At Gemtree we have been gifted the opportunity to work a unique patch of the earth in South Australia’s McLaren Vale. By respecting and nurturing this land we harvest high quality, flavourful grapes each and every vintage from vineyards farmed with care.
More than 40km south of Adelaide by the old road, McLaren Vale has attracted winemakers, vignerons and visionaries for more than 180 years. Already a major wine region in the 1880s it was a century later that Paul and Jill Buttery purchased a plot of land named Gemtree off the narrow gum-lined track that is Elliot Road.
Some 14 years after establishing the vineyards, Paul and Jill were issued a somewhat surprising request by their daughter Melissa, who had returned to South Australia after finishing a business diploma and exploring the world.
Melissa: “I want to work in the vineyards.”
Paul: “I’ll give you three weeks.”
That was 1994, and in the ensuing decades, Melissa not only worked the vineyards but became a qualified viticulturalist, a well-regarded expert in biodynamic and organic farming and married a boy called Mike Brown, who is now Gemtree’s chief winemaker and managing director.
Living in one of Australia’s most celebrated natural regions has given Melissa and Mike a mindfulness about the environment and the earth. They were growing organic fruit and vegetables in their backyard and, knowing there had to be a way to sustainably grow and farm grapes, they decided to take that philosophy into the vineyard.
Experimentation with a few select blocks of Tempranillo ensued. After much trial, error, grit, determination and some choice swear words, Melissa started to see more life in the vineyards and a better quality of fruit flavour. From this point Melissa was determined to farm all of Gemtree’s blocks organically. Gemtree earned full organic certification in 2011.
Never shying away from experimentation and the opportunity to improve Gemtree’s vineyards and wines, in 2007 Melissa delved into biodynamics, introducing techniques that interweave the health of the soil, vines and resident fauna and flora. Back at the winery, Mike was no stranger to innovation himself – testing out biodynamic winemaking practices that stand today.
Under the care of this indomitable team over more than 25 years, the Gemtree vineyards are flush with health, resulting in exceptional fruit quality and outstanding wines of elegance and purity.
Biodynamic wines grounded in earth.
From marketer to maker
When Mike Brown departed his home state in the early 1990s to earn some money in the long hard slog that is a South Australian vintage, he had no inkling he would never again call New South Wales home. Mike left the Sydney stock exchange to study wine marketing, gaining valuable insights into wineries and winemaking during this time.
But it was the smells, tastes and activity within the cellar, not the one-step-removed storytelling from the desk, that Mike really loved. The ability to take expertly grown fruit and create wines that rewarded the drinker and the maker saw him jump from wine marketing to winemaking.
After working many vintages in wineries around McLaren Vale and France, it was 1998 when Mike completed his first vintage as a winemaker at Gemtree. His long-standing partnership with the winery, and with Melissa, resonates throughout Gemtree to this day.
Melissa’s organically and biodynamically grown grapes are brought to the winery in pristine condition where Mike and his team craft them into elegant and delicious wines, a direct reflection of how and where the grapes are grown.
Mike is forever grateful he has made his home in McLaren Vale. As Gemtree’s managing director, he now has many roles – from chief winemaker to sales and marketing guru, mentor and wellbeing instructor. Mike loves what he does, and with Melissa he is building the strong foundations of a winery that will flourish through the generations.
The People Behind Gemtree
Have you ever noticed that like minds tend to congregate? In the years since Paul and Jill purchased Gemtree we have been fortunate to attract an array of likeminded people to help us nurture the very best fruit from our farm. Melissa and Mike’s respect for the land and desire to protect it for the future is well supported by a band of merry men and women whose passion and skill is at the root of everything we do and all the wines we make.
Managing Director/Chief Winemaker
Mike “The Chief” Brown is the managing director of Gemtree, where he does everything from making the wine to wearing out shoe leather during his travels from Queenstown to Quebec, sharing the stories of his McLaren Vale wines.
In the year 2000 in a small French café, Mike and Melissa decided to have a crack at making wines from the family vineyards. Mike is immensely proud of what he and Melissa have built since.
When he does take a rest, it’s often with a glass of something we’ve probably never heard of, hopefully with a game of Rugby Union (not League – never League) on the tele.
Melissa is busy. As chief viticulturist and co-owner, Melissa oversees many components of the day-to-day running of Gemtree as well as the day-to-day running of a household that includes her and Mike’s three children. That’s why she practices yoga – a lot.
Melissa is the Godmother to the sustainable farming philosophies of Gemtree. From introducing and leading the biodynamic practices in the vineyard to developing the Gemtree Ecotrail, which involved planting thousands of native trees and shrubs on the property, Melissa is a leader in her field and sought after for advice and counsel.
