The McWilliam family name stands for a long, rich history of and award winning winemaking. One of Australia's oldest family wineries, McWilliam's Wines has six generations and more than 130 years of winemaking experience.
The people behind the name have imparted their knowledge, skill and passion and their stories are as rich, and their family as unique as the wines that carry their name. The McWilliam family has delivered generations of people committed to delivering the world the very best, benchmark wines. We'd like to introduce you to those who have shaped our history and those working with us to shape our future.
Founder Samuel McWilliam was born on 15 April, 1830 at Raloo, near Larne, in County Antrim, Northern Ireland. He was the second son of a family of six boys and one girl from the marriage of Samuel McWilliam, snr. (1800-1882) and Elizabeth Crawford (1801-1872).
Samuel arrived in Melbourne, Australia, on 2 November 1857 aboard the ship “Morning Light” as was typical for more than half a million immigrants who arrived in Victoria during the main period of the gold rush. He was following the strong pioneering tradition of his uncles, in particular his older brother, Crawford, who had immigrated to America eight years before.
In 1863 he married Martha Steele (1841-1889) and moved his family to the Gippsland area in July of that year. Samuel moved to Corowa in 1875, establishing pastoral land at the northern edge of town. In 1877, he planted his first vines, establishing a wine name that would span more than 132 years and six generations.
He became a leading member of the “Corowa Vine and Fruit Growers Association” and an acquaintance of Dr. Henry John Lindeman, an earlier pioneering vigneron of the area.
Samuel's wife, Martha, died on the 18 May 1889 at the age of 48 and left nine children, the youngest being only six years old. Within two years, Samuel retired to Sydney taking his young daughters with him and leaving the Sunnyside vineyard and winery in the hands of two of his sons, John James and Thomas and his eldest daughter, Eliza Jane.
Samuel died on the 12 June 1902 in Sydney and was buried in the “Pioneer Cemetery” in Corowa with his wife.
John James (J.J.) McWilliam
Born on 17 June 1868, John James (J.J.) McWilliam was the fourth child and third son of Samuel and Martha McWilliam. He married in 1892 and over the next 20 years he and his wife, Elizabeth, had a family of four boys and four girls. Together they created a dynasty that would shape Australian wine.
Following his father's departure from Corowa in 1891, the Sunnyside vineyard was left in the hands of J.J, his brother, Thomas and his sister, Eliza Jane. They won their first wine show accolade in 1897 at the National Competition for district wines.
He moved from Corowa to Junee in 1901 and took up a Colonial Wine Licence. Around the same time he established the Mark View Winery just out of town.
“At the present time Mr J. J. McWillliam's vineyard opposite the old show grounds is showing to great advantage and presents an object lesson to all interested in the land. Everything is in fine order, the vines look healthy and strong, with indications of a record yield. On every available inch of territory the genius of Mr McWilliam may be seen; he has everything marked and planned out for the future, and when all his little plans and ideas materialise, "Mark View" will be one of the finest properties in the State.” Junee Southern Cross, 20 November 1906
In 1913, John James McWilliam and his eldest son, Jack, arrived in the Riverina district and took up two farms in August that year. He carried with him 35,000 vine cuttings from Junee in September 1913 which were planted into a nursery with the first vineyard being planted out in July 1914. The newly planted cuttings were kept alive by the carting of water until the irrigation water arrived in October of that year.
The first grapes (19 tonnes) were picked in 1916 and sent to Junee, by rail, for processing. The commissioning of the McWilliam's Hanwood winery took place in February 1917 and processed 170 tonnes in that vintage.
John James McWilliam died in 1951. He was well regarded by peers throughout his career as an astute winemaker. Indeed, his tenacity and foresight can still be celebrated today in his family's award-winning winery in the flourishing region of the Riverina.
