Top achievers: Celebrating the Hunter’s Legends

The 16th annual Hunter Valley Legends Awards brought together nearly 400 professionals from the Hunter Valley wine and tourism industries to honour dedicated winegrowers, winemakers, and tourism operators.

A record four Living Legends were inducted this year recognising their immense contributions. John Davis, Graham Doran and Dr Harry Tulloch were recognised as 2023 Wine Industry Living Legends for their pioneering approach to viticulture in the Hunter Valley and the wider Australian wine industry. John Stevens was inducted as 2023 Tourism Living Legend for his work in championing sustainable vineyards and tourism planning.

The First Creek Winemaking Services 2023 Winemaker of the Year was awarded to Andrew Thomas. In his 37th consecutive Hunter Valley vintage, this is the third time Andrew has received this award.
“I am humbled and delighted to receive this award, it gives recognition to all the hard work and attention to detail that we apply to our winemaking every day as well as the successes we have achieved with our wines, particularly over the last 12 months,” he commented.

Andrew, or “Thommo”, as he’s best known, has been making wine in the Hunter Valley for 37 years, launching his own Thomas Wines label 25 years ago. He has been named Winemaker of the Year in 2008, 2014 and now again in 2023, evidence of his impressive commitment and consistency in producing some of the region’s best wines year after year.

Andrew Thomas, Winemaker of the Year.

With a strong field of 19 finalists, Winmark Wines in Broke Fordwich was crowned Wine Selectors 2023 Cellar Door of the Year. Owner Karin Adcock has transformed the iconic property to feature a cellar door, sculpture walk, art gallery, gift shop and four guest properties.

The 2023 Outstanding Contribution of an Individual was awarded to Liz Riley, a renowned national viticulturist, for coordinating an emergency aerial pest and disease response during the recent wet vintages.

Jenna Vaughan, Marketing Manager at De Iuliis Wines has been named Riedel Young Achiever of the Year for her passion for innovation and her impressive work promoting the region in the digital marketing space.
She said, “I am so proud to be recognised for my contribution in showcasing the unique stories of the Hunter and leading the way as a young female wine marketer. It’s an honour to be recognised amongst such a strong selection of candidates.”

Jenna Vaughan, Young Achiever of the Year.

Emily Glover, winemaker at De Iuliis was awarded the inaugural Brokenwood Wines Advanced Wine Technical Scholarship, taking her to the Australia Wine Research Institute in South Australia for an intensive four-day course on the latest techniques and technologies in winemaking and wine production.
“This scholarship is a great opportunity to learn about the innovations in the wine industry and then come back to the Hunter and share my learnings with other young winemakers,” Emily said.

Congratulations to all the winners of the 2023 Hunter Valley Legends Awards:
Riedel Young Achiever of the Year: Jenna Vaughan, De Iuliis Wines
Brokenwood Wines Advanced Wine Technical Scholarship: Emily Glover, De Iuliis Wines
Hunter Valley Wine and Tourism Association Tourism Operator of the Year: Stay n’ Sip
Hunter Valley Wine and Tourism Association Accommodation Operator of the Year: Spicers Guesthouse
Jurds Viticulturist of the Year: Nicolas Looby, Margan Wines and Restaurant
Wine Selectors Cellar Door of the Year: Winmark Wines
First Creek Winemaking Services Winemaker of the Year: Andrew Thomas, Thomas Wines
Hunter Valley Wine and Tourism Association Outstanding Contribution of an Individual: Liz Riley, Vitibit
Hunter Valley Tourism Legend: John Stevens, The Stevens Group
Hunter Valley Wine Legends: John Davis, Graham Doran and Dr Harry Tulloch