Vanya Cullen is a woman of superlatives. Best….most….highest achieving… if there’s an award to win, she’ll have it covered. Vanya recently collected the Halliday ‘Winemaker of the Year’ Award and won the Australian Woman in Wine ‘Winemaker of the Year’ Award 2019.
Sitting down with Vanya – I’m struck by a couple of other qualities. Her passion for family and community. At the time of interview, Vanya has just launched the 2018 Kevin John – a homage to her late father, and the 2018 Diana Madeline – to her 97 year old Mum! Both wines come from 1970s plantings at Cullen.
Vanya’s local knowledge goes back generations, so it was a pleasure to discover her favourite places and top tips.
1. Favourite Beach?
Gracetown. It’s a bay with so many facets to it. You’ve got north point and south point which are great for surfing, but there is also a gorgeous fishing jetty, and you’ve also got main beach which is swimmable. There are about three or four different beaches in the bay that you can go to which all have a different feeling and character. You can also go around a bit further and you’ve got the creek which flows in winter. Gracetown is also unique because it faces north not due west so you get the moon-set and the sunset, and you just get that nice protection from the weather.
2. Where do you take your visitors?
Generally people aren’t big wave surfers so I tend to take them for a swim at Gracetown and a walk along the ridge where you can see the wildflowers. If I don’t have visitors I try and go for a swim every day, even if it’s just in and out of the water. I’m not a lying around the beach person but I usually try and get a half hour swim or go for a beach walk. The Indian Ocean is very healing and wonderfully cleansing because there’s nothing between here and Reunion Island. It’s just such clean water that you don’t get in many places.
3. Top Three Food Experiences?
Settlers Tavern because it’s a wine and food experience. You get those freshly shucked oysters, and it’s great to support a local pub. Settlers support the rest of the community so well and they’ve got the best wine list so on a number of levels they’re great. Also Miki’s Kitchen in terms of fine dining, and Blue Manna for great seafood because I don’t eat meat.
4. Favourite Wine?
Definitely the Kevin John and Diana Madeline, and I love the wine that has got my name on it. But aside from Cullen, I love wines from Mosswood or Woodlands as well as other biodynamic wines. Windows organic wines, things like Stormflower, Rosalie, and Burnside Organic who make a really nice vermentino. And McHenry Hohnen have got a nice chardonnay.
5. Best Fun Without Spending a Cent?
Go to the beach. Go for a swim. Go for a surf.
6. Favourite Time of Year?
Autumn. You have harvest of the grapes, all the fruit – the peaches and plums and the orchards here are just full of dark berries. And the vegetable garden does so well with the tomatoes and zucchinis and I just love that because it’s sort of like the whole year’s work comes to fruition and the energy lifts right up and then everything starts going back into the earth again for winter. You also get those beautiful still Autumn days which is unusual down here and feels really special.
7. Best Place to Watch the Sunset?
I like Gracetown but if you want the full sunset you’ll need to go to a west facing beach and I’d say Gallows beach.
8. You Can’t Leave the Margaret River Region Without?
Visiting the beaches and visiting the wineries.
Vanya wanted to formally acknowledge the original custodians of the land, the Wadandi people, in this interview.