The Inaugural Cullen Award For Excellence

James Halliday AM announced as the winner for 2016

A cold and raining evening did not stop a hundred guests from gathering at Cullen Wines for the Black Tie presentation dinner on Saturday 16 July.

Vanya Cullen and the Cullen family hosted the inaugural Cullen Award For Excellence, an event dedicated to recognising outstanding effort made by an individual, group or organisation to promote or improve wine or winemaking practices in Western Australia, whether they reside in WA, Australia or internationally.

The Award is dedicated to honouring the legacy of Diana Madeline and Kevin John Cullen, who together founded Cullen Wines in 1971 and believed in the potential the fledgling area had to produce world class wines. Their warmth, generousity of spirit and love for others around them was shared with the assembled guests through remembrances from some of their closest friends on the night.

Master of Ceremonies for the evening, local Steve Castan, introduced Ms Libby Mettam MLA and Member for Vasse to open the proceedings, who was there to represent the Premier of WA. Rick Cullen spoke of the legacy of Diana and Kevin and shared with guests handwritten notes from their mother Diana. Vanya Cullen had the honour of introducing and toasting the inaugural winner, James Halliday AM to a standing ovation from the esteemed crowd.

Vanya Cullen spoke of the nature of the Cullen Award for Excellence and how it was focussed on recognising the maxims of Quality, Integrity or Sustainability, the three pillars of Cullen Wines’ philosophy. Vanya said they did not have to look very far in choosing James Halliday as the very deserving inaugural recipient. She read a letter of tribute from Dr John Gladstones (the scientist behind the original 1965 paper recommending Margaret River as an ideal wine growing region) in which he praised the work and dedication of James Halliday in supporting the quality of wine produced in Western Australia nationally and around the world.

James Halliday began his career as a lawyer, a career in which he excelled, but he also followed his love and passion for winemaking. He earned a stellar reputation as a wine judge and wine writer around the globe and published his first book at the age of 41. Many years, many books and many, many tastings later, James is known as the pre eminent authority on Australian wines and his annual publication, the James Halliday Australian Wine Companion, is considered the ‘bible’ of Australian Wines.

John Jens acknowledged James’ contribution to WA, calling him ‘the greatest friend the WA Wine Industry has’.

In accepting the Award, James spoke of the ‘perfect’ conditions Margaret River held for winemaking and his ongoing love for the region.

Guests on at the black tie evening included Suzanne Halliday, Larry Jorgensen and Redmond Sweeney of Wines of Western Australia, Pip Close CEO of the Margaret River Busselton Tourism Association, Stuart Watson President of the Margaret River Wine Industry Association, Anna Oades CEO of the South West Development Corporation, members of the Cullen family, and representatives of some of the finest wineries in Western Australia, including Moss Wood, Palandri, Woodlands Wines, Fraser Gallop Estate, Lenton Brae, Clairault, Howard Park, Laurence Wines, Lamonts, Vasse Felix and Voyager Estate and many local dignitaries.

They enjoyed a sensational meal of fresh marron, pork belly and miso, beef cap, cheese and petit fours, prepared by Michelin star trained Executive Chef Colin Anderson and his dedicated team. Matched, of course to sensational new release and vintage Kevin John and Diana Madeline Cullen Wines, and enjoyed at long tables under glistening lights. The rain and winds persisted outside, but laughter, warm remembrances and gracious tributes kept guests entertained and delighted long into the evening, signalling the success of this inaugural event.

In conjunction with Cullen Wines, The Cullen Award for Excellence was supported by the WA Wine Press Club, Margaret River Busselton Tourism Association, Wines of Western Australia and the Margaret River Wine Industry Association.

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 enquiries@cullenwines.com.au.