LIZ Silkman’s magic touch with chardonnay shone last week when one of her wines starred for the third time in seven years in the James Halliday Chardonnay Challenge.
Behind that success is an inspiring tale of teamwork in a Hunter enterprise that began modestly in 1996 and today produces top-rank First Creek wines and makes wines under contract for 24 other Hunter and NSW brands.
Its 35,000-dozen-capacity McDonalds Road, Pokolbin, winery has a high-tech $1.6 million Italian bottling line that can turn out 1.5 million cases of wine.
Last week Liz’s $65 First Creek 2017 Winemaker’s Reserve Chardonnay was the top Hunter wine in the Halliday-backed showcase of the best Australian chardonnays.
In 2015, with a 98 points out of 100 score, Liz’s Silkman 2014 Reserve Chardonnay won the competition and was the top Hunter wine and her First Creek Wines 2011 Winemaker’s Reserve Chardonnay was top Hunter wine in 2012.
Liz is First Creek chief winemaker and also makes the boutique Silkman label, which she and her husband Shaun set up in 2013.
Shaun is chief operating officer of First Creek and son of its founders and major stakeholders Greg and Jenny Silkman.
Greg, the managing director, is a former Newcastle-Lake Macquarie hotelier and Tamburlaine partner and he and Liz head a winemaking team comprising 2013 Alasdair Sutherland Scholarshipwinner Annabel Holland and former Bimbadgen senior winemaker Rauri Donkin. It’s a team that not only crafts First Creek wine, but makes trophy and gold medal wines for contract customers, for example the Tranquil Vale 2018 Semillon.
The wine recently won the best 2018 semillon trophy and the Karl Stockhausen Trophy at the 2018 Hunter Valley Boutique Wine Show at Maitland. Another example is the Two Rivers 2017 Yarrawa Road Chardonnay, which is a 2018 NSW Wine Awards gold medal winner and trophy finalist.
FOR the first time in the Halliday Challenge’s 12-year history, a Yarra Valley wine, the A. Rodda Wines 2017 Willow Lake Vineyard Chardonnay, won the Yarra-based contest. Made by Adrian Rodda from Upper Yarra Valley fruit, the wine scored 97 in competition with 543 other chardonnays from 36 regions.
Other regional winners included: Adelaide Hills: Shaw & Smith 2017 Lanewood Chardonnay (97), Beechworth: Indigo 2016 Secret Village Chardonnay (95), Margaret River: Stella Bella 2017 Suckfizzle Chardonnay (96).
THE First Creek 2017 Winemaker’s Reserve Chardonnay is special - as the Halliday win and three 2018 Hunter show trophies declare. It has light gold hues, vanillin scents and beautiful nectarine front-palate flavour. The middle palate has fig, citrus, brioche and cashew oak and the finish slatey acid. Atfirstcreekwines.com.au and the winery.
DRINK WITH: paella.
AGEING: 10 years.
RATING: 5.5 stars
LIZ Silkman’s chardonnay talents are again manifest in this Two Rivers 2017 Yarrawa Road Chardonnay. It’s green-tinted straw and has crushed almond aromas and elegant white peach front-palate flavour. Pear, melon, spice and creamy oak meld on the middle palate and the finish has flinty acid. At tworivers.com.au and the Denman cellar door.
DRINK WITH: calamari.
AGEING: 10 years.
RATING: 5 stars
THIS Tranquil Vale 2018 Semillon is no shy new semillon. It’s brassy in the glass, tropical fruit salad-scented and zips onto the front palate with ripe ruby grapefruit flavour. The middle palate shows lemon curd, nashi pear and unfolding honey and toast and the finish has gunmetal acid. At tranquilvale.com.au and the Luskintyre cellar door.
DRINK WITH: sushi.
AGEING: six years.
RATING: 4.5 stars
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