John James McWilliam's passion for the industry has been carried by subsequent generations. His four sons formed the company structure of McWilliam's Wines with Lawrence John Roy (Jack) establishing the Hanwood winery, Douglas Lyle developing the Yenda site, Keith Stewart establishing sales and bottling in Sydney while Glen Maxwell continued to build Hanwood's operations as Production Director, alongside his sons Ross, Max and Peter.
The next generation of McWilliam family members continued the McWilliam winemaking tradition with Keith, eldest son of Jack, managing Beelbangera, Stuart, second son of Jack, managing the Hanwood vineyards; Max, Glen's second son managing Robinvale's operations; Jim, son of Douglas Lyle, managing the Yenda site and Don, second son of Keith Stewart, managing Sydney operations together with his brothers Colin, Ian and Andrew.
McWilliam's Wines Chairman
Doug McWilliam commenced full-time employment at McWilliam's Wines in 1972 as a wine chemist/winemaker. He joined McWilliam's Wines Board of Directors in 1983, the same year he was appointed McWilliam's Wines Group Production Director.
Doug McWilliam is qualified in wine production, having completed a Chemistry Degree (Honours) at the Australian National University and a Master of Science (Oenology) at the University of California, Davis Campus.
During his career, Doug McWilliam has held positions on many leading industry associations, including Director and Chairman of the Council of The Australian Wine Research Institute, Director of the Co-operative Research Centre for Viticulture, President of the Riverina Winemakers Association and a Member of the Board of the Grape and Wine Research and Development Corporation.
He currently chairs the National Wine and Grape Industry Centre's Industry Advisory Committee and is a member of the NSW Primary Industries Minister's Wine Industry Research and Development subcommittee. He retired from his role as McWilliam's Wines Group Production Director in 2005, but has continued to maintain an active role in McWilliam's Wines as a Company Director and Chairman.
His extensive contribution to the industry was recognised when Doug was awarded the 2009 Graham Gregory Trophy by the NSW Wine Industry Assocation.
A fifth generation family member, Doug was appointed McWilliam's Wines Chairman in December 2009. He has two children, Scott and Karen, with his wife Julie and together they are grandparents to granddaughter, Saffron.
Director - McWilliam's Wines
The second son of Glen and Alice McWilliam, Max grew up on the family vineyards on Farm 127 at Hanwood and commenced full time employment with McWilliam's Wines in 1959 immediately after completing secondary education at The Scots College in Sydney.
Initially employed as a trainee winemaker under the guidance of his father Glen, and winemaker Tony Herbert, Max experienced three vintages at McWilliam's Hanwood Winery before moving to Robinvale in 1962 to assist with the construction of the winery and to assume and hold the position of Manager and Winemaker there for the next 32 years. Max was appointed to the McWilliam's Board of Directors in 1970, and continues to serve the company in this capacity.
In 1994, Max assumed responsibility for managing McWilliam's Lillydale Estate at Seville in Victoria's Yarra Valley until he retired from full time employment in 2008.
He represented the wine industry on both the Victorian and New South Wales Wine Grape Price Industry Price Negotiation Committees from 1969 until 1999; was a member of the Steering Committee to establish the Victorian Wine Industry Association; a committee member of the Yarra Valley Winemakers Association (1998-2000); a past president of the Melbourne Beefsteak and Burgundy Club, and has served the community as a member of Rotary from 1963 at Robinvale until the present day at Wandin. He was the first person to be inducted into McWilliam's Wines Hall of Fame in 1999 and has been awarded a Paul Harris Award for his service to Rotary.
He continues to live in the Yarra Valley and enjoys fishing and the occasional game of golf when not caring for his small vineyard of Pinot Noir and farm property.
Director - McWilliam's Wines
Fourth generation family member, Andrew McWilliam was born in Sydney, the fifth son of Keith and Ruby McWilliam and youngest brother to Bob, Don, Colin and Ian.
Employed at McWilliam's Wines in 1974, Andrew worked at the winery's Pyrmont offices in the Maintenance Dept before moving to Tally Clerk, Dispatch Manager and then Transport Co-ordinator until 1981.
