Hunter Valley celebrates ‘living legends’ at wine and tourism awards

Hunter Valley Legends 2024 winemaker of the year Stuart Hordern. Photo: Elfes Images

Hunter Valley’s annual Legends Awards united more than 360 industry professionals and guests from the Hunter Valley wine and tourism industry at Rydges Resort in the Hunter Valley. The Legends Awards honours the region’s history, celebrating the lasting influence and legacy of those who contribute outstanding service to the industry. Colin Peterson and John Drayton were inducted as 2024 Hunter Valley Living Legends.

Iain Riggs AM, chair of the Living Legends acknowledged the contributions of the new inductees.

“Colin and John are names and personalities that are synonymous with the commercial success of the Hunter Valley over many years,” said Riggs. “The region is stronger for their leadership and contributions to the local community.”

Colin Peterson was inducted as the 2024 Wine Industry Living Legend.

Petersons Wines originated in 1964 when Colin Peterson’s parents purchased Glenesk Mt View. 15 years later, Petersons produced their inaugural vintage, marking the start of a 40-year collaboration with winemaker Gary Reed.

Colin Peterson has led the family business since 2000, when he sold Wollundry (Calais Estate) and opened his Mt View winery and Savannah Estate cellar door. His wine business now grows over 30 grape varieties across its NSW vineyards and employs over 250 people. In 1992, Peterson had a vision to produce traditional method sparkling wine, and, nearly two decades on, Peterson House is the hub of sparkling wine in the Hunter Valley.

In 2017, Peterson and Brian McGuigan purchased Ben Ean, the former Lindeman’s Estate returning the property to its 174-year historical roots of the Hunter. Taking the business overseas, Peterson has expanded with Petersons Wines Singapore and China, capitalising on the demand for Hunter wine in these markets. Over his career, Peterson has mentored and collaborated with winemakers and grapegrowers across the region, and is now mentoring his daughter Savannah.

John Drayton was inducted as the 2024 Tourism Industry Living Legend. John’s career started in 1989 when he joined his father Max and brother Greg and late brother, Trevor, in the family business, Drayton’s Family Wines. The family legacy of winemaking now stands at over 170 years. As a board representative and chairman of Cessnock City Tourism and Hunter Valley Wine Country Tourism for 19 years, John Drayton’s leadership laid the foundations for the success of the region as a wine tourism destination. Drayton was also recognised for his commitment to community service through his involvement with the Pokolbin Rural Fire Service, the Pokolbin Irrigation District and in strengthening connections between the wine industry and the local community with the establishment of a vineyard at Mount View High School; believed at the time to be the first school in NSW to be granted a vigneron’s licence.

Jennie Curran, CEO of the Hunter Valley Wine & Tourism Association, applauded the award recipients.

“Their achievements serve as a testament to our long history and bright future. The quality of the nominations across all award categories reflects the strength and enduring appeal of the Hunter Valley”.

The 2024 Winemaker of the Year was awarded to Stuart Hordern. Hordern’s winemaking history includes15 vintages at Brokenwood and 10 in charge, promoted recently to the role of chief winemaker, only the second person in the 54-year history of the company to hold this position. Under his leadership, the Brokenwood Graveyard Vineyard Shiraz has maintained its position as the highest level of Langton’s Classification of collectible Australian wines – 1st Classified, and remains the only red wine in New South Wales to hold this position. Hordern was also president of the Hunter Valley Wine & Tourism Association 2021 – 2023.

In a double for the Hordern winemaking family, the 2024 Viticulturist of the Year was presented to third generation Thomas Hordern of Glenesk Vineyard, a Sustainable Winegrowing Australia member. Thomas Hordern has a focus on innovative practices in the vineyard, partnering with a specialised AI and satellite data company that provides insights for agricultural property management, including water levels and vine health, optimising his practices through advanced data analysis.

Emily Glover, winemaker at De Iuliis Wines, was awarded the 2024 Young Achiever of the Year. Glover began her career in the Hunter Valley wine industry aged 19, taking on the role of winemaker at De Iuliis in 2023. She oversees the white winemaking at De Iuliis Wines including the 2023 Wilderness Road Semillon, which last year won the Best Current Vintage White Wine Trophy at the Royal Sydney Wine Show. Glover was also the recipient of last year’s Brokenwood Wines Advanced Wine Technology Scholarship.

Tourism Operator of the Year for 2024 was awarded, for the second consecutive year, to Stay n’ Sip. Stay n’ Sip are continuing to grow their online, bookable, and educational experiences, driven by a desire to make Hunter Valley wine experiences accessible to everyone, including families, corporate groups, parties and wine connoisseurs.

The 2024 Accommodation Operator of the Year was awarded to Hunter Valley Stays. Hunter Valley Stays is a collection of 65 private holiday accommodation homes, who welcome over 30,000 overnight visitors annually. They are owned and operated by Hunter locals John Vanson and Sasha Degen who bring their professional tourism, luxury hotel and marketing experience to their business and to the wider community of wine and tourism operators in the region.

Margan Wines and Restaurant took the title of 2024 Cellar Door of the Year marking a hat-trick for them in this award category. Under Andrew and Lisa Margan’s leadership, the business, which launched in 1996, has grown into 100 hectares of vineyards, a cellar door and hatted restaurant.

The 2024 Outstanding Contribution of an Individual was awarded to Brad Russ. Russ, general manager at Tulloch Wines, has played a major role over many years in shaping the region’s consumer event and brand awareness strategies, sharing his experience in his many mentoring roles across the industry. In 2024, Russ is celebrating thirty years working in the Hunter Valley wine industry.


2024 Hunter Valley Legends Awards recipients:

Legend Aawards

Young Achiever of the Year: Emily Glover, De Iuliis Wines

Tourism Operator of the Year: Stay n’ Sip

Accommodation Operator of the Year: Hunter Valley Stays

Viticulturist of the Year: Thomas Hordern, Glenesk Vineyard

Cellar Door of the Year: Margan Wines & Restaurant

Winemaker of the Year: Stuart Hordern, Brokenwood Wines

Outstanding Contribution of an Individual: Brad Russ, Tulloch Wines

Wine Industry Living Legend: Colin Peterson

Tourism Industry Living Legend: John Drayton


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