Bill Calabria celebrates the Big 7-0
Drinks Trade editor Hannah Sparks reports
Only the grandest of birthdays would be appropriate for one of Australia's leading family winemakers, Bill Calabria, which is exactly what happened on Friday night.
A humble man by nature, others might think that Calabria would have preferred a quieter celebration, but when it came to the big 7-0, family and friends weren't going to let the milestone birthday go amiss.
Around 300 family members, friends, wine trade and media were at Doltone House in Sydney to celebrate.
Calabria was joined by wife Lena, his three sons and daughter, grandchildren, customers, colleagues and friends including boxer Jeff Fenech, Channel Nine's Cameron Williams, journalist John Mangos and auctioneer Vic Larusso.
The event was hosted by Calabria's longtime friend and Nine Network Entertainment Editor, Richard Wilkins, while musicians Nathaniel and The Black Sorrows had everyone up on the dance floor.
There was even a special performance by the main man himself (above) with local band ‘The Echoes".
The cake was, of course, a large bottle of Three Bridges Durif. Three Bridges is Calabria Family Wines' super premium range and marks the exceptional work Calabria has done to prove that the Riverina in NSW is a region that can afford such high-quality wines, particularly reds.
Calabria is the second generation of the family, taking over the reigns of the wine business from his parents Francesco and Elizabeth. Things haven't always been easy for the migrant Italian family, with Calabria the youngest sibling of nine, or the business, which was forced to stop producing wine in the 1980s when the industry crashed. Nevertheless, his generosity to the industry and others, contributing regularly to charities, has never wavered and recognition of this was given during his appointment to the Order of Australia.
Calabria noted during his speech: "I am nothing without the people that have supported me. I'd like the thank all the people that have supported the business. Without you, we wouldn't have the business and we know that it can be a tough industry to be in."
Reminding those in the room of something his mother would often say, that "we may not have much, but we always have enough to help someone else", Calabria ensured that all of the proceeds from the auction held during the evening went to the Charlie Teo Foundation and Sydney Children's Hospital Foundation.
Today, all four of Calabria's children, Andrew, Michael, Frank and Elizabeth are involved in the business and it was Andrew, Sales and Marketing Manager, who echoed a statement we think many in the industry would agree with during his speech: "They're very big shoes to fill Dad, and between us kids, we're never going to fill them. On behalf of us kids, we couldn't be more fortunate or prouder of you."
He added: “Dad is a vintage baby, born in March, the middle of the grape harvest and rarely had the opportunity celebrate his birthday in way you deserved due to the long vintage hours.
"All of Dad’s life achievements have been milestones, the boxing, the music, the winemaking accolades, charity donations, awards which include receiving the Order of Australia and the prestigious NSW Graham Gregory award but I think reaching 70 is a milestone worth celebrating in itself here tonight, in a room filled with family, friends, colleagues, customers and as Dad is not a materialistic individual, it made sense to use his birthday celebration to raise money for two important charities.”