“What do you get if you put a scientist and an ex – lawyer in a room together? What you see here tonight.” – MC Steve Castan, commenting on the thrill of having long time wine industry associates Dr John Gladstones and James Halliday together at the 2017 Cullen Award for Excellence at Cullen Wines.
Saturday July 22nd saw a crowd of close to 100 guests turn out in their black tie and evening wear to celebrate this year’s Award dinner and presentation.
The highlight of the evening was the announcement of this year’s recipient, Dr John Gladstones, who humbly accepted the honour to a standing ovation from the room. Dr Gladstones is credited with being the first to recognise the potential of Margaret River as an ideal wine growing region, with similar soil and climactic conditions to Bordeaux.
On July 21st 1966 Dr Kevin Cullen organised a town meeting, inviting Bill Jamieson of the Department of Agriculture in Perth to attend, and Dr Gladstones to speak about his findings to a group of farmers and interested locals, with the idea of garnering interest in developing test plots of vines.
51 years later, almost to the day, Dr Gladstones, accompanied by daughter Helen Gladstones returned to Margaret River to be celebrated for his untiring efforts in seeing Margaret River become the world famous wine growing region it is today. In his moving speech, Dr Gladstones paid tribute to the achievements of the Margaret River wine growers; “It is one thing to have an idea, and another to bring it to fruition. If you stick to that, your future is absolutely assured, you can be confident of that.”
Guests on the evening included James Halliday, his wife Suzanne Halliday, Nola Marino MP, Libby Mettam MLA and her husband Jonathan, Hon Barry House, Redmond Sweeney President of the Wine Industry Association of WA, Larry Jorgensen CEO of the Wine Industry Association of WA, Cath Oates President of the Margaret River Wine Association, Rob Broadfield food reviewer for The West Australian, Emanueal Loucas and his wife Soola Loucas of the Wine Press Club of WA (est 1976), representatives of the Margaret River Tourism Association, local winery producers and wine lovers from WA, interstate and overseas
In a moving speech, James Halliday paid tribute to both Dr Gladstones, the region and the Cullens. “My next life is definitely in Margaret River, ” he said, adding “Diana wrote me long and lovely letters – she was a wonderful woman and much of her DNA is transferred into the amazing woman beside me,” referring to Vanya who joined him at the podium.
Vanya in turn, spoke of her parent’s desire to always help people without expectation of anything in return, and delighted the crowd by singing her father’s favourite song in her classically trained voice.
It was a night of shared memories and entertainment as guests enjoyed canapes on arrival with the ‘Sauvignon of the Year 2017’ (Tyson Stelzer) 2014 Cullen Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc Semillon, seared kingfish entree with 2015 Kevin John, and a main of Arkady lamb cooked to absolute perfection and served with the 2015 Diana Madeline. Guests then enjoyed a generous range of cheeses served alongside back vintage Dian Madelines, and selected back vintages brought along be guests from various wineries who attended on the night. It was a wine lover’s paradise.
The evening was rounded out with a delicious honeycomb mousse, another triumph from the hardworking Cullen kitchen led by Executive Chef Iain Robertson.
It was a wonderful evening celebrating the contribution made by so many dedicated people who believed in sharing their ideas and their passion for Margaret River in the early years, and remembered in the most meaningful way by sharing some of the most outstanding wines the area can now be very proud of.
The Cullen Award for Excellence is supported by Wine Industry Association of WA, Margaret River Wines Association, Margaret River Busselton Tourism Association, The WA Wine Press Club (Est 1976) and Cabin Fever Festival.