Ray Guerin was inducted to the Yarra Valley Hall of Fame at the Langton’s Yarra Valley Wine Show in September.
Ray’s father owned a small vineyard and used to take his son out of class early to teach him to prune vines.
But Ray started his working career as a cabinet maker, before completing a stint in Vietnam working with explosives.
On his return, he married his sweetheart and bought a vineyard in Blewitt Springs, McLaren Vale. After many years of hard work, Ray was approached to embark on a partnership in the Yarra Valley. The plan was to plant a high-end sparkling wine vineyard in marginally high altitudes and southern slopes.
The project was visionary and went on to include a further 100 acres in Beenak’s red soils.
BRL Hardy took on the project in the early ‘90s with Ray heading viticulture management.
It produced what Gourmet Wine Traveller’s 2016 Winemaker of the Year, Steve Flamsteed, described as “wines of almost cult status”.
After settling in the Yarra Valley and raising two boys who inherited their dad’s vinous thumb, in 1997 Ray and his business partner Graham Smith planted the “retirement block” – 35 acres of close planted, north-east facing, high altitude, ancient land with pinot noir, chardonnay and pinot gris.
Approached by Shaw and Smith at age 64, Ray became the chief viticulturalist for their vineyards in Tasmania and Adelaide Hills.
In 2013, Ray received the Gourmet Wine Traveller Magazine’s Viticulturist of the Year award.
Ed Carr, arguably one of the world’s greatest sparkling winemakers, said Ray’s knowledge of cold climate viticulture and relationship with growers was second to none.
“He has so often been at the cutting edge and turned it into success, but has always maintained his great humanity and understanding of the needs of the grape growing community,” he said.