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Hunter Valley raises a glass to its Wine Industry Award winners

The Hunter Valley Wine Industry honoured its own at the second Annual Awards ceremony yesterday, including the announcement of the latest Hunter Valley Living legend.

The winners are:

Hunter Valley Living Legend: Brian McGuigan AM

As part of the initiative set up last year, Brian joins the six founding “Legends”, selected for having made a significant contribution to the success and welfare of the Hunter Valley wine industry.

Brian joins his father Perc McGuigan on the honour role, and the McGuigan dynasty has dedicated more than 60 years to the Hunter Valley in every measurable way. Brian has been at the forefront of the Australian wine industry for more than 40 years and is one of the wine industry’s most versatile and well-known figures, utilising his skills as a winemaker, viticulturist, marketer and communications specialist to take his wines and his love of the Hunter Valley, all over Australia and around the world.

In 1968, Perc McGuigan first established Wyndham Estate, Brian took over as Managing Director in 1970, and alongside wife Fay, built it up to be one of Australia’s most recognisable wine businesses. After selling the Wyndham Estate group of companies the team went on to set up the equally successful McGuigan Wines in 1992 – starting once again from scratch and grew the business to one that sells 1.2 million cases per year – in just 10 years. Now named Australian Vintage, the business continues to thrive today.

Brian retired from most of his management duties in March 2006, however he remains a Director of Australian Vintage Ltd. He is on a number of private boards and also spends his spare time running a viticultural management company – having done the full 360 degrees, Brian is reportedly happy to be back in the vineyard.

Winemaker of the Year: Andrew Thomas, Thomas Wines

Finalists: Jim Chatto, Phil Ryan

Andrew “Thommo” Thomas began his journey as a winemaker at Tyrrell’s Vineyards, where he worked under the watchful guidance of the great Murray Tyrrell for 13 years, developing a passion for the Hunter Valley and true Hunter Valley wine styles.

Rising Star of the Year: Usher Tinkler, Pooles Rock

Finalists: Daniel Binet, Will Rickard-Bell

One of the dynamic young figures in the Hunter Valley, Usher Tinkler is the Winemaker for Poole’s Rock Wines with responsibility for the company’s flagship wines.

The Tinkler name is well known in the Hunter Valley where three generations of Usher’s family have been vitally involved in the wine industry. Usher is succeeding in making his own stamp with his wines and was the 2007 Wine Society Young Winemaker of the Year and also was a 2007 scholar in the prestigious Len Evans Tutorial.

Viticulturist of the Year: Ken Bray, Hunter Valley Vineyard Management

Finalists: Keith Barry, Cliff Currie, Brett Keeping

Often overlooked in favour of the ‘rock star’ winemaker, the viticulturist is often a region’s greatest asset yet unsung hero. Widely regarded as the Hunter Valley’s leading viticulturist, Ken has been responsible for tending some of the region’s most cherished vineyards for almost 40 years. As owner and director of Hunter Vineyard Management Services and a committee member of the Hunter Valley Vineyard Association (HVVA) Ken has been in the Hunter Valley since starting with Wyndham Estate on 1st April 1970.

Cellar Door of the Year: McWilliams Mount Pleasant

Finalists: Audrey Wilkinson, Brokenwood, Margan Family Wines

Mount Pleasant is one of the Hunter’s oldest, most acclaimed and best loved wineries. In 1921, legendary winemaker Maurice O’Shea purchased and extended the 16.3ha property and named it Mount Pleasant, after the peak that rises behind the winery.

Today, Mount Pleasant keeps alive the pioneering spirit of its heritage, creating benchmark Hunter Valley wines. The winery is one of the most awarded in Australia, O’Shea’s groundbreaking work has been kept alive by revered winemakers Brian Walsh (1956–78) and Phil Ryan (1978-current).The Mount Pleasant Wine and Food Estate, opened in 1997, has become one of the Hunter Valley’s most popular tourist destinations, comprising the cellar door, 140-seat function room, tasting rooms, gift shop and café.

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WID 2017