Kirk takes the crown

In a huge coup for the Yass Valley cool climate wine region, Tim Kirk has taken out the prestigious 2013 Australian Winemaker of the Year accolade.

Mr Kirk was a finalist in 2003 and 2007 and at a special dinner on Tuesday night, he made it third time lucky by beating seven other nominees.

The renowned Clonakilla winery was founded by Tim’s father John and the first vines were planted 42 years ago. He said his father was a big inspiration and is over the moon about the award.

“I know Dad’s very proud, it’s really a big confirmation and recognition of the brave decision he made to put a winery in a location where everyone else said would be too cold and would never work.”

But Mr Kirk said what was most pleasing was the general recognition of the Yass Valley as a premium location for wine making.

“I think it really confirms that wines of the Yass Valley are among the best in the country and that people are now acknowledging and appreciating that.

“I’ve been saying how much of a jewel Murrumbateman is for growing grapes but for others to recognise it as well, it’s great to get that reinforcement.”

Finalists are decided by tasters representing the Gourmet Wine Traveller Magazine, who migrate around the country trying thousands of wines from different vineyards. Eventually they chose eight favourites.

On Tuesday, Victoria, South Australia, Western Australia and News South Wales were each represented by two winemakers. But Mr Kirk’s signature shiraz viognier is believed to have got him over the line.

Highly-respected wine reviewer James Halliday gave Clonakilla's 2012 shiraz-viognier blend 97 points, the highest score in the country for a shiraz viognier, in his 2014 'Wine Companion'.

Mr Kirk said that he was happy to come out on top in the winemaker awards but added that the wine industry isn’t the sort brimming with competitiveness.

“The hallmark of the Australian wine industry is how friendly and cooperative it is so while it’s great to come out on top… I think most winemakers just want to work together and share knowledge in an effort to take Australian wine to the next level.”

He was accompanied by his wife, Lara, to the dinner but said his children like to keep up with everything that is going on as well.

“The kids are very engaged, they were texting me all night asking for updates and they are always asking about the winery. They are very involved.”

Mr Kirk said improving and developing his range of wines is now the challenge.

“We have always been restless in the pursuit of quality at the vineyard and there is always room for improvement.

“We will continue to try and get better and get everything we can out of the beautiful land we have at Murrumbateman.

"It's just great to put the Yass Valley on the map as a great place to make wine."

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