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The Coonawarra wine region is in mourning following the sudden death last Sunday of respected senior winemaker Wayne Stehbens, 62, of Katnook Estate.

He was described as an ‘institution’ on the Coonawarra winemaking scene having had more than 38 years’ local experience, making him one of Australia’s longest serving winemakers.

Wingara Wine Group, which owns Katnook, paid tribute to the winemakers’ ‘passion, skill and dedication’ to both the winery and the region, which it described as extraordinary.

Stehbens followed in the steps of his father, Katnook’s then general manager, Ray, and joined the winery in 1979, after completing winemaking studies at Charles Sturt University.

That year he produced his first vintage, and created the winery’s first commercial quantities of wine in 1980.

The successful winemaker brought recognition to Katnook with numerous award wins, including two Jimmy Watson Trophies in 1987 and 1998

 

The successful winemaker brought recognition to Katnook with numerous award wins, including two Jimmy Watson Trophies in 1987 and 1998, a double trophy at the prestigious International Wine and Spirit Competition in 2003 for the flagship Odyssey Cabernet Sauvignon 1998, and another in 2013 for the 2008 Odyssey.

In a statement, Wingara Wine Group said Stehbens was a talented winemaker with a sophisticated understanding of the unique terroir of Coonawarra.

“He was passionate about the wines in his charge and about Coonawarra as a significant wine producing region, having served for two years as president of the Coonawarra Vigneron’s Association.

“Wayne governed Katnook’s winemaking during the most dynamic growth period of the Australian wine industry. Wayne cited the loves of his life as his family, wine, fast cars (he owned two Bolwells which he built from scratch), water skiing and tennis,” the statement said.

Winetitles express their deepest sympathy to Katnook Estate and the Stehbens family.

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