Dr. John Kirk
Cambridge PhD, biochemist, physicist and life-long wine lover.
A visionary pioneer of the modern Canberra District wine industry. A leading Australian scientist (that was his other job) who is a world authority on what light does in water and how it effects photosynthesis. Besides many other things, a maker of hand crafted musical instruments and the author of numerous books.
John planted the first vines in the modern Canberra District wine industry in 1971.
He has successfully disengaged himself from the day to day running of the business now but can still be seen out pruning and monitoring the progress of his beloved vineyard.
Our Chief Winemaker and Chief Executive Officer. Also a famous genius, extraordinarily talented super-duper wine legend with no official winemaking education, other than what his Dad taught him. He was the Gourmet Traveller Winemaker of the Year in 2013, and has been nominated a few other times, so it seems he has a pretty good handle on the winemaking process.
However, for all the accolades he’s received, he’s just a down to earth guy. He loves his family (possibly a fraction more than wine!) and his guitar, and keeps a guitar in his office, which he’d much rather play than do the businessy-stuff of running a company. When we hear it a-strumming, we know someone’s trying to get him to focus on admin. Sigh. Tim is also a part-time preacher, so if the Spirit moves him when he has a microphone in his hand, make yourselves comfortable folks.
Clonakilla is a family company. The board is made up of John and Tim Kirk together with Tim’s five brothers Kiaran (Chairman), Andrew, Michael, Jeremy and Stephen.
Bryan is our Winery Manager, and he makes some nice drops, been nominated for Winemaker of the Year for his Ravensworth label wine, yadda yadda. BUT, what we really love about Bryan is his passion for food and cooking, from which we benefit enormously and to which our waistlines attest. If there’s a dead carcass or a fresh vegetable hanging around, Bryan’s on it. He’s a softly spoken chap, which makes his witty repartee a wee bit funnier. In his spare time Bryan enjoys macramé, yodelling and making replica winemaking equipment out of paddle pop sticks.
Sam is our official Young Winemaker. His winemaking talent extends to being largely responsible for the delicious Mallaluka wines, and apart from his winemaking knowledge, technique and expertise here, he’s also handy to have around all those workplace hazards in the winery given Tim and Bryan are getting on a bit now. Sam is an actual, real life cool dude, having been a Melbourne hipster pre-Clonakilla, is a singer in a rock’n’roll band, and is also a real life gentleman. If you ask him to do something for you and he’s unable to for whatever reason, sometimes his eyes are welling up. Let’s call him our Cool and Gentlemanly Young Winemaker.
Nick is our Vineyard Manager. He arrived last year as our resident International Winemaker, imported from the US of A, originally Noo Yawk. He’s actually not bad for a Yank. He’s a very friendly, down to earth guy, who was so exceptionally fantastic that we asked him to stay around for a bit longer. So since then, we’ve asked him to work in our cellar door, stay back late to get stuff on trucks, pack wine orders, set the table, wash the dishes, etc etc and he keeps saying ‘No worries cobber’. He also accidentally revealed his extensive knowledge of and interest in Vineyard Management, whilst having winemakey-vineyardy type conversations with our team, as they chatted over the wine barrels and tractors, so now he’s in charge of keeping them all nice and shiny. Perhaps that should be greeny and fruity? Whatever, in Nick’s very capable hands, she’ll be right mate.
Technically, Jeff is our Vineyard Foreman. Actually, he runs the place. He knows when every single grape is ready to be harvested, the condition of every single leaf, and has sometimes been found with a handful of earth in a vineyard, murmuring gently. He grows, he harvests, he tractors, he forklifts, he bottles, he restocks, he brings us freshly butchered lamb/venison/offal/fish/gnu, freshly grown fruit and vegetables and is the keeper of our unofficial winery dog family. Jeff is all muscle – heart muscle, that is.
Brad is Jeff’s assistant and is our very own gentle giant. When we ask Brad to help us move a big heavy thing, he’ll generally pick the whole thing up, and just casually toss it to wherever you need. Okay, or you can just do it for me, Brad…….He also loves burning around on our mower – so our mowing gets done super-fast. When not toiling about the place in his hi-vis, Brad can sometimes be found in his black & white, serving food and drink at a posh joint.
