Our Team

Who We Are

Established in 1970, Montara is captivating with its panorama of plains, mountains, vines, and old-world charm of the Ararat gold rush days. Situated 200 kilometres west of Melbourne in the Grampians region, it is a feast for the eyes and the spirit.

Simon Fennell, Winemaker

Simon joined the Montara team after almost 20 years in the wine and brewing industries.

Being born and bred in the Penola/Coonawarra region, wine was the inevitable vocation of choice. After completing studies in Horticulture, he cut his teeth in the vineyards and cellars of Coonawarra.

After four years with the Southcorp Wine Company, Simon went on to manage and establish a 100 acre vineyard in Wrattonbully for Glenhurst Wines. Following this position, he studied further in the area of brewing science before spending four years brewing and consulting in the emerging craft beer scene. The wine bug bit once more in 2009, and Simon returned to Coonawarra to take up a laboratory role with Penley Estate, working for one of Coonawarra’s finest producers.

Simon became a Victorian in 2012, crossing the border to take on an Assistant Winemaker role at the iconic Best’s Wines, Great Western. He worked alongside the Thomson family and Senior Winemaker Justin Purser in creating multiple trophy and award winning wines from the Grampians region.

In May 2016, Simon was appointed Winemaker at Montara. “I’ve always liked the Montara site,” he said. “With mature vineyards over 40 years of age, a wonderful aspect, and an amazing lineage of winemaking excellence in the Grampians region, I am excited about contributing to the ongoing evolution and development of the Montara Wines brand.”

In his spare time, Simon enjoys playing the piano in local soul/funk band Orange Whip and barracking for the mighty Geelong Cats.

Favourite Montara Wine: 2019 Home Block Single Vineyard Pinot Noir

Billie Stapleton, Managing Director

Billie studied a Bachelor of Business at RMIT, Arts at Victoria University and a Diploma of Dance & Singing teaching. Her successful career on stage in dance, musical theatre, singing and recording caused her to defer from these courses and start her own performing arts school, The Stapleton Dance Academy, at the age of 21. During this time, she also co-founded her own jazz quartet with Aria award winner Andrea Keller. Career highlights include Australian Original cast of 42nd Street, a regular solo singer on the Good Morning Australia Bert Newton Show, touring with Deep Purple, and Rove Live with MOBY.

After having her two children, Billie turned from music and the arts to the wine industry, starting with a wine rep apprenticeship at Montara under the former national sales manager from Scotchman’s Hill. In 2008, she began concentrating on international trade, spending several weeks a year in China, and eventually established a Montara Wines office in Shanghai. Billie became Export Manager in 2013, generating new business in Hong Kong, China, Indonesia, and the USA, and then took over the reigns as General Manager in 2016. Holding this position until 2019 when Billie appointed Nick Whitwell as General Manager and took on the Managing Directors role heading up Special Projects, such as the Billie & Co brand launched in 2020.

She believes that Montara is all of life’s pleasures in a bottle, and after many years in the music industry is focused on bringing the most amazing “harmonised” wine experience to her team and customers, not only in the service and the product, but most importantly the relationship.

 

Favourite Montara Wine: Montara Grampians Pinot Noir

Nick Whitwell, General Manager

Joining the Montara team in 2016 in the role of National Sales and Operations Manager, Nick had an immediate and positive impact on all aspects of the business. Appointed General Manager of Montara in 2020, he has since been tasked with stewarding the organisation through a time of significant change in both the domestic and international markets. Deeply entrenched in all aspects of Domestic Sales, Export and Production, Nick brings a unique well rounded and experienced capability to this role.

Nick draws from his more than 34 years of experience in the Wine Industry, having worked within several wine regions across Australia, and gaining further professional development representing brands throughout the Asia basin, Italy, and France. Working with icon wines and industry professionals to form a deep passion and understanding of wine from vine to glass.
With an early introduction to wines at Roseworthy from his home state of South Australia, Nick graduated from Oenology at Adelaide University in 1990. His apprenticeship commenced in winemaking in McLaren Vale in South Australia setting him on his path within the industry. After a short stint in wine wholesale, Nick moved to Melbourne taking up a role at private club University House, Melbourne University, before honing his retail skills with national supermarket group Dan Murphy’s. This became a springboard into a career back in wine wholesale, representing domestic and international brands throughout the east coast of Australia.

It is due to this long-standing history in production, sales, wholesale, and operations that Nick is such a valued asset to the Montara Brand and Team.

Completing his Master of Business in 2012, Nick remains focused on personal and organisational growth. Currently working alongside winemaker Simon Fennell in developing the Sustainability Strategic Plan to secure future winemaking for Montara in the Grampians region.

Favourite Montara Wine: Montara Cabernet Sauvignon

FENGHUI YANG (IRIS), CUSTOMER RELATIONS

Our Customer Service team play an important role supporting both our sales team and our clients. Working closely with our Managing Director Billie Stapleton and General Manager Nick Whitwell, Iris Yang brings a highly skilled energy to the role of Customer Relations.

Joining Montara in 2022, Iris is from Central China, Hubei Province. After finishing her Bachelor Food Science and Engineering, Iris came to Melbourne in 2018 to complete a Master’s degree in Agricultural Sciences, with a focus on wine production, graduating from The University of Melbourne in 2020

For the past two years, Iris has worked as a Customer Service Manager in international trade, gaining extensive experience in import and export trade. Gathering experience across all parts of the supply chain management. Iris brings with her recent workplace experience with a wide range of agricultural products from wine and canola oil to fruit. With an attentive, outcome driven attitude, Iris works to assist clients to navigate the complexity of international trade.

A great communicator, Iris speaks native Mandarin and is fluent in English. Comfortable online and face-to-face with customers, Iris has a genuine enthusiasm for wine, matched by a natural gentle and patient character, bringing a unique advantage to the fast-paced role of Montara customer service.  It’s a joy to see her five-star service energy, bringing a fresh style to the Montara brand-team. Whether translating, supporting the sales team, hosting international clients or brainstorming over great lunch places to eat, Iris has quickly become a natural reflection of the close Montara family culture.

 

Favourite Montara Wine: Montara Reserve Pinot Noir