Soljans family-owned winery began in a small town in Croatia called Stari Grad. It was in 1927 that the founder Bartul Soljan (who we consider “grandad” – the first generation), his wife, and children sailed the world to relish in the art of wine-making. 1932 was the year that the Soljans established their first family vineyard in Henderson, West Auckland. Bartul’s son, Frank (“Father” – the second generation), wanted to follow in his father’s footsteps. In 1937, he established what would be the first New Zealand Soljans Winery on Lincoln Road, also in West Auckland. …And then we cut to now – Tony (“grandson” – the third generation), established the well-known Soljans Estate Winery & Café in a prime spot on SH16 in Kumeu, West Auckland.
Tony, who still owns his SH16 Estate, is who we spoke to during our visit to the beautiful Estate. As soon as we stepped foot in the doors – we noticed an enormous sense of family connection and a welcoming atmosphere. As we talked more in-depth with Tony, we realize his connection to the wine goes a lot deeper than passion and profit.
What makes your vineyard special?
“The heritage of Soljans – if you’ve got a winery, you’ve got a story. We’re the third oldest in New Zealand. Our heritage is an interesting story – We’re the only winery in New Zealand that has the fifth generation of the family working in it. We’re family entrenched, which is unique at this stage in the winery business worldwide. We’re accessible, our building and gardens are always kept up to the neatest presentation. To make good wine, you have to be proud of your product. We guarantee that our product is golden before we put it out to the market. You can taste New Zealand in our wines – this is because we grow all over the country to ensure that the grapes we grow, thrive in the right environment. If you visit Soljans, you’re more than likely to encounter someone from the family – this shows visitors to the winery that we really have our hands still on the business.
What’s your favorite wine region in the world – other than your own?
A well-traveled Tony Soljan reflects on this question, and states that he believes “there is no one region that is better, or worse than another”, he backed this up by saying that each region produces based on their own environment and taste. From a New Zealand perspective, he believes and has been told that Soljans makes the best wine for New Zealand. Tony, a man that has only ever had this one job, elaborates on his travel for work. He adds that he has been to almost all apparent wine regions.
What would people be surprised to know about your wines?
The story that goes with the wines. “we try to make wines that are accessible – we try to make wines that are good and honest that can be enjoyed by all types of people”.
What is your general wine-making philosophy?
“Make the absolute best wines you can. Hence why we make our wines with different grapes grown in different regions – this is to ensure that the grapes carry the highest quality.” Tony adds that this is a tradition. His family’s initial philosophy when jumping into the wine-making industry was based on his grandfather’s passion for fussiness and attention to detail – Making the best wines you can”
If you had to prink one red and one white to drink for the next month, what would you choose?
Cabernet-based reds or a chardonnay – they have the most significant appeal to Tony.
Can you tell me the story behind your favorite bottle that you produce?
Tribute – a bottle produced that is a mix of merlot and Malbec. Soljans’ decided to make this bottle as a tribute to three generations of winemakers – His Grandfather, Father, and Tony. Unique vineyards go into it, select barrels go into it, it spends more time in oak. Through speaking to him, we discover that Tony holds this product dear to his heart as he speaks with warmth about its history and meaning.
Writers Credit: Shania Mahy