Tuesday, February 5, 2013

My friend Bill Dhillon

On the morning of January 26th this year, Australia Day, my friend Bill Dhillon passed away. At his side were his son Michael and his wife Wendy, and his daughter Jenny. As far as I am aware Bill passed away fully knowing that his time was up, and knowing Bill there would not have been any fuss or fanfare; the man I knew would not complain nor bemoan the situation he was placed in.

I met Bill the first day I worked up at Bindi in February 2005. It was actually February 21st, a Monday; up until recently I have kept a short journal on every day I have worked in a vineyard/cellar going back to Champagne in 1997. My arrival to the vineyard was about 15 minutes late, which meant Michael and Kelvin were up the top of Block K. After parking my car I ventured to the winery where I first met Bill. An imposing man, Bill stood quite a few inches north of six feet tall, and for anyone who knows me they will know that I stand quite a few inches south of six feet, so yes, imposing. After introductions were made Bill and I walked up to the top of Block K, which effectively is the top of the property. In that 5 minute walk Bill pretty much explained why Chardonnay and Pinot Noir were the only varieties planted in the six hectares at Bindi; integrity to variety, in so much as treat the grape right and it will treat you right. He said this with a smile and a short giggle as we approached Michael and Kelvin. I will always remember that.

Over the past eight years I have been travelling up the Calder Highway on a sort of regular and irregular basis. Be it vintage or general vineyard and cellar work to bottling and pruning, Bill was a regular presence. And it was bottling that I think Bill really enjoyed, for it was a time where friends and family of Bindi would gather to share duties around the bottling line. Over the years the bottling line has changed quite a lot. These days there is an efficient factory line energy where few surprises occur along the way. In past it has been a little skew-if, so much so I had to measure the ullage of the bottled wine with callipers to make sure there was enough wine in the bottles. And the one constant through all of this was Bill Dhillons smile and gentle laugh. He put everyone at ease. And with every bottling run we would sit down at the end and feast on a late lunch or early dinner prepared by Wendy.

And with every meal Bill and Michael were always generous with wine with a selection of just bottled and back vintage wines. So with every glass toped up, Bill would always sing the praise of the wine and pass comment on what he thought and then would ask others what they thought; it seemed every new glass was the best Bill had ever seen - there was never an ill word or excuse from Bill about Bindi, or for any other wine we would share at these meals. This was not Bills style.

 One of the last times I saw Bill was mid December last year. Paul and I had been working in Block 1, and with the aid of my weather app it was decided that we head up to the winery - fast. We had just made it to the winery when the heavens opened. And boy did they open. In just under 15 minutes the rain gauge received 17mm; thats a lot. It was a warm day to start with so after the rain had stopped Paul and I ventured back down to Block 1. On the way we passed Bill on his veranda where we stopped for a chat. As always we were greeted with a smile. As we looked to the north we noticed that above the tree lines were thick billows of steam. I remarked on this, and instead of saying this was normal and he had seen this before, Bill smiled and chuckled and commented that he had never seen that before. What a sight was what he said.
It was almost fitting that Bill passed on January 26th. Bill was a very proud man and you got the impression also that he was a very proud man of his heritage. January 26th is not only Australia Day but also when the Republic of India was officially proclaimed in 1950. Often you would see the Indian flag fly above the winery at Bindi. You would also see many other flags fly above the winery. Everyone was welcome in Bills eyes.

 Farewell Bill and rest in peace. You will be missed and I am sorry that I have lost a friend.


  1. A real gentleman, a good hockey player...we will all miss him

  2. And squash player I believe too. It will certainly be a different mood at the next bottling in March of the 2012 Compositions and Pyrette