From The Ground Up
There's a lot more happening underground at Cullen Winery than you might know!
Step into the vineyard at Cullen Wines and it is immediately clear that things are different here. The bees are buzzing, the sun is shining, the soil is humming. Wait. The soil is humming? Well, you can almost hear it; it’s full of life and brimming with health. Which means one thing. Healthy soil equals healthy vines which lead to…you guessed it…some superb award winning wines. You could almost call it ‘wine growing’ as opposed to ‘wine making’ shares Vanya Cullen, Chief Winemaker and Managing Director of Cullen Wines.
With a deep respect for the land, it is this connection that is reflected in every bottle of Cullen wine. The wineries philosophy of “quality, integrity and sustainability” provides the perfect launch pad with which to explore things further.
Cassandra Charlick steps onto the soil and finds out all that is under the surface at Cullen.
“Everything that we do comes down to quality.”
Without question, the first word that springs to mind is quality when it comes to Cullen Estate. There is no shortage of evidence, as seen by the long list of accolades awarded to their flagship wines. The vineyard was planted for Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay, with all grapes hand harvested according to the cycles of the moon and wines are developed with minimum intervention. The awards abound: most recently the Diana Madeline was the only Margaret River red to be listed in the Langton’s Classification highest tier, the ‘Exceptional’ bracket. Cullen’s iconic Kevin John Chardonnay regularly tops wine listings as one of Australia’s best; the next vintage is planned for release in November so be sure to keep an eye out!
It’s not only the wines that are have garnered well deserved fame. The restaurant at Cullen, currently under the helm of Head Chef Iain Robertson, has been popping up in ‘must-try’ diners lists for all the right reasons. The 2019 Gourmet Traveller magazine restaurant guide, revered by food lovers, highlighted Cullen as one of the top 10 regional restaurants in Western Australia. The restaurant has been awarded two chef hats in the national Good Food Guide, whilst the 2018 Western Australian Good Food Guide listed the restaurant as the 25th best in the state urging readers to “Put Cullen on your culinary map when down south.”
A stroll through the gardens at Cullen and it is easy to see that the quality of wine and food starts from the earliest of beginnings. Under the expert eyes (and green thumbs) of Vineyard Manager Matt Dermody, and Gardener Jamie Orkin the estate is flourishing. Fully certified Organic and Biodynamic, the well-being of the land directly feeds through to the quality of the produce in the kitchen and the consistent excellence of the wine in bottle.
“Integrity is doing the right thing, even when no-one is watching” – C.S. Lewis
From the moment the estate was planted, the Cullen’s have operated with minimal chemical intervention and the aim to nourish and protect the land. Well before ‘organic’ was a household term, the estate practices have been quietly nurturing the land. “It is such ancient land; the biodynamics and the sustainability of it is what everything is about. Before there were chemicals on this planet there was soft land. The land was alive and connecting at lots of different levels – the biodynamics created that. That aliveness comes through in our wines; they are very pure, alive and connected” says Vanya, who also acknowledges the Wadandi people, the traditional custodians of the land.
“When you have lunch or a tasting here, you know you truly connecting to this place through the wines. Coming here, you have that individual experience which is about the heart of the land. It’s an individuality that you don’t get anywhere else. To have our single vineyard wines in situ; you can’t really have a greater connection to a place. It’s not something you can ever experience with wineries that create their wines from cross regional blends. You wouldn’t get a purer expression in the glass.”
When it comes to tasting the wine, there is no substitution for sipping and swirling in front of the vines that have gone into the glass. “The vineyard has come into the winery with a very loud voice, so we are really just custodians of the grapes. They come in to make themselves into wine with a bit of guidance.” A bit of guidance, that is, from Andy Barret-Leonard, the Winemaker at Cullen that helps shape the grapes into Cullen’s elegant wines.
Thanks to the Enomatic serving system, you have the chance to sample back vintages when exploring the range of wines at the cellar door with the guidance of Cellar Door Manager Nicolas Cleradin. Choose from a seated tasting, take a behind the scenes wine tour or take the time for the food and wine experience – a true immersion in the integrity of Cullen estate. Restaurant Manager Miriam Crawford will ensure that your day will be one to remember in the restaurant. Vanya adds, “it’s really the golden experience here at Cullen. Our kitchen team work hand in hand with our sommeliers to match the most exquisite of dishes with the perfect wine pairings. Both museum and current releases are matched – you won’t have anything like this outside of the vineyard.”
Vanya has had no shortage of people asking her to nominate for the Woman Winemaker of the Year Award. Yet, the reply is always the same: “When there is an award for sustainability I will. There isn’t.” Sustainability is central to the entire operation of the estate. “It should be at the forefront of everything, not just environmental awards. I’ve won winemaker of the year, and it needs to have sustainability in that concept.”
With both the winery and the vineyard certified organic, biodynamic and carbon neutral, the cause is taken seriously and is unique in the wine world. The first Australian winery to participate in the Carbon Neutral program, recycling is also a priority in minimising the impact on the global environment. “It really is quite remarkable – you won’t find any wineries that compare in practicing sustainability and respect for the land like this in Australia.”
Cullen Estate is open 7 days a week for tastings and wine sales.
The Restaurant is open for lunch Friday to Tuesday.
Bookings: 9755 5656