Part II – Risky business 

When it comes to history, Margaret River pales in comparison to other wine regions in Australia. But what it lacks in age it makes up in originality. And it’s all thanks to a handful of risk takers who became the pioneers of a young, dynamic wine region that’s since withstood the test of time.

Dr Tom Cullity
Renowned for planting Margaret River’s first commercial vineyard, Dr Tom Cullity was first a respected cardiologist. While in Britain, he discovered European wines, and upon returning home, set himself a mission to make fine wines in WA. Establishing an 8-acre vineyard in Cowaramup called Vasse Felix, he went on to plant the vineyard’s first vines – Cabernet Sauvignon and Malbec plantings – which still grow at the site today.

Dr Kevin Cullen & Diana Cullen
Western Australia’s first recipient of a Doctorate of Medicine, Dr Kevin Cullen, moved to Busselton in 1947 to run his own practice. During this time, Dr Cullen and his wife Diana purchased land in Wilyabrup, where they tried their hand at farming. In 1971, they made the decision to plant vines on their land. Diana started producing wine, and it wasn’t long before she was turning heads with her award-winning drops.

Dr Bill Pannell
While doing his residency at Royal Perth Hospital and King Edward Maternity Hospital, Dr Bill Pannell found a site on Metricup Road for Moss Wood – one of the region’s founding wineries. After finishing his residency, Bill and wife Sandra moved to Busselton in 1970.  Their 1975 Moss Wood Cabernet Sauvignon, from six-year-old vines adn the winery’s third vintage, was unquestionably the outstanding wine of the region’s first decade.

Denis & Trish Horgan
Denis and Trish Horgan bought a plumbing business in 1969, and with it, a Margaret River grazing property. In 1973, US-based wine world legend, Robert Mondavi, expressed interest in purchasing the property – today’s Leeuwin Estate. On Robert’s advice, Denis and Trish started planting vines, including Chardonnay, which led to Leeuwin Estate’s most iconic wine, the ‘Art Series’ Chardonnay.