After school I was originally a full-time visual artist when my father sat me down at one of his famous spaghetti red wine nights to discuss our future. He was going to be 65 in 10 years and needed to think about a succession plan. His proposition was to a) gear the winery up for sale, or b) train me up to take over in a managed position. Of course I took the emotional option as I couldn’t see life without Galafrey and said I would take over as a managed position. Naively thinking I could do both art and wine. So we worked out a plan to start training me up. I started on the labelling machine. Learning how to run it. For three months I was on that bloody machine, and even when vintage started the boys were outside working and I was inside working on the labelling machine. I knew Dad was doing that because he wanted to protect me from the physical hard work. I think he had a romantic idea of a 'managed position' where I sat in an office and other people around me did the hard work.
Unfortunately during vintage Dad developed a cough that wouldn’t go away. I told him he needed to go back to the doctor but his response was he needed a holiday, not a doctor's appointment. Eventually he went back. They took an x-ray of his lungs and found seven shadows of an aggressive cancer. He was diagnosed with kidney cancer (and his kidney had probably shut down for two years already but no one noticed), but he was going to die of lung cancer. He didn’t go back to work after that doctor's appointment, and died three months later, in 2003. I was 26 years old and had a winery full of unfinished wine, a shed full of wine to sell and a vineyard about to burst. I am an only child as well. And I really only had experience in running that bloody label machine. It was a tough time and to add salt to the wound it is one of the toughest times ever in the wine industry. It is interesting how things turn out, sometimes. I never wanted to originally be a part of the wine industry because I saw how hard my parents worked for years and I didn’t want to live in my Dad’s shadow. He was such a strong character in the industry and I wanted to make my own mark, so I followed my other love – art. Now I have filled my father’s shoes and am making my own mark within the wine industry – regardless of how hard it is. – Kim Tyrer, CEO, Galafrey Wines
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RESPONSE TO KIM TYRER STORY
I live in Mt Barker and have also worked for Plantagenet and West Cape Howe. Kim not only works tirelessly to run Galafrey Wines, but also avidly promotes the Great Southern as a viable wine and tourism area. She has just had her second child so there may be a third generation at Galafrey. She deserves all the accolades she can get.
– Jennie Berliner
Keep going Kim. Meet your dad on the late 90s when I was selling wine. Great man. I was saddened when I heard of his passing. You are doing a great job, just like your dad. The passion like your family has is what inspired me to become a winemaker. – Pete Kennedy
Thank you for sharing Kim's story. She is an inspiration. – Mary Nenke, Cambinata Yabbies
I was touched by Kim Tyrer’s story. I was struck of course by the tragic loss of her father, but also by the self-effacing quality of the letter. Kim may have felt her only skill when faced with the daunting task of taking over the winery was label making, but I suspect she had absorbed more than she was aware during childhood. Yet it was a simple and poignant image that spoke volumes about her dad’s desire to bring her into the business while shielding her from the rigours of the profession, and her own feelings of inadequacy. Kim obviously has the same tenacity and work ethic as her dad, but judging by the letter and photos on Galafrey’s website she is a quiet achiever to his bolder style. I love the story, the whimsical origin of the name and the knowledge that her dad’s legacy continues in her successful efforts, alongside her mother. It is an Australian story of struggle and achievement, a classic underdog narrative that formed the backbone of our country. The real behind-the-scenes histories of wineries are what consumers want to hear to connect to a brand and we need more of them. I haven’t tasted their wines and as a wine industry professional I hear a lot of stories, but I still felt the tug of that connection. – Deborah M. Gray, California
What an inspiring story! It made me, as I approach my 83rd birthday, just how lucky most of us are. Good luck Kim. Next time I see one I will buy a Galafrey wine and suggest many other WBM readers do the same. – Ron Westwood
....and later they published the letter in the WBM Magazine