Cullen WInes

Cullen Wines

History

In early 1965 Kevin and Diana started considering other uses for their land and they came up with the idea of lupins. They decided to get in touch with Dr John Gladstones whom they had known for some time, who was at the time senior lecturer at the University of Western Australia and had studied lupins in his post graduate research.

More recently however, Dr Gladstones had put considerable work and research into his 1965 paper titled ‘The climate and soils of southwestern Australia in relation to vine growing’, which was closely followed by his 1966 paper titled ‘Soil and climate of the Margaret River – Busselton area; their suitability for wine grape production’, where he identified the Margaret River region as having similar characteristics to the best wine regions in the world.

At the invitation of Kevin and Diana, Dr Gladstones visited their property in Wilyabrup in the spring of 1965, when his first paper was not yet printed. According to Diana, Dr Gladstones upon seeing their land said “Oh, you’re mad growing cattle and sheep, why don’t you grow grapes?” Diana and Kevin had thought about this idea since 1956, but this was the push they needed to go ahead and were quick to spring into action. In July of 1966 Kevin rallied support for a local meeting of interested parties in Busselton, inviting Bill Jamieson from the Agricultural Department to attend and Dr John Gladstones to speak. With Kevin’s encouragement and enthusiasm, this initial meeting garnered a good deal of support, with over 100 people in attendance.

Despite Kevin’s strong work commitment to the Busselton Community, he and Diana were keen to undertake a test planting with the vine cuttings they had requested from the Swan River Research Station. In 1966, they initiated and coordinated the planting of the first vines in collaboration with friends and colleagues. Unfortunately however, whilst Kevin and Di were away, due to a misunderstanding, these fledgling vines were sprayed with a poison and subsequently pulled out of the ground without their knowledge.

In 1971 Kevin and Diana again undertook vine planting, this time on their own land in Wilyabrup, where the current vineyard still operates today. In 1995, the adjacent Mangan Vineyard was planted and farmed biodynamically by the Cullen Estate. The two estates contribute exclusively to the Cullen vintages every year.

In 2005, the iconic Diana Madeline Cabernet Merlot was elevated to the top Langton’s classification category of ‘Exceptional’ – reserved for just 11 Australian wines. The Kevin John Chardonnay 2007 was awarded the World’s Best Chardonnay at the 2010 Decanter World Wine Awards. In 2011, the Diana Madeline 2009 received awards for Jeremy Oliver’s Wine of the Year, Nick Stock’s Best Cabernet Merlot blend and Ray Jordan’s Best Cabernet Merlot. In 2014, The Diana Madeline 2012 received James Halliday’s award for Best Cabernet Blend, James Halliday Wine Companion 2015

Committed to biodynamic viticulture, Cullen Wines has evolved into an iconic winery that has always been focused on quality, integrity and sustainability at all levels of the business.

Dr Kevin John Cullen and Diana Madeline Cullen

A little known fact about the Cullen family is that their association with wine in Western Australia dates back to the 1880’s, when Kevin Cullen’s grandfather, Ephraim Mayo Clarke (1846 – 1921), purchased a small business and plot of land in Bunbury, Western Australia, where he started a store and winery.

He successfully produced the highly popular ‘Punchbowl’ wine which he sold through the family shop and as far afield as the WA Goldfields. Kevin’s mother Elvie and her nine siblings all worked at the winery. When Ephraim died, it passed into the hands of his only tee-totalling son, who left the vines unattended. They eventually went into decline and the land was sold.

Kevin Cullen grew up in Western Australia and studied medicine at the University of Western Australia, where he became the first recipient of a Doctorate of Medicine. He was an outstanding student and in 1941 was invited to Melbourne University to continue his medical studies. It was here that he met the enigmatic young Diana Adams. Diana was studying Physiotherapy and was at the top of her class and a popular student.

They were married in 1946 and moved to Tasmania where Diana’s family was well known and featured regularly in Hobart’s social pages. Soon after they were married, Kevin’s father Pat, who was living in Bunbury Western Australia and working as a doctor himself, sent word to Kevin that a doctor was desperately needed in Busselton. In 1947 Kevin moved to Busselton to become their local doctor and it wasn’t long before Diana joined him to work as a physiotherapist.

Their family quickly grew with the addition of Rick, Shel, Stewart, Digby, Ariane and finally Vanya.

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Vanya Cullen

Vanya Cullen has been winemaking at her family’s Wilyabrup estate since 1983. She was appointed to Chief Winemaker in 1989 and Managing Director in 1999. During that time she has been rigorously experimenting in the vineyard (especially with soil and trellis management) and in the winery all the while looking to give her wines greater complexity. Her palate has been honed by judging throughout Australia and overseas, and by her continuous pursuit of a thorough knowledge of the wines of the world.

