Cullen Wines

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.

(L - R) Rick Cullen, Digby Cullen, Vanya Cullen, John Jens, Seel Cullen, Tony Taylor and Rod Baxter

John Jens Honoured in 2021 Award For Excellence

We count ourselves lucky to be celebrating the Cullen Award for Excellence, and 50 years of Cullen Wines, while so many friends around the world are in lockdown. The evening was a wonderful celebration with John Jens announced as winner of the annual award.

Saturday June 5th saw a crowd of over 100 guests turn out in their black tie and evening wear at Cullen Wines to celebrate this year’s Award dinner and presentation. Vanya Cullen spoke of the gratitude she has for the people who have followed the Cullen Wines journey. Liam Bartlett did a sterling job as MC of the event.

The highlight of the evening was the announcement of this year’s recipient, John Jens, who accepted the honour to a standing ovation and gave an entertaining and theatrical speech. His brothers Damian, Neil and Paul Jens congratulated John via video link up, as their travel plans from Melbourne were dashed due to Covid-19 travel restrictions.

John Henry Jens has long nurtured a love of fine wine; he had collected 180 bottles of Penfolds Grange by the tender age of 24, along with 60 dozen other premium reds. Born in Victoria, John attended Xavier College Melbourne, studied Commerce Arts at Santa Clara University California and later attended Roseworthy College, then Australia’s only wine educational institute. He moved to Perth in 1977 and started his first wine wholesale operation in 1981 to represent the area’s most prominent names including Ashbrook Estate, Pierro, Moss Wood and Cullen, as well as the east’s Peter Lehmann, Yellowglen and Petaluma.

John set up and managed liquor stores under the John Jens Fine Wine banner, and in 1990 was a founding partner in Devil’s Lair Wines. Since 2007 John has worked during the day in wine importing and retailing and at night as a sommelier for his wife Kate Lamont in the Lamonts restaurants and retail outlets. John is a regular wine industry speaker and for 25 years was the wine writer for the Western Suburbs Weekly.

Simone Furlong delivered the award speech on behalf of previous winners, Leeuwin Estate’s Horgan family. She acknowledged John Jens’ steadfast commitment to Margaret River wine and praised the warmth and charisma that make him such an engaging spokesperson.

Wine writer Erin Larkin spoke of John’s great enthusiasm in a personal speech, detailing his generosity and mentorship as they work together promoting Western Australian wines.

Guests on the evening included Libby Mettam MLA, Hon. Nola Marino MP, Greg Wall chair of Margaret River Wine Industry Association, Amanda Whiteland CEO Margaret River Wine Industry Association, Steve Harrison CEO Margaret River Augusta Busselton Tourism Association, Emmanuel Loucas president of WA Wine Press Club, John’s sons Andrew and Jack and their partners, Cullen Wines chair Rod Baxter, and Independent board member Tony Taylor, Cullen family members Shel, Rick and Digby, wine industry colleagues and friends.

It was a night of shared memories and entertainment as guests enjoyed canapes on arrival with the new 2018 Grace Madeline and music by local chanteuse Cassandra Charlick. Winter vegetables grown onsite starred in the entrée ‘Garden on a Plate’ which was served with 2013 Cullen Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc Semillon, poured from magnums. Abrolhos Island scallops seared to absolute perfection with pumpkin, daikon and bush lime complemented the 2019 Kevin John, and a main of Arkady lamb shoulder was served with the 2019 Diana Madeline. Guests then enjoyed a generous range of cheeses served alongside magnums of 2015 Diana Madeline. It was a wine lover’s delight. The evening was rounded out with chocolate truffles and a sublime honeycomb mousse, another triumph from the hardworking Cullen kitchen led by Executive Chef Antoine Deunff.

In the days following the awards, journalists attended a three-day tasting of over 150 wines dating back to 1977 to commemorate Cullen Wines’ 50th anniversary. Vanya Cullen presented eight brackets of wines, showcasing the very best of the biodynamic, carbon positive vineyards. She spoke of the 50 years of sustainable wine growing preceded by 65,000 years of Wadandi sustainable land care, and the biodynamic experiments in the Legacy wines which flow on to improve the Diana Madeline and Kevin John.

It has been an extraordinary weekend of celebrations, not only acknowledging the wonderful work of John Jens, but the gratitude felt for everyone involved in Cullen’s journey.

(L – R) Shelley Cullen, Justin Horgan, Elizabeth Cullen, Rick Cullen, Tricia and Denis Horgan, Digby Cullen, Vanya Cullen and Simone Furlong (nee Horgan).

2019 Cullen Award For Excellence

The 3rd Cullen Award for Excellence was held on Saturday June 1st 2019 and attended by over 100 local, interstate and intrastate guests. MC Steven Castan introduced speakers Minister Libby Mettam MLA, John Jens and Rick Cullen, who paid homage to the Cullen Wines founders Dr Kevin and Diana Cullen. The highlight of the evening was when Vanya Cullen announced the winners of the 2019 Cullen Award for Excellence were the Horgan Family of Leeuwin Estate.

Tricia and Denis Horgan founded Leeuwin Estate in 1973 and their son and daughter Justin and Simone are now joint CEO’s of the winery. The award recognises the role the Horgan family play in promoting the excellence of Western Australian wine on the local, national and international wine scene, both through the outstanding excellence of their wine and also through the annual Leeuwin Estate concert series that brings thousands of tourists to Margaret River. Famously, the very first vintage of their Art Series Chardonnay was recommended as Best Chardonnay in the World by Decanter in 1982 and it sits in Langton’s classification of ‘exceptional’.

Libby Mettam, Dr John Gladstones, Vanya Cullen and James Halliday

Margaret River wine region pioneer Dr John Gladstones accepts the 2017 Cullen Award For Excellence

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, representatives of the Margaret River Tourism Association, local winery producers and wine lovers from WA, interstate and overseas

James Halliday AM and Vanya Cullen

Inaugural 2016 Cullen Award For Excellence

Legendary Wine Writer and Critic James Halliday AM announced as the Inaugural Winner for 2016

At a glittering black tie gala evening in July, a hundred esteemed guests enjoyed a wonderful three course meal and fine Cullen Wines whilst they reminisced and celebrated the contribution made to WA wines by Kevin and Diana Cullen. Ms Libby Mettam MLA and Member for Vasse opened the proceedings, and Vanya Cullen had the honour of announcing James Halliday as the inaugural winner, who received a standing ovation for his tireless work in promoting the wines of Western Australia.

The Cullen Award for Excellence will be an annual award, culminating in a formal gala dinner to name the recipient. Any enquiries can be directed to