In 1981, Andrew was made the Import/Export Manager and New Product Development Manager within the Marketing Department. Throughout this time, he launched the McWilliam's Hillside 2ltre cask and McWilliam's Gallery Port and completed a Marketing course at the University of NSW.
In 1986, he was made the NSW Branch Manager responsible for the administration and sales of the winery's NSW Branch. Andrew was appointed National Sales Manager in 1989 before endeavouring outside the family winery to establish his own business in 1990.
He retired from his business in 2002 and was appointed to the McWilliam's Wines Board on 1 July 2010 as a Non-Executive Director.
Andrew has two sons, David and Mark, with his partner Margaret and has two gorgeous granddaughters, Ella and Claire.
The involvement of fifth generation family member, Greg McWilliam, in the family wine business spans more than three decades. Today, Greg sits on the McWilliam’s Wines Board of Directors and remains involved with vineyard management and grape supply in the viticultural side of the business.
Born in Griffith, Greg was educated at Scots College in Sydney before completing a general Science degree at the Australian National University in Canberra.
He worked at Yalumba in South Australia and also as a Medical Technologist in Canberra for a short time before returning to McWilliam’s as Winery Manager/Winemaker at the company’s former Yenda site in the 1980s. During this time, he expanded and developed the winery’s Sparkling wine production and became an active McWilliam’s Wines Board member.
Greg left McWilliam’s Wines in 1990 to manage the family’s sheep and cattle properties in Yass and Canberra and redeveloped a number of Griffith based rice farms. He diversified these farms into vineyards and mixed farming enterprises and is currently McWilliam’s Wines’ largest contract grape grower.
Greg has brought these diversified skills and business acumen to his role on the McWilliam’s Wines Board of Directors, since rejoining in November 2011.
He remains passionate and committed to increasing McWilliam’s Wines brand strength in the domestic market and driving its diverse product range into new export markets.
As a pilot, Greg prefers to take the scenic route when servicing the family’s diverse agricultural portfolio and when liaising with vineyard and winery managers across Australia.
In his role as Non-Executive Director on the McWilliam’s Wines Board, Jeffrey McWilliam combines a passion for wine gained from hands-on experience and being a fifth generation McWilliam family member, along with accounting and commercial acumen gained from an extensive business career.
Being part of a family business can mean you inherit some different roles. For Jeffrey’s first role with the company, as a five year-old, this meant being dressed in a kilt surrounded by a chorus of bagpipes and given the role of handing flowers to Lady Cutler, wife of Sir Roden Cutler who opened the Chullora premises in Sydney in 1977.
Other, less official roles, followed throughout Jeffrey’s school years. During school holidays, he worked under his father’s supervision packing mixed dozens, managing cash sales and working throughout the warehouse operations. He officially joined the company after leaving school and continued his ‘from the ground up’ training in the cellar, on the bottling line and throughout despatch at the Chullora distribution site.
Expanding both his knowledge and experience, Jeffrey pursued a career outside of the company and completed a Graduate Diploma (Institute of Chartered Accountant in Australia) and a Bachelor of Business (majoring in accounting with an international business sub-major).
Jeffrey has worked across both the accounting and commercial property arenas, with experience gained in strategic business planning, financial and management reporting, corporate and taxation compliance, and investment and asset management. He has also represented and partnered with most of the major institutional property owners in Australia and more recently, in an agency capacity for the Government of Singapore Investment Corporation ( the world's third largest sovereign wealth fund).
Utilising his qualifications and professional and corporate experience, Jeffrey brings these skills to the McWilliam’s Wines Board to positively contribute to the strategic direction of the company.
He also draws on and upholds the heritage, tradition and pride forged by family members and others that dedicated their entire careers and lives to the family business.
Jeffrey lives in Sydney with his wife, Penelope, and two children. Jeffrey and Penelope married against the picturesque and historic backdrop of the Mount Pleasant winery in the Hunter Valley.
