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Salvatore Cardillo

Estate founders, Generation 1

In 1911, Salvatore Cardillo decided it was time to leave Sicily and emigrate to Australia.  Salvatore lived in Far North Queensland and worked on the railways for three years. To convince his wife she needed to join him in Australia, he returned to Sicily in 1914, but on the boat journey home World War One broke out. It wasn’t until 1919 that Salvatore could continue his dream to live in Australia. He convinced his oldest daughter to accompany him and they bought a sugar cane farm in Moresby, south of Innisfail. Subsequently, two more daughters arrived to live in Australia, leaving their mother and two smaller siblings back in Sicily. Mrs Cardillo had motherly hopes for her only son entering the priesthood, and grave concerns that Australia was not the place for Catholic ambition.

The success of the farm in Moresby and its subsequent sale gave Salvatore the seed money to move to Stanthorpe with his daughter Josephine, where Italians had already started to farm fruit and vegetables. In 1930, Salvatore and Josephine bought the Ballandean farm, on which they grew crops of vegetables, fruit and table grapes. These grapes were made into wine for the first time in 1932.

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Alfio & Josephine Puglisi

Estate founders, Generation 2

Salvatore’s daughter Josephine was a true Australian pioneer and business woman. Arriving in Australia from Sicily at just 12 years of age, she went on to build the foundation of Ballandean Estate with her father Salvatore and husband Alfio over four decades. She stared down the Australian army demanding to put her husband and father in internment camps and surrender of farm machinery during World War 2, and instead, she negotiated a deal to supply their crops to feed the Army as an alternative. Inspirational!

Alfio Puglisi arrived in Stanthorpe in 1939 he also had come to Australia from Sicily seeking a better life in the 1920's.  He had lived in North Queensland and spent many years in the cane fields.  Alfio had been left a widower when his first wife died during childbirth.  He met Josephine while working in Stanthorpe at a regular Sunday afternoon Italian gathering and subsequently joined his new wife and his father-in-law in the family business. 

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Angelo Puglisi

Estate owner, Generation 3

Angelo Puglisi is the founder of Queensland’s wine industry and the son of hardworking and passionate Italians, Josephine and Alfio Puglisi. He has spent his entire life on Ballandean Estate, and over the past 80 years his family business has been at the forefront of developing and promoting the Queensland Wine Industry.

In his early twenties, fruit and vegetable grower Angelo Puglisi had a vision to develop a viable and sustainable commercial wine industry in the Granite Belt region, inspired to pursue this dream from a young age.

In 1968, Angelo planted a block of Shiraz vines with his new wife Mary on the Opera Block, after purchasing the farm from his parents in 1967. Angelo’s decision to convert from table grapes to wine grapes was brave and he and Mary worked hard to produce wines of quality and create a market for their Granite Belt grown wines.

Angelo has a strong sense of community and commitment to family. He has been a Rotarian since 1971 and continues to be an active member, supporting charities throughout the community.

Angelo’s awards and highlights

  • 1977 Churchill Fellowship to study Winemaking and Wine Tourism in Europe
  • 1995 Paul Harris Fellow Award for Community Service
  • 1998 Tourism Ambassador Award
  • 1999 Ambassador for the Wesley Hospital
  • 2001 Queensland Tourism Yellow Pages Business Directions Award
  • 2001 Centenary Medal
  • 2001 Qld Wine Press Club Most Significant Contribution Queensland Wine Industry
  • 2003 Queensland Great — awarded by Queensland Government
  • 2003 Bassett Award — awarded by Queensland Wine Industry Association
  • 2005–present Australia Day Ambassador
  • 2006 Dante Alighieri Society Award for the diffusion of the Italian Language and Culture
  • 2006 Inaugural Darrel Lea Award for Entrepreneurship – award by Family Business Australia
  • 2018 100 Faces of Small Business – Queensland Government
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Mary Puglisi

Estate owner, Generation 3

Mary has forged her way as a wine pioneer since her 1968 marriage at just 19 years of age to Angelo Puglisi. Together they purchased the winery and vineyard from Angelo’s parents. Visionaries from the start, the newlyweds visualised opening a cellar door and kickstarting Queensland’s wine and wine tourism industries.

