Her parents, Busselton based GP, Kevin and physiotherapist, Diana Madeline were two of the pioneering winemakers of Margaret River, establishing Cullen Wines in 1971.
“We grew up on the beach. Dad would catch dhufish,” Vanya recalls. “I remember as a kid cycling around with Caroline Juniper (of Juniper Estate) chewing lollies and both thinking it was great that our parents had planted a vineyard.”
However the winery created plenty of chores for the young Cullens. “We were always working in the vineyard or in the cellar. Mum and dad were workaholics. But mum always made the work seem alright by preparing a lovely picnic and a thermos!”
It was not inevitable that Vanya would follow her parents into Cullen Wines. She studied music in Perth and Adelaide. However her father Kevin booked her in the postgraduate diploma in oenology at Roseworthy alongside her music studies, as he wanted one of their children to know about wine.
Her house is full of musical instruments. There’s a piano, a harmonium, a guitar and ukulele all of which she plays “in a fashion” she says. There was a plan to give up wine at 50 and go back and finish her music degree.
There was lots of music at her recent 60th birthday party shindig. “Like me the choices were eclectic!” she laughs. Everything from Jerry Lee Lewis and Billy Joel to Hare Krishna, Bach, Pergolesi’s Stabat Mater. Though it would seem music studies will have to wait!