A passion for the family's wine business has shaped the 36 year career of this fifth generation McWilliam family member.
Known for his gregarious personality and booming voice, Stephen McWilliam joined the family company in 1974 where he began work as a managerial trainee.
Over his time with McWilliam's Wines, Stephen has worked in various areas including bulk wine distribution, laboratory and quality control, winemaking – covering four vintages, two of which were in New Zealand – and he managed the company's production facility at Pyrmont in the 1980s.
In the early 1990s, Stephen moved into sales and marketing where he established a sales team in northern New South Wales before relocating to Perth for seven years to set up a state distribution and sales team network which today covers the whole of Western Australia.
In 2003, Stephen returned to Sydney to take on the role of NSW State Manager before assuming his current position as McWilliam's Wines National Sales Development Manager in 2004.
Stephen has three children and currently lives in the lower Blue Mountains of Sydney, NSW.
McWilliam's Wines Senior Winemaker and Family Spokesperson
Sixth generation winemaker, Scott McWilliam was born into the Australian wine industry and it wasn't long before he started at the family wine company. In 1989, Scott was hired at the age of 14 by McWilliam's Wines to clean tanks at its Griffith wineries.
Since then, Scott has completed both a Bachelor of Science degree at the Australian National University in 1998 and Post Graduate degree, in Oenology, at the University of Adelaide in 2000. He has also quickly established himself as one of Australia's brightest and most promising young winemakers.
Scott joined the McWilliam's Wines winemaking team, initially based in the Riverina, in New South Wales, in 2000. Today, Scott is the senior winemaker at the company's super-premium Mount Pleasant winery in the Hunter Valley and family company spokesperson representing the McWilliam's brand internationally.
Throughout his career with McWilliam's Wines, Scott has been involved in developing innovative new programs to improve the safety and efficiency of winery and laboratory operations as well as developing environmental sustainability plans for the Mount Pleasant site.
Scott has continually diversified his skills by completing vintages in several regions throughout Australia and the world. His vintage and winemaking experience spans such regions as: Griffith (2001, 2002, 2003, 2004), Hunter Valley (2000, 2005 to current), and Coonawarra (2004) in Australia; Bordeaux (1994) and Beaujolais (2001), in France; and Sonoma (2002), Central Valley (2003) and Napa (2005), in the United States.
Scott has judged at many reputable international wine shows including the LA County Wine Show and the San Francisco International Wine Show. He also judges annually at Mundus Vini - Germany's largest wine competition. Scott has hosted wine seminars for the Australian Wine Bureau and represented the Hunter Valley at Wine Australia tastings held in the USA.
Taking a keen interest in the Hunter Valley, Scott is involved with industry organisations and was selected to take part in the Winemaker's Federation of Australia Future Leaders program.
Scott counts the time he spent working vintages overseas as invaluable to him as a winemaker today. Scott also gained enormous experience during his time working in the Microbiology department of the prestigious Australian Wine Research Institute, in Adelaide.
Scott lives in the Hunter Valley, in Australia, with his wife, Nora and daughter Saffron. He enjoys the outdoors, fine wine and fine food, motorbike riding and sports cars, and has travelled to more than 45 wine regions throughout the world.
McWilliam's Hanwood Cellar Supervisor
An interest in the wine industry is known to be ingrained in the McWilliam name and that certainly rings true for fifth generation McWilliam family member and Hanwood Cellar Supervisor, Tim McWilliam.
Born in Griffith to Ross and Merle McWilliam, Tim started with McWilliam's Wines in 1985 as a nineteen year old, working vintages at Beelbangera and spending the off season at Yenda.
Over the years, Tim has experienced a number of roles within the McWilliam's Wines business, working as a farm hand, trainee winemaker, cellar hand and lab assistant.
Staying close to his birth place and the centre of the family's winery operations in Griffith has always been important to Tim. Along with his son, Austin McWilliam, Tim continues to enjoy living and working in Griffith today.