Our General Manager and Sales & Marketing Director. David’s recent promotion to GM is pretty much just a technicality as David has been our Office Guru for the last coupla years. David looks after every single aspect of our wine sales, from the restaurant phoning their order through, to getting our wines safely into the shipping container, encompassing every one of our stockists from our Cellar Door to London to New York and his home country Canadia. A talented photographer, he is also responsible for all the beautiful photographic imagery on our website and beyond – he’s even made Tim look…..um, presentable! David has recently become a grandfather, and we’re all constantly bombarded with the cuteness of his grandchildren. They are exceptionally gorgeous, to be fair.
Annabelle is Tim’s Executive Assistant and Office Manager. Originally employed as Tim’s EA, that hasn’t made much difference so we now have her doing other stuff like putting packs of Blu-tack away and wiping blackboards (that’s the ‘office management’). She does have a duty statement, but there are too many words on it for her to read, so we forgive her all her mistakes and only let her use plastic things. Annabelle thinks she is the Beauty Queen of Yass and is incredibly talented at everything she does, so if you ever meet her, be sure to let her down gently. She swears a lot – don’t startle her or look at her funny.
Anna is our Finance Administrator. She keeps us afloat, financially speaking, and is the perfect person to have in this role: she’s rarely flustered; is such a gentle, beautiful soul, but she’s definitely not shy and retiring. She will ask us to pay up when we owe it, so she has no hesitation in asking account holders to cough up when necessary. Anna also claims to have made mistakes in her work, however, we have yet to see proof of this. When she brings some of her Lemon Slice in to share, we descend like a pack of wolves. It’s gone in minutes. Anything she bakes at home really. Yum.
Jessica is our Cellar Door Manager, and manage it she does. She joined us not long before we opened our new building, as we realised we pretty much had no idea how it was all going to work really, so the universe sent us Jess. She is wine knowledgeable (der), efficient and super organised, and as a result of her hard work, we have staff in the cellar door when it is open and wine stocked in there too – VERY handy arrangement. She is also good company and forces us to participate in cheese tastings every now and then. Well it’s all for the greater good.
Michael is our Production & Warehouse Manager. He is the longest serving member of staff outside the Kirk family. He has helped build Clonakilla over the last 25 years, both figuratively and literally, and has carried out every single possible task there is to do in a vineyard and winery and cellar door and office. Seriously – from harvesting to making boxes to hammering something somewhere to serving in our cellar door to trundling around Canberra with bottles to sample in the early days – ‘magine that! Michael is one of the truly kindest and deeply faithful people you will ever meet, and has recently cut back his hours here considerably, to enjoy life with his beautiful family. Their gain is very very much our loss. Thank goodness Clonakilla wines are most enjoyable and might lure him out here to spend a little more time with us.
Cellar Door Staff
Jane Gordon is also our Sales Representative in Canberra. She has a great love and knowledge of wine, extensive experience in wine sales, and has completed her WSET Diploma. Jane is also an accomplished and passionate horse rider. It makes her sound very posh but she’s just a girl from down the country really. May she hang around the place for a good while yet.
Rob Kearon has come to us from years of serving beautiful wines in restaurants, and of course would much rather be here than anywhere else. He has also worked extensively in France (as you do), and has served Clonakilla wines to wealthy Europeans well before having started working here. His wine expertise and friendliness mean that he’s taken to our team without a hitch, and he is an asset to us.
From time to time we have some other wonderful people serving you in our Cellar Door:
Alistair Sands – don’t let the Kiwi accent throw you, he’s a great bloke, eh bro. Alistair is beyond passionate about wine, and passionate about the NZ Rugby Union team. His greatest love however, is his very beautiful, kind and clever wife.
Daniel Ellis – Daniel hails from Canberra but works for a wine mob in Sydney, so we capitalise on his visits home every now and then. We tend not to see him much through the Soccer season though – he even calls it ‘football’. Jeepers. That’s serious.
Richard Spencer – Richard was a regular Cellar Door-ian for many years on weekends, but has recently moved to the coast to put his love of the salt water-surfboard combo before us. Well, we were shocked that a bush-coastal setting, life dreams and family came before 7 hours a day of selling wine Sat & Sun, but at least he comes back sometimes. Hmph.
Chris Brown – Chris has also been with us on and off for many years, thank goodness he just can’t quite keep away. He’s also our coffee guru: he keeps our office caffeine addiction running along nicely thank you very much. DON’T. EVER. SAY “An instant will be fine” at Clonakilla – especially when Chris is working. He probably won’t know what you mean anyway.