Rutherglen’s young gun

By Rhys Williams

Rutherglen’s prowess as one of the best wine regions in Australia has been strengthened after a local winemaker has been named among the top 12 young winemakers in the country.

Simon Killeen has made it through as a top 12 finalist in the 2019 Young Gun of Wine competition, which was announced on April 29.

Mr Killeen is the first Rutherglen winemaker to be selected as a finalist in the competition and it is something he’s wearing with great privilege.

“I’m the only finalist to make it from Rutherglen so it’s good to fly the flag for my hometown and the region,” he said.

Having grown up around wine barrels, the seventh generation winemaker’s fervor for the craft has only seemed to grow through his experience.  

After working his first vintage winery at Gapstead Wines in Myrtleford, Simon then moved onto international wineries in both France and Portugal before returning to Rutherglen and going out on his own to create Simao & Co Wines in 2013.

“I’ve always wanted to make wine that was true to me and wine that I felt should be showcased from the region,” he said.

Since the inception of his own label, the 32-year-old’s authenticity has been largely revered which has seen him become a finalist in the Young Gun of Wine competition twice before in 2015 and 2016.

 “I made the finals in both 2015 and 16 but I didn’t have any wine to enter the past two years, I’d completely sold out.

“This year I’d love to go the next step and win the competition or take out one of the awards,” he said.

At this year’s competition the young winemaker is showcasing his 2016 Vintage Port along with a 2018 King Valley Sauvignon Blanc, which was two of the 250 wines that judges tasted over two days to decide the finalists.

From the early stages of his career Simon has been building a good rapport with the region’s best vineyards with the foresight of one day using their grapes in his own wines.  He attributes the appeal to his wine is very much dependent on the superior grapes this region produces.

“A big part of my brand is working with the region’s best vineyards which I think is a true reflection of the quality of my wines.

“If anything, my wines probably aren’t living up to how good the local grapes that I use are.”

Along with the 2019 Young Gun of Wine, the Public Choice and Winemakers Choice awards are also up for grabs for Mr Killeen.

Public tastings will be held at Porteno Events in Sydney on May 30, and then at St Martins Youth Arts Centre in Melbourne on June 1.