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Saturday 4 November 2023

Winemaker says farewell after 40 years

For 40 years Bill Sneddon has been one of the quiet achievers - and one of the good guys - in the wine industry.

Sneddon, a Cessnock native, has seen the Hunter Valley change beyond all recognition over those four decades.

He started working at Allandale winery in Lovedale - then a Hunter outpost - on November 4, 1983.

On November 4, 2023, that's today, Sneddon says farewell to Allandale, where he has been both chief winemaker and general manager.

He started under former owners Wally and Judy Atallah, who appointed him winemaker in 1986.

"The winery at the time was just five years old and to a large extent trying to find its feet and its place in the wine industry," he recalled in a Facebook post. "It was a fantastic opportunity to work in an industry that I had always found both interesting and hugely satisfying.

"Over that 40 years I have worked with some of the most wonderful people that I have ever met. The staff who I have shared the ups and downs with over the last 40 years, are to this day some of my closest friends."

Four decades that saw droughts, bushfires and floods.

Eight years ago Allandale was purchased by Michael Lee and Dominic Leung. Sneddon stayed on.

I saw him and his wife Sally - a talented graphic designer who has designed wine labels for many top Hunter wineries - a short while ago. He told me how he was transitioning to towards retirement, spending more of his time in the Hilltops region, where he has family ties.

"Interestingly after 40 years and having raised two children at Allandale I now find they are gravitating towards the [wine] industry," he said.

"It is certainly not an easy industry but it has been amazingly interesting and rewarding and so, in spite of my best efforts to persuade them to do other things, they have decided that wine and food are two of the most interesting ways to spend your days at work. I am especially grateful to have worked alongside them and with my wife Sally who was amazingly supportive, but also the real power behind the business.

"Her creativity, passion and commitment have been so pivotal that I honestly don’t think I could have done it without her."

Alex Woods is now the Allandale winemaker, supported by Jeremy Churchill. 

Under Sneddon's leadership Allandale has progressed from a wine production of 25 tonnes in 1978 to 350 tonnes - and maintained a reputation for reliably good wines across the board.

Sneddon - who was always a pleasure to deal with - departs with the long-mooted new cellar door at Allandale completed but not yet open.

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