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Graeme Harris

Chief Operations and Financial Officer. Graeme’s expansive career has led him on a journey from auditing to financial management to general management and back to financial management. From professional accounting firms to elite sport to integrated offshore services and now premium wine. From Melbourne to Perth to SE Asia and now Wilyabrup.

“It is has been a long and interesting journey filled with lots of learning and experiencing of new ideas and ways of approaching business. I think of myself as not so much an accountant, but someone who has gained a lot of management experience, who happens to understand accounting. Coming back to Wilyabrup is in some way closing the circle, as when I first came to WA I was involved in a business that established a vineyard across the road from Cullen’s. I might also add that Cullen’s was one of the first wineries I ever visited when coming to WA, so it is a little unreal at times to think that here I am, thirty years later working for this most unique of wineries.”

Andy Barrett-Lennard

Production Manager. After a career in hospitality sparked an interest in fine wine, Andy moved to the south west of WA in 2011 to continue his BSc in Oenology with Curtin University. He came on board in 2011 to work as part of the front of house sales team. After finishing his degree and completing several vintages in other wineries, both in Margaret River and in Denmark, he came back to join the Cullen wine making team at the end of 2016.

“It was always my goal to work with wine that reflects the land and place. Cullen wines was the icon in that regard, making some of the most honest and exciting wines in the Margaret River region. It has been an honour to come back and help to craft these wonderful wines. Cullen’s is a pretty special place.”

Brian Martin

Vineyard Manager

Alex Roy

Export and Logistics Manager

Kerry Purkiss

Bookkeeper and Administration

Charlie Chen

Head Chef. Charlie has always had a passion for food. Especially dishes prepared with fresh, local produce.
Born and raised in Taiwan, Charlie knew his love of food was a way of life very early on. Pursuing a career as a Chef, saw Charlie living and working abroad in Singapore before heading to Australia and eventually moving to the West.
Working at Star Anise in Perth - he gained valuable experience using local ingredients before the call of the beautiful Southwest became inevitable.
Charlie moved to the Margaret River region in 2011 with his wife Elissa and was later joined by two little bundles of joy – his beautiful daughters.
He began at Watershed Wines as the Sous Chef before being promoted to Head Chef- where he stayed in the position for several years until he was offered the opportunity as Head Chef at the Margaret River Hotel.
In 2020 Charlie joined the Cullen team as Sous Chef and now enjoys the honour of being our Head Chef of the Biodynamic Wine Room.
Charlie brings his love of all cultures and the joy of food to the table with a passion and a creative flair that is reflected beautifully in his dishes.

Smiley Zeng

Chef

Simon Dermody

Groundskeeper and Biodynamic Gardener

Ashley Sismey

Cellar Supervisor

Kim Seidler

Jane Beard

Digital Marketing and Events Coordinator

Solstice

THE CULLEN AWARD FOR EXCELLENCE

Honouring the Legacy of
Diana Madeline and Kevin John Cullen

In 2016 Cullen Wines commemorated their 45th year of producing wines in Wilyabrup, Margaret River, and proudly introduced the inaugural Cullen Award for Excellence.

This award honours the contribution made to Western Australian wine by Dr Kevin John Cullen and Diana Madeline Cullen, who together founded Cullen Wines in 1971. They had an unwavering belief in the potential of WA to produce world class wines and were dedicated to achieving this and helping others in the industry to do the same, by sharing their knowledge and support.

The Cullen Award for Excellence was created to recognize and reward individuals, companies or institutions from anywhere in the world, who contribute in a positive way towards promoting the Western Australian Wine Industry under the individual banners of Quality, Integrity or Sustainability.

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Wilyabrup, History & Heritage.

Cullen Wines respectfully acknowledges the Wadandi people, past and present, traditional custodians of the land on which our wines are grown.

Cullen Wines sits upon the ancient soils of Wilyabrup, the place of red ochre, the “sweet spot” of the Margaret River wine growing region.

Dr Kevin John Cullen and Diana Madeline Cullen were ready to plant lupins in 1965 when a good friend Dr John Gladstones advised against it. He’d just completed a study on wine growing and knew the Cullens had the land to make the best quality wines.

Dr Gladstones described Wilyabrup as being the sweet spot of the Margaret River region, most favourable for growing Cabernet Sauvignon. It benefits from cold winds from the south and warm winds from the north. Gladstones’ now-famous 1966 report compared our climate to that of Bordeaux, and many regard him as the founder of Margaret River’s wine region.

Kevin John Cullen called the first grape growers meeting in Busselton and initiated trials with the Minchins, Sue and Geoff Juniper and other families involved.

Cullen planted vines in 1971, and our two Wilyabrup vineyards are certified biodynamic and carbon negative.

Wilybrup is a region in its own right, with distinct flavours and climate, and in 1999 Cullen and Moss Wood held the first sub regional tasting to celebrate the history and future of the Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay grown here.