Respect, patience, and adaptability. Each is an integral part of the Kumeu River success story, not only in the making of good wine, but also in the making of a thriving family business that spans many generations.
1937 - The Brajkovich family begins a new life in New Zealand
The story of Kumeu River Wines began to unfold more than half a century ago with the first generation of the Brajkovich family to arrive in New Zealand.
In their small Croatian village of Živogošće, Mick and Katé Brajkovich had also farmed small plots of land and had experience tending vines and making their own wine. After a few years of working in the gumfields, the family moved to Henderson in West Auckland where Mick, Katé, and son Maté worked in local vineyards and orchards. By 1944, they had saved enough money to purchase a Kumeu property with a small vineyard.
1944 - San Marino Vineyards, the start of something big
Although Mick died in 1949, Maté and Katé continued to work in the vineyard, which became known as San Marino Vineyards, tending the vines and making wine to sell.
In 1957, Maté met his wife, Melba, whose grandparents had also immigrated to New Zealand from Croatia. During the 1960’s the couple had four children Michael, Marijana, Milan and Paul. For the children, being brought up around the winery established a strong foundation of industry knowledge and skill that would take the winery to a new level of success in years to come.
Although the winery was steadily gaining reputation and status within the industry, it was the late 1970’s and early 1980’s that saw a marked evolution in the style and direction of the winery. In 1979 the winery moved away from the hybrids used for the production of fortified and basic red and white wines to varieties such as Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc. All popular and commonly known varieties today, but these wines were relatively unheard of at that stage, posing a bold and somewhat risky move for the winery.
1986 - Kumeu River, a new name, a new era
During the 1980’s Michael, Milan, and Paul became more involved in the business and the winery took on a new focus; quality and reputation. The winery changed its name to Kumeu River Wines and began producing a Burgundy-influenced style of Chardonnay that featured indigenous yeasts, extended lees aging, and malolactic fermentation. In the years since, the Chardonnays of Kumeu River have gained international awards and accolades.
Just as the Brajkovich family has grown, so too has the winery itself. Extensions and additions mark the milestones that have seen business adapt and expand over the years. Today, the winery produces around 250,000 bottles annually from 30 hectares of its own vineyards in Kumeu, and another 10 hectares from local growers.
The wines of Kumeu River have gained a strong foothold within the international market. The winery’s Chardonnays have received outstanding accolades and are considered world class by a number of international wine commentators.
Melba, Michael, Marijana, Milan and Paul, look forward to continuing to provide customers, both locally and further afield, with quality wine that is the result of time, tradition, and a love of the wine business.