It was an evening to remember late last month as a record number of guests came together with their contemporaries, friends and colleagues at an incredible gala event to celebrate the highly anticipated 13th annual Hunter Valley Legends & Wine Industry Awards.
More than 300 people gathered at the Crowne Plaza Hunter Valley to pay homage to the industry stalwarts who have contributed significantly to the Hunter Valley wine and tourism industries. As always, the evening’s highest honour was presented to wine and tourism luminaries who have reached ‘Living Legend’ status through more than 30 years’ continuous involvement in the industry.
This year, the Wine Legend award was presented to Greg Silkman, owner of First Creek Winemaking Services and highly-regarded industry leader.
Greg came to the Hunter Valley in 1985 to establish Tamburlaine Wines and in the years since, has worked his magic at various iconic wineries in the region, making his mark as a winemaker and successful businessman. Today he is at the helm of our largest contract winemaking businesses – First Creek Winemaking services and state of the art bottling facility. Greg’s commitment and contribution to the Hunter Valley wine tourism industry is highly regarded by his peers.
The winners of the Tourism Legend Award were Bill Roche (AM) and Imelda Roche (AO), who were honoured for their establishment of the much-loved Hunter Valley Gardens, the result of the couple’s long-held ambition to build a garden that would be enjoyed by generations to come. The construction of Hunter Valley Gardens, began in 1999, on what was originally horse paddocks and vineyards. Over a period of five years, under the direct personal management and guidance of Bill and a team of up to 50 landscape gardeners, architects and engineers, the Gardens came to life.
Today, Hunter Valley Gardens includes 25 hectares of multi award-winning international gardens, with ten individually themed gardens created by Bill and his team showcasing the artistry of gardens around the world. Since its opening in October 2003, it has welcomed more than four million guests and is the home of iconic events such as the Christmas Lights Spectacular and Snow Time. Greg, Bill and Imelda’s new status as Hunter Valley Living Legends puts them in the company of well-known names such as Greg Walls, Robert and Sally Molines, Jay Tulloch, Brian McGuigan (AM), Ian Scarborough, Fay McGuigan, Max Drayton and Ian Tinkler.
Hosted by NBN television presenter Georgia Maher, the evening was another who’s who event of the wine tourism industry, combining local cuisine, fine wine and company as the industry honoured the dedicated personalities who make Australia’s oldest continuous wine region the very special place it is today.
Other winners on the night were:
RSN Australia Hunter Valley 2019 Rising Star of the Year – Angus Vinden – Vinden Estate Wines
Laffort Australia Hunter Valley 2019 Viticulturist of the Year - Brett Keeping – Two Rivers Wines
Australian Wine Selectors Hunter Valley 2019 Cellar Door of the Year – Brokenwood Wines
First Creek Winemaking Services Hunter Valley 2019 Winemaker of the Year – Adrian Sparks – Mount Pleasant Wines
Hunter Valley Wine Industry 2019 Heritage Award - Pokolbin Memorial Gates
Hunter Valley 2019 Award for Excellence – Brian McGuigan (AM)
Hunter Valley Wine and Tourism Association Vice President, Brian McGuigan said he was honoured to be among the winners, and congratulated and noted the many contributions to an industry which had reaped international recognition as a premier wine and food destination because of the hard work of its many passionate custodians.
“It’s no easy feat to make such an indelible mark on an industry that is so widely revered. The Hunter Valley is the oldest and most visited wine region in Australia by overseas tourists, thanks to the hard work, caretaking and vision of all our winners,” Mr McGuigan said.
Pictured: Back row (L-R): Brett Keeping (Two Rivers) Angus Vinden (Vinden Estate Wines) Adrian Sparks (Mount Pleasant Wines) Candace Crawford (Brokenwood Wines)
Front row (L-R): Brian McGuigan AM; Imelda Roche AO (Roche Group) Bill Roche AM (Roche Group) Greg Silkman (First Creek Wines). Photo by Chris Elfes.