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The Toast Of The Hunter

By Friday 20 May 2022No Comments

Now in its 15th year, the 2022 Hunter Valley Legends & Wine Industry Awards last night saw a record number of Hunter Valley wine and tourism businesses recognised for excellence, commitment and quality.

The gala dinner held at Oaks Cypress Lakes Resort, in front of more than 350 guests, saw the introduction of four new awards, acknowledging the contribution of leading individuals and leading operators within both the wine and tourism industries.

The public perception and profile of the Hunter Valley is highly influenced by the quality of the experiences visitors to the Hunter Valley enjoy. Reflecting the importance of the overall visitor experience, the judging committee this year added two new awards to recognise excellence in businesses within the wider tourism industry.

The inaugural 2022 Hunter Valley Tourism Operator of the Year was awarded to Beyond Ballooning, and the inaugural 2022 Hunter Valley Accommodation Operator of the Year to Spicers Guesthouse.

De Iuliis Wines took out the title of Wine Selectors 2022 Hunter Valley Cellar Door of the Year – an award previously won by them in 2016. These three awards were judged by a mystery shopper and rated amongst their peers on the shopper’s experience across all areas of service, compliance, staff knowledge and visitor experience.

Liz Silkman was named First Creek Winemaking Services 2022 Hunter Valley Winemaker of the Year. Liz previously won the prestigious title in 2011 and 2016 and becomes the first winemaker to win this award three times. As custodian of both the Silkman and First Creek wine brands and a number of other wine companies, Liz has shown great commitment to flexibly delivering multiple award-winning wines.

The Jurds 2022 Viticulturist of the Year was awarded to Jerome Scarborough of Scarborough Wine Co. Jerome’s innovation, sustainable vineyard practices and commitment to industry development were praised by the judges.

Previously the Award for Excellence, this year’s 2022 Outstanding Contribution by an Individual was awarded to Christina Tulloch, CEO, Tulloch Wines. During her nine years as CEO of Tulloch Wines and two years as president of the Hunter Valley Wine & Tourism Association, Christina’s unwavering commitment to the Hunter Valley Wine Industry, the community and personalities within it, and its promotion and protection has been exemplary.

Christina has guided her own business and the wider community through the complexities of the last two years and has been a strong advocate for mentoring future talent within the region.

Briar Ridge Vineyard winemaker Alex Beckett took out the title of Riedel 2022 Hunter Valley Young Achiever of the Year. This award recognises an individual, less than 35 years of age, working in the Hunter Valley and their contribution to the development of a vibrant and professional wine and tourism industry. In his 13 years in the industry, Alex has risen quickly, acting as a strong advocate for the Hunter Valley within the media, and was recently accepted into the Institute of Masters of Wine Study.

Young talent in the Hunter Valley takes its inspiration from those who have succeeded before. Inducting this year’s 28th and 29th Living Legends, Master of Ceremonies and 2021 Living Legend Iain Riggs AM thanked Neil McGuigan, 2022 Hunter Valley Wine Industry Living Legend and Philip Hele OAM, 2022 Hunter Valley Tourism Industry Living Legend, for their significant contributions over a combined 60 years plus.

The McGuigan and Hele families are names synonymous with the Hunter Valley. Neil’s passion for delivering innovative, quality wine to the world is evident in the entire Australian Vintage portfolio and was paramount during his role as chief winemaker for the McGuigan brand. For the past three decades, Philip, owner and general manager of Hunter Valley Resort, has been at the forefront of shaping the Hunter wine and tourism industries and promoting them to an international audience.

After close to 50 years of active service to the industry, Brian McGuigan AM was announced as Hunter Valley Wine & Tourism Association Honorary Patron.

Guests acknowledged and celebrated Brian’s incredibly valuable contribution and long-term dedication to the Association and wider industry.

Photograph – Top, from left: Alex Beckett (Briar Ridge Vineyard), Philip Hele (Hunter Valley Resort), Neil McGuigan, Jerome Scarborough (Scarborough Wine Co.) and Mike De Iuliis (De Iuliis Wines). Bottom, from left: Brian McGuigan AM, Julia Allen (Beyond Ballooning), Liz Silkman (Silkman Wines and First Creek Wines), Christina Tulloch (Tulloch Wines) and Mark Whitnell (Spicers Guesthouse). Photo credit: Elfes Images.

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