FROM a family with a long background in Newcastle meat and hotel industries, Greg Silkman switched his career path into wine 24 years ago and on Thursday, he became a Living Legend of Hunter Wine.
Mr Silkman, managing director of First Creek Wines, received his award before a crowd of more than 300 at a black-tie presentation dinner at Crowne Plaza Hunter Valley.
Greg Silkman and wife Jenny ran the Toronto Hotel-Motel before beginning their journey into building of the Hunter's most dynamic wine businesses.
First Creek, in which they are majority shareholders, has a Pokolbin winery with an annual wine production capacity of 35,000-dozen-bottles and produces its own-brand wines and wines for 24 other brands. It also runs a $1.6 million Italian bottling line that can turn out 1.5 million cases of wine.
The Hunter Valley Legends Awards, now in their 13th year, are held by an august group that includes the likes of Karl Stockhausen, Brian McGuigan, Fay McGuigan, Jay Tulloch and Bruce Tyrrell.
Thursday's ceremony also inducted Hunter Valley Gardens creators Bill and Imelda Roche as Hunter Tourism Legends.
The Roches founded the Australian Nutri-Metics cosmetic business, which they sold to America's Sara-Lee Corporation in 1997. Since 1999 they have become major investors in Hunter wine, hospitality and tourism, transforming 25 hectares of Pokolbin land into multi-award-winning international gardens.
Other awards presented last night were:
Hunter Valley 2019 Rising Star of the Year, Angus Vinden of Vinden Estate Wines; Viticulturist of the Year, Brett Keeping of Two Rivers Wines, Denman; Cellar Door of the Year, Brokenwood Wines; Winemaker of the Year Adrian Sparks of Mount Pleasant Wines; Heritage Award, Pokolbin Memorial Gates; Award for Excellence, Brian McGuigan, Hunter Valley Wine and Tourism Association vice-president.