She loves her life at Gemtree, and you will find her at her most content when sharing her farming philosophies with visitors or just kicking around the vineyard with Luna, her loyal and constant companion.
Josh is a professional winemaker as well as an amateur fisherman, cook and organic & biodynamic gardener. He is one of those people who rightly extols the virtues of home-grown tomatoes over store bought (especially his home-grown tomatoes).
All in all, Josh is a man of taste and flavour and, as Gemtree’s general manager and winemaker, he needs to be. Josh has many tasks, including steering and overseeing our fruit’s journey into the bottle. Just don’t ask him about his tomatoes – unless you have some time to kill.
Troy is the vineyard manager at Gemtree. He and his team are responsible for planting vines, maintaining vineyards, growing and harvesting the exceptional fruit destined for Gemtree wines. Even more than that, Troy is a fixer. If anything breaks in the vineyard; a rogue sheep mistaking a dripper for a snack or a young vineyard hand using a vineyard post as an emergency brake, you can be sure Troy’s phone will be ringing soon after.
Outside of Gemtree, Troy is a keen fisherman and partial to a long and relaxed lunch. Safe to say it’s a rare occasion the table is graced with the rewards of an early start in the boat.
Winery operations manager
Tom is our winery operations manager. That basically means that he and his troop of cellar hands do the hard yards to make sure our grapes are pressed and fermented seamlessly at vintage and our wines kept in pristine condition all year round.
Tom is passionate about making wine and that means much of his work life is spent in barrel halls and around fermenters. Little wonder when he gets the chance, he will strap on the hiking boots, throw a tent in the backpack and wander about the wide-open spaces of South Australia.
Wine Club Ambassador
Have you ever met one of those people who appear to love their job so much it makes you question your own career choice? Well, that’s Millie.
Millie is our wine club ambassador. Chances are you would have come across her if you have visited our tasting room, and if you are a member of our Gemtree wine club you would have certainly had Millie personally look after you. No doubt you would have been charmed by her infectious passion for Gemtree.
But everyone needs time to relax, so on Sundays you will find Millie cruising around the wine regions of South Australia with her husband Adam in their 1962 EJ Holden.
Gary is a family man and loves nothing more than packing a few bags and taking to the road and skies for a travelling adventure with his wife and kids. For most people that sounds like a wonderful way to relax, but Gary is also our sales manager for the Chinese market and also spends much of his work life in transit and transit lounges.
We’d love to see his frequent flyer points balance – odds on he’ll use the points on gifts for his kids.
Werner is fastidious, precise and a stickler for the rules and regulations. Thank goodness one of us is. Werner has the perfect job for his attributes, he is our quality assurance officer. One of Werner’s favourite tasks is calibrating his measuring equipment (trust us – there is not much that gets past Werner).
Werner enjoys restoring old cars (just imagine how organised his tool box is!). You’ll enjoy his company, humour and wisdom while tinkering about in his garage, but take our advice: we’d be putting that 10mm socket right back where we found it.
Tasting Room Manager
We love to see visitors at our tasting room in McLaren Vale, and the one person who probably loves it most is Tam. Tam is our tasting room manager and likely to be the first cheerful face you see as you walk through our doors. She is a passionate advocate of our region, wines and sustainability philosophies and delights in sharing these stories with our visitors from all over the world.
Tam is a devoted member of our team often working weekends and odd hours for events. So, when her beloved Port Adelaide football team is playing; we don’t begrudge her sneaking out the back to check the score occasionally, and regardless of the result she will always emerge smiling!
McLaren Vale is our home.
A place where we work in our beautiful vineyards and play in the oceans and rivers of the Fleurieu Peninsula. Only 40 kilometres south of Adelaide, the capital city of South Australia, McLaren Vale is easily accessible, and we look forward to welcoming you.
McLaren Vale’s history of viticulture and winemaking is almost as old as the state of South Australia itself. The first vines were planted here in 1838, just two years after settlement. Since then the region has grown into a community of likeminded individuals who grow grapes and make wine sustainably. Sustainable Australia Winegrowing (SAW) is a local industry initiative fostering and applying sustainable practices. Grape growers who are part of SAW account for more than 70 per cent of McLaren Vale’s total grape crush. Not only is McLaren Vale home to some of the world’s oldest vines, you could also say the region is the centre of Australia’s sustainable grape growing.
Biodynamic wines grounded in earth.
Sustainability + Biodynamics
Biodynamic farming is not magic, nor is it a mystical belief that relies more upon hope than science. Biodynamics is simply a way of farming that enhances the soil and the environment around it through natural improvers rather than chemical sprays.