Wayne Stehbens made Katnook's first vintage and still heads the winemaking team to this day, making him one of Australia’s longest serving winemakers.
In 1979 Wayne produced his first vintage and in 1980, he crafted Katnook’s first commercial quantities of wine. Wayne was then fresh from winemaking studies at Charles Sturt University when he was appointed winemaker at Katnook. He was already familiar with the property having worked alongside his father, Katnook General Manager Ray Stehbens, during his school holidays.
Foreshadowing the success that was to come, these first wines won 49 awards in their first year. In 1988 Wayne travelled to Graves, near Bordeaux in France, where Cabernet Sauvignon and Sauvignon Blanc are the leading varieties. Here, he completed vintage and gained insights into these wine styles. Wayne was one of the first Australian winemakers to make Sauvignon Blanc in commercial quantities.
Over the course of his career Wayne has received numerous awards and accolades. He has won two Jimmy Watson Trophies (1987 and 1998) and a double trophy at the prestigious International Wine & Spirit Competition in 2003 for the flagship Odyssey Cabernet Sauvignon 1998. Further trophies include the 2000 vintage of Odyssey in the International Wine & Spirit Competition 2005 & Decanter Wine Awards 2005 and most recently a trophy for the 2008 Odyssey in the 2013 International Wine & Spirits Competition. In the Langton’s Classification V, Odyssey receives a rating of ‘Outstanding’, Prodigy a classification of ‘Excellent’ and the Katnook Estate Cabernet Sauvignon a rating of ‘Distinguished’.
Wayne is a talented winemaker with a sophisticated understanding of the unique terroir of Coonawarra. He is passionate about the wines in his charge and about Coonawarra as an significant wine producing region, having served for two years as President of the Coonawarra Vigneron’s Association.
Wayne has governed Katnook’s winemaking during the most dynamic growth period of the Australian wine industry. “Winemaking at Katnook is a challenge from year to year” he says. “Nothing is static. Seasons, knowledge, customers, markets, equipment, even record keeping, are forever changing. My philosophy is simply to optimise the quality of our estate grown fruit within the styles made, and to reveal the unique characters of Coonawarra in every Katnook wine.”
Wayne cites the loves of his life as: his family; wine; fast cars (he owns two Bolwells which he built from scratch); water skiing and tennis. He enjoys bike riding along the long roads of Coonawarra and the odd drop of Guinness and Cooper’s Pale Ale as alternatives to wine.
In 2013 Wayne celebrated 35 years of winemaking at Katnook and reflected on his career - read it here for further insights.