Karen McWilliam is a qualified businesswoman with experience spanning several countries and an interest and passion for wine borne from her family ties. A sixth generation McWilliam, Karen is the daughter of Doug McWilliam, McWilliam’s Wines Chairman, and younger sister to one of Australia’s brightest young winemakers, Scott McWilliam.
Karen has a strong association with McWilliam’s and the wine industry, having been involved in the winery for over 20 years. Karen first worked for the family business when she was just 12, helping her older brother in the cellar. She continued to indulge her interest and passion in wine with work experience at the winery and vineyards throughout her school years.
Karen assumed her current position as McWilliam’s Family Ambassador in 2004 and brings not only an astute knowledge of the wine industry to the role, but also extensive international business skills acquired from roles with multinational firms including Macquarie Bank, ABN AMRO and KPMG. In her current role, Karen travels domestically and internationally promoting McWilliam’s family history and its premium wine portfolio. In addition, Karen hosts various corporate wine appreciation and tasting events and assists with consumer wine tasting festivals throughout Australia. Since 2011 Karen has been an active family member within the Australia’s First Families of Wine (AFFW) initiative.
Karen’s experience in the wine industry has seen her invited to participate in various wine events and panels to discuss the future and trends of the Australian wine industry and she has represented both McWilliam’s Wines and the AFFW on the international scene - both at trade shows and hosting wine dinners, where she explains, demonstrates and educates on wine pairings with food. To date, Karen has successfully promoted McWilliam’s into North America (US and Canada) and Europe (UK and Ireland).
Karen, who is multilingual, speaking both German and Dutch, has completed the challenging Wine & Spirits Education Trust’s Level 3 - Advanced Certificate, as well as the Silver and Bronze level wine training through the winery’s own educational facility, the McWilliam’s Wines Academy. She also enjoys hands on experience with the family wines and has worked during harvest at the McWilliam’s Mount Pleasant Winery and Cellar Door in the Hunter Valley.
Karen is a keen traveller who has lived in Amsterdam, London and Cologne. Karen actively participates in many sports and has a fondness for combining her passion for wine with exploring the restaurant and small bar cultures.
Anne McWilliam brings an entrepreneurial spirit, a gregarious personality and a wine pedigree which spans six generations to her role as both McWilliam’s Family Ambassador and Alternate Director on the McWilliam’s Wines Board.
Anne’s grandfather was Glen McWilliam, who pioneered the Hanwood winery’s move into table wines and table wine varietals, and she is the daughter of Peter McWilliam who worked at the McWilliam’s Hanwood winery for more than four decades.
With this winemaking lineage, family life revolved around the winery, “While visiting my grandparents, we would often play hide-and-go-seek amongst the vines, go yabby fishing in the neighbouring channel and ride our go-karts around the winery carpark after hours.”
While wine very much became part of Anne’s life, after completing a Chemical Engineering degree, she embarked on a career outside of wine and accepted a role as a Sales Trader for a global investment bank. Anne also completed a Bachelor of Commerce with First Class Honours, majoring in Finance and Marketing, from the University of Sydney during this time.
With extensive experience gained and following her entrepreneurial spirit, Anne left investment banking in 2011 to launch a business of her own, Blossom Blends, a tea business which was inspired by her grandmother Alice McWilliam, her homestead "Chardonnay" and her love of tea.
Today, she utilises her skills from working as a senior finance professional with experience in financial markets and more recently in several new business start-ups in the e-commerce and social media space in her role as Alternate Director to her uncle, Max McWiliam, on the winery’s Board.
She credits her family’s heritage and the constant reminder of Samuel and John James McWilliam’s pioneering spirit for her own inspiration and involvement in continuing that legacy with McWilliam’s Wines today.
Assistant Cellar Door Manager at Hanwood Estate
Also helps out within the winery during vintage in various roles.