Family Winemakers: Samuel McWilliam; John James (J.J.) McWilliam.

Samuel McWilliam

Samuel McWilliam was born on the 15th of April in 1830 at Raloo, in Northern Ireland. He arrived in Melbourne in 1857 aboard the ship “Morning Light”, along with thousands of other immigrants arriving in Victoria in search of riches during the gold rush. In 1863 he married Martha Steele and they moved to the Gippsland area, where he set up a pastoral venture. In 1877, he purchased land at the northern edge of Corowa and planted his first vines on the property. By the time he retired in 1891, he had built the foundation of a winery that would span over 135 years, passing through generations of his family. When his wife passed away, he left the ‘Sunnyside Vineyard’ in the hands of his two sons, John James (J.J.) and Thomas, as well as his eldest daughter Eliza Jane.

…J.J. McWilliam had pioneered the Griffith region as a premium winemaking region and set the foundation of the winery on which four subsequent generations of his family would build.

Following his father’s retirement, J.J. and his siblings set about turning the Sunnyside Vineyard into a thriving operation. By 1897 they had won their first wine accolade, at the National Competition for District Wines. Around the year 1895 J.J. moved to Junee and took up a Colonial Wine License, establishing the “Mark View” Vineyard.

In 1913, J.J. and his eldest son Jack arrived in the Griffith district, carrying 50,000 vine cuttings. They kept the vines in a nursery and had to cart water to the area until irrigation arrived a few months later. By August they had taken up two farms and the cuttings were transferred to the properties. The first grapes were picked in 1916 and sent to Junee by rail, for processing at the Mark View winery. The McWilliam’s Hanwood Estate winery was commissioned in February 1917 and processed 170 tonnes in their first vintage. By the time of his death in 1951, J.J. McWilliam had pioneered the Griffith region as a premium winemaking region and set the foundation of the winery on which four subsequent generations of his family would build.

For further information about the McWilliam’s early family history visit http://mcwilliamfamilyhistory.weebly.com/