school was at a winery, as a cellar hand, whilst I undertook my studies in becoming a winemaker at Charles Sturt University, Wagga Wagga.”Jeremy has now amassed over a decade of industry experience, together with a degree in winemaking and a degree in viticulture, and has always continually strived to enhance and broaden his winemaking skills, partaking in numerous vintages overseas in New Zealand, France, Canada and Germany, as well as being actively involved on the domestic wine show judging scene.However far he has travelled though, Jeremy has always had a fond heart for home, “Griffith is, and will always, be home. For over 100 years, both the Barossa Valley and Riverina have been making wine, I think that is something to be proud of. I love the history of both of our regions.”Nero D’Avola is Jeremy’s favourite wine for any occasion. “Sipping a glass on its own or paired with some medium weighted Italian food such as oxtail sauce and spaghetti, or, artichoke pizza, how can you not love that!”
The Old Cranswick Winery site where Jeremy sparked his love of the wine industry as a child with his dad, is now part of the Calabria Wines portfolio, having purchased the winery site back in 2016.
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