To say Co-owner and Viticulturist of Adelaide’s Gemtree Wines Melissa Brown knows wine would be an understatement.

As a third generation grapegrower, Melissa has worked in the family business for 24 years, her role evolving and changing during that time to keep her engaged and challenged. She joined the family vineyard management business in 1994, and in 1998, together with her brother and future husband at the time, established the Gemtree wine brand which is this year celebrating its 20th year in business. In 2007 Melissa embarked upon converting the 123 hectares of family owned vineyards from conventional practice to biodynamic, meaning the wine is organic with grapes grown in better soil in a more biodiverse environment, which was made official in 2011 when the vineyard became certified.

Over the years Melissa has been involved in managing vineyards for other growers, managing the family vineyards, leading the vineyard team, running a contract harvesting business, project managing the establishment of the Gemtree Ecotrail, project managing the construction of the Gemtree Sustainable Cellar Door and more recently setting up the Biodynamic Hut Demonstration area to facilitate tours to teach visitors to the cellar door more about the biodynamic process. “One of my proudest achievements is the establishment of the Gemtree Ecotrail, a 10 hectare parcel of land that was degraded that we have restored to pre-European settlement status by planting over 50,000 native trees and shrubs on it,” said Melissa. “We did this under the guidance of Greening Australia who we had a joint venture partnership with and I was also on the Board of Greening Australia for a number of years.”

The Gemtree Ecotrail is in the midst of the Gemtree Vineyards and is an important corridor and haven for native animals. There is a one kilometre walking trail throughout the site with 10 information points along the way to educate visitors about the environment. There is also a public barbecue and picnic shelters and in April this year two emus found a new home on the Ecotrail. The site is open to the public at all times. “We have a huge amount of biodiversity on our vineyards which is an important component of the biodynamic philosophy. The ecological balance that we have contributes to healthy soils, resilient vines and very few pest and disease problems.”

Gemtree Wines has recently been selected to join an elite group of Australian wineries known as Ultimate Winery Experiences Australia. This will bring more visitors to Gemtree to experience all that the winery has to offer. “I love living on the Fleurieu and feel truly blessed to live where I live. Doing what I do gives me a sense of satisfaction that I am contributing something to the community and leaving a legacy for future generations to enjoy.”

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