WINEMAKER Mike Hayes has again proved that dreams do come true.
The Symphony Hill senior winemaker, who left school after Year 10 and started chipping weeds in a vineyard, is now the first Queenslander to win the Australian Society of Viticulture and Oenology Winemaker of the year award.
Mr Hayes was announced the winner of this year's excellence award at Tuesday night's presentation dinner in Adelaide.
"It's a great win for Queensland wine, not just for me,” Mr Hayes said.
"It just shows what Queensland can do with the wine industry. It's testament that we've come a long way in particular probably in the last 10 years.”
The awards night will be a few hours of Mr Hayes' life he is not likely to forget any time soon.
"The whole night was fabulous,” he said.
"It was sort of surreal. I am still trying to come to terms with it.
"I honestly thought I would have come fourth. I wouldn't have expected to win it. And the people who I went up against are absolutely outstanding.
"First time nomination for a Queensland based winemaker, then first time to be in the final and then of course we won.
"To be in the esteemed company of the people who are previous winners - Louisa Rose, Sue Bell, Ed Carr, Sue Hodder, Sarah Pidgeon, Wendy Cameron - these people are absolutely incredible icons of the industry not only Australia wide but worldwide.
"To even be mentioned in the same paragraph is huge for me.”
Mr Hayes thanked everyone who has supported him throughout his career, in particular his family, his former high school teacher John Neville, the team at the QCWT, Ewen and Elissa Macpherson and the wine making team at Symphony Hill Wines.
"I couldn't have asked for a better fairytale ending.”
It has been a fantastic year for Mr Hayes, taking out Queensland and Australian winemaker of the year.
"I can't wait to get back to Queensland and sit back and reflect a bit,” he said.
"It's been a fabulous year for us. On top of this I have been awarded the Queensland winemaker of the year and Symphony Hill got winery of the year and I took out the Professional Alumnus of the Year at USQ. And the five wine shows we've entered, we've cleaned up.”
Mr Hayes said there were a lot of people in Queensland who could have won the award.
"There is some very, very talented people in viticulture and wine making in Queensland and in particular the Granite Belt.
"It's just a reflection on what we are all collectively doing together.”
One of the reasons why Mr Hayes was chosen for Winemaker of the year was his outstanding work with the Queensland College of Wine Tourism, his work and research concerning alternative grape varieties and his involvement in local schools.
"I really enjoy working with the kids,” Mr Hayes said.
"It's fantastic to see them develop and become passionate about the industry. To be able to give something back is the best reward.
"When I started out in the industry 38 years ago, I never thought that one day I'd be in Adelaide accepting the award for Winemaker of the year.”
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