The Margaret River wine community is mourning the tragic loss of Willow Bridge Estate winemaker, Simon Burnell, who lost his life in a windsurfing accident last week.

Simon Burnell, 44, suffered spinal and shoulder injuries whilst windsurfing in Margaret River, off the coast of Prevelly Park. Large swells and powerful winds hindered rescue efforts from fellow surfers and despite a wide-scale aerial search, his body was not recovered until the following day.

Simon began his winemaking career in Adelaide with Nepenthe Vineyards, before moving west to Cape Mentelle and more recently, Willow Bridge Estate, where he had been chief winemaker since 2010.

‘On the outside he was imposing, confident, organised and efficient,’ says Rob Mann, his great friend and colleague during his stint at Cape Mentelle. ‘On the inside he was caring, compassionate, dedicated and loyal. The only way you could see both sides of Simon was in his wines.’

Vasse Felix winemaker Virginia Willcock says every vintage is different but 2015 will be remembered by many for the loss of a dear friend. ‘Simon was due to be married in May and was taken on a wild day in the surf at the peak of his career. He was a force in everything he did and was never shy of a challenge, in the surf and in winemaking.’

‘Simon charged hard at life; whether it was big wave sail-boarding or doggedly debating world issues. He was making an incredible difference with the wines at Willow Bridge and will be sorely missed,’ says Brad Wehr, Amato Vino Wines.

Written by Danielle Costley