Mike Hayes is a local hero in Stanthorpe. He’s lived his whole life there, two or three hours out of Brisbane, southwest towards the NSW border. He’s the (national) ASVO Winemaker of the year. He buys Riverland grapes, makes Riverland wine and wins gold medals. He’s a tireless advocate for alternative varieties. In recent years Mike has purchased Graciano, Montepulciano, Lagrein, Saperavi and Fiano from the Riverland and won GOLD with all of them. He lives and breathes grapes and wine. He’s a winegrower, winemaker, teacher, mentor, boxer, runner, rower, storyteller and organiser. The locals call him Bronson. He’s tough.
He listens. He learns. One of nine siblings he left school after Year 10 to ‘chip weeds’, support the family and learn about working with people. Now he’s Adjunct Professor at the University of Southern Queensland. He never stops. He urges everyone to have a go. He offers a few words of wisdom, ‘If you’re gunna do it, do it well’. He added, ‘I do what I love and I love what I do’. (He’s livin the dream).
Twelve months ago he put his hand up to host industry colleagues from around the country at the Regional Partners Program in his hometown. Representatives from across the country gather to report on extension activities conducted and funded through the national levy. It’s the time and place for regions to share achievements and to work with Wine Australia and the AWRI to plan future programs.
Some said, ’why would the wine industry want to go to Queensland’. Well the same event was in the Riverland two years ago and Yarra Valley last year, so why not? And what an eye opener it was. The whole Stanthorpe community shares the passion for building a wine industry. There’s a spirit of adventure and determination. They may not produce much of Australia’s wine but they do it well. They’ve built the Queensland College of Wine Tourism in Stanthorpe as a show of pride and professionalism. Getting back to Mike, he also believes very strongly that the grapes he buys from the Riverland are worth much more than the ‘regional average’ and he pays well above that level. He also includes Riverland on the label and sells Riverland wines in the range of $40 to $95 per bottle.
Thanks Mike for your contribution to the industry. Much appreciated.