2021 Tourism Legend – Merralea Scarborough

The Hunter’s Living Legends alumni trace the depth of local history, pioneering endeavour and outstanding service that has made Australia’s oldest continuously operating wine region the special place it is today.

This award was added to the event line-up in 2018, recognising the link between wine and tourism in the Hunter. Restaurateurs Robert and Sally Molines were the highly deserving inaugural winners, followed in 2019 by the creators of Hunter Valley Gardens, Imelda and Bill Roche.

The 2021 Hunter Tourism Legend is Merralea Scarborough. Self-described mother hen, chief cook, gardener, cellar-door manager and so much more. She is the backbone of the highly successful Scarborough Wine Co.

As just one example of her efforts on behalf of Hunter wine and tourism, Phil Ryan remembers Merralea’s tireless work on the inaugural international showcase Wine Australia in the mid-1990s, corralling 30 local wineries into a world-class promotion of the Valley, pretty much on her own. This led to several years on the board of the Hunter Valley Vignerons Association, the first woman ever appointed, and a stint as Hunter representative on the NSW Wine Industry Association board.

Merralea met husband Ian in the Barossa in the 1960s, moving to the Hunter in 1973 when Ian started as chief winemaker at Tullochs. They went out on their own in 1987, focusing on Chardonnay grown in their new Gillards Lane vineyard, and established one of the great cellar doors of the time. It’s still excellent, due in no small part to the hard graft of brand champion Merralea, hostess with the mostess of countless wine dinners, tastings and promotional Hunter events.

The Scarboroughs are no strangers to these awards. In 2013, Ian was inducted as Living Legend and their daughter Sally Scarborough was named Rising Star, following the crowning of daughter-in-law Liz Riley as Viticulturist of The Year in 2011. And there were more big wins this year, see the full list of winners above. It seems appropriate that Merralea should finally step forward to take her own prize.

She can now sit back and enjoy her retirement – gardening, playing bridge and nurturing the next generation of Scarborough superstars.

Read more in the Winter issue of Hunter & Coastal Lifestyle Magazine or subscribe here.

Story by Sally Evans, photography by Chris Elfes, courtesy of Hunter Valley Wine & Tourism Association