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 Canberra District 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.
Chris hails from an Italian winemaking family, so caught the bug early. He’s worked at some very nice places around the traps (pick a few of the Estates listed on Langton’s Classification), so is most handy to have around the winery. He worked Vintage 2019 with us, and proved himself to be excellently efficient so much so that we offered him the position of Assistant Winemaker which he accepted.
Chrissie is our very own girl winemaker. Yippee! With winemaking studies on the go, raising 3 kids, vineyard work, cellar door work, packing wine orders, and generally making herself most useful around here, she’s a Superwoman. If there were 10 of her, we could all retire. Now there’s an idea – she’s so capable and friendly that you might just find the rest of us all sitting round the winter fire in the cellar door, whilst Chrissie does all the work.
Greg is our Vineyard Manager, and gosh does he know his way around a vineyard. Our vineyards have been very well loved over the last few years, and in Greg’s hands they’re going to grow their guts out. He’s a most decent, straight talking bloke from SA, with some awesome descriptors (‘face like a dropped pie’ – not himself, by the way) who’s fitted in easily with both Clonakilla’s focus of natural vineyard practices and the rest of the team. There’s a certain type of person who gets excited about truckloads of horse poo and its potential, and Greg is one of them.
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 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 – no wonder there have been two Gourmet Traveller Wine magazine covers so far. David is also 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.
Michael is our Production 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 & SALES STAFF
Rob is our Cellar Door Manager. He 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. He is also our Sales Representative in Canberra, but don’t let this title alarm you – there will be no obnoxious sales speak, just a good chat with a decent bloke about great wine.
Jane is our Sales Representative in Melbourne. She has a great love and knowledge of wine, has completed her WSET Diploma and has extensive experience in wine sales – including from our cellar door for a few years. Jane is also an accomplished and passionate horse rider, so spends her days working with two things she loves most. Working schmurking……livin’ the dream, is what that is.
Harry McCabe – Harry is a genu-wine (ha, geddit?) country boy, who just happens to have brought his friendliness, intelligence, and sense of humour to our cellar door, as downtime from Uni study. Look, it goes without saying that he’s interested in and knowledgeable about wine – we’re just very blessed he’s wandered onto the Clonakilla path and seems happy to keep on it for a while yet.
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 loves however, are his very beautiful, kind and clever wife and their cute little bubby.
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.
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.