While Angelo grew the grapes and made the wine, it was Mary who fostered the humble beginnings of the cellar door at Ballandean Estate when it opened in 1972. As the matriarch of Queensland’s oldest family-owned winery, it was her commitment to a seven day a week hospitality business that saw tourism and the industry grow.

“We knew that wine tourism would follow once there was wine to sell and some more cellar doors in the region. When we opened the cellar door four years after planting the Shiraz, there were only 300 wineries in Australia — now there is over 3300!”, says Mary.

Mary and her team catered lunches and dinners to thousands of people visiting the Granite Belt for over 35 years. In 1997 this catering business blossomed into The Barrelroom restaurant. In 2022, this evolved into the Barrelroom Wine Lounge, where guests now enjoy local produce platters and wine tasting.

Mary has been waving the wine banner for Queensland for five decades now and continues to give her lifetime of service to the Queensland wine industry.

Mary’s awards and highlights

  • 2002 Paul Harris Fellow Award for Community Service
  • 2015 Bassett Award — awarded by Queensland Wine Industry Association


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Leeanne Puglisi-Gangemi

Client Relations Manager, Generation 4

Leeanne has worked for Ballandean Estate Wines since 1992. Coming back to the family business was always her intention as her passion for the wine industry and the beautiful Granite Belt could not keep her away. She is married to Ballandean’s production manager Mario Gangemi.

During high school, Leeanne intended to study winemaking. However after struggling through high school chemistry, she decided that it was the business part of the winery that would be her forte — particularly managing the cellar door — as we know, she loves a chat! A true wine ambassador, Leeanne can be found:

  • On the telephone, or in the cellar door … but always talking!
  • Moving and shaking in the political arena
  • Chatting up the media
  • Acting as our local go-to person for Australian wine industry news and what’s happening in tourism on the Granite Belt and Southern Downs
  • Managing our wine clubs and in contact with customers creating the best deals
  • Taking visitors behind the scenes on a winery tour
  • Hosting guests in the Barrelroom Wine Lounge

Leeanne’s awards and highlights

  • Department of Primary Industry & Fisheries — Ambassador Since 2006
  • Australian Grape and Wine — Board member since 2018
  • Winemakers Federation of Australia — Qld Representative on The Small Winemakers Committee — 2009–now
  • 2012 Paul Harris Fellow Award for Community Service
  • Queensland Wine Industry Association — President 2009–10
  • Queensland Wine Industry Association — Vice President 2008–09
  • Australian Small Winemakers Show —Committee Member since 1988
  • Southern Downs Tourist Association — Board Member 1993–94, 2001–2003
  • Granite Belt Wine Industry Association — Member of Management Committee
  • Granite Belt Wine Industry Association — Chair Wine Committee Sub-Committee 2007–09
  • Granite Belt Wine Tourism – Board Member 2022–now
  • Transition Committee For Tourism In The Southern Downs Region — Member 2013–14
  • Stanthorpe Regional Community Bank — Board Member
  • 2019 Winner Samuel Basset Award – Awarded by Qld Wine Industry Association
  • 2019 Winner Outstanding Contribution to the Qld Wine Industry – Queensland Wine Press Club
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Robyn Puglisi-Henderson

Business Manager, Generation 4

Robyn is Ballandean Estate’s problem solver who keeps the business thriving. Her expertise in export trade, sales, HR, accounting and administration while mixing in family business make Robyn’s life in a regional winery fulfilling. She is married to Lirah Vinegar maker Ian Henderson.

Robyn has served Ballandean Estate since 1999 and worked in government and private industry before returning to the Granite Belt. Every day is different for Robyn! You could find her:

  • Taking visitors behind the scenes on a winery tour
  • Managing export, reporting, people and projects
  • Chatting up customers in the cellar door (Leeanne is not the only sister who likes a yarn!)

Robyn’s awards and highlights

  • 2016 Paul Harris Fellow Award for Community Service
  • Bachelor of Business (Computing and Accounting) University of Southern Queensland
  • Board of Directors - Australian Vinegar
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Mario Gangemi

Production Manager, Generation 4

As Production Manager, Mario maintains relationships with suppliers and customers alike. He plays a vital role in the relationship between the vineyard and winery throughout the year. With more than 25 years in the role, Mario is a mentor to our younger staff starting out in the industry.

A glazier by trade, Mario’s diverse skills means there are few problems in the business he cannot solve. This man is a quiet achiever who can build anything, has an excellent rapport with the winemaker and vineyard staff and a great palate.

Father of two and husband of Leeanne, Mario married into the family business a few decades ago.

Mario’s awards and highlights

  • 2018 Paul Harris Fellow Award for Community Service


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Steven Gangemi

Production Coordinator, Generation 5

Ballandean Estate welcomed its fifth generation into the family business in 2022 with the arrival of Steven Gangemi, grandson of Angelo and Mary Puglisi — and eldest progeny of Mario Gangemi and Leeanne Puglisi-Gangemi.

“Steven spent plenty of his youth working at the cellar door, but like all of us next-gens, he was keen to spread his wings and do something completely different!”, says Leeanne.

Steven left Ballandean to pursue an engineering career starting at UQ St Lucia, segueing into information technology and the education sector. After spending the last few years working in Yeppoon with his wife Callie the gravitational pull of the Granite Belt and family saw the high school sweethearts return home at the end of 2021.

“There was always the opportunity to work in the family business, but never any pressure,’ says Mr Gangemi.

"Housing affordability, lifestyle, friends and family saw us come home to the Granite Belt."

Steven is learning the ropes from the ground up: cellar door sales, production, crushing, labelling, and viticulture.

“What the family has achieved inspires me, as does their love, passion and the fruit produced, I’m excited to be here to help!’ says Mr Gangemi.

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Robyn Robertson

Vineyard Manager

Growing up in Ballandean on an orchard, Robyn brings decades of viticultural expertise to Ballandean Estate. She was appointed Vineyard Manger in 2019, after serving at Sirromet Estate for many years.

“I am thrilled to be at Ballandean Estate, the Puglisis have welcomed me into their family. The opportunity to learn in the presence of Queensland’s father of wine Angelo Puglisi ensures his decades of experience will be the essence of what we continue to do in the vineyard.

“Nurturing Ballandean Estate’s Strange Birds was another drawcard Fiano, Saperavi, Malbec, Durif, Nebbiolo … so many new challenges!

“Every day is different at Ballandean Estate — I could be pruning, tasting fruit, showing a vineyard tour our vines, maintaining irrigation lines or hosting students who are training in viticulture. I spend a lot of time with Angelo on the vineyards. Such a privilege to work with a master viticulturalist. It is in his blood and mine,” says Robyn.


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Boxi Zhen


We're blending a new winemaker into the family fold. Boxi Zhen arrived in Ballandean just in time for the 2023 vintage. As a flying winemaker, Boxi has followed vintages around the world, from the Napa Valley to China, South Australia and now the Granite Belt.

“What attracted me to the Granite Belt was the chance to work with the incredible fruit produced here, the high altitude and cool climate delivering intense flavours and such high acid, thanks to the slow ripening seasons and chilly nights.

“I want to bring out the best expression of the fruit and terroir, with minimal intervention and a mix of modern and traditional winemaking techniques.”

Boxi moved to Adelaide from China at the age of 24 to complete his prestigious Master of Viticulture & Oenology at the University of Adelaide. He also has a degree in Food Science, which places him in excellent stead to continue the R&D science-based approach employed by Ballandean Estate’s previous winemaker of 22 vintages, Dylan Rhymer.

Boxi’s experience at Bird in Hand Wines in the Adelaide Hills and Chateau Nine Peaks in Qingdao is a perfect alignment with our unique terroir and cool climate. He will continue our delivery of delectable, varietal, regional wines of character — and inject some fresh ideas.

“What the family has achieved inspires me, as does their love, passion and the fruit produced, I’m excited to be here to help!’ says Mr Zhen.

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