In 1944, Mick and Kate Brajokorich bought a small parcel of land in Kumeu, just West of Auckland. Having worked in orchards and vineyards for a few years they wanted their own plot of land which could be transformed into a vineyard. Little did they know, this plot of land would become one of the leading Chardonnay wineries of the New World. The estate, originally named San Marino Vineyards, was somewhat successful, but most importantly was providing the family - and the next generations - with experience in winemaking.
In the 1980s the vineyard really took off with the current wine maker, Michael Brajokorich, who visited Burgundy for a vintage and experienced the way in which world-class wine, particularly chardonnay, was created. This trip was the inspiration for Kumeu River, and the family's focus shifted towards creating world-class, Burgundian-style, New Zealand wines. They introduced methods, such as indigenous yeast and carefully calculated lees contact. After this reset, there was an explosion of success for the Kumeu River Estate, with Michael becoming the first Master of Wine in New Zealand in 1989.
Kumeu River Estate covers around 30 hectares of land and is based just north-west of Auckland. Although the Estate is in the North of New Zealand, the climate is cool due to being surrounded by the cool breeze from the oceans on either side. This cool climate, plus the structure of the soil means that no irrigation is used, which is critical to the quality of the grapes. The soil structure is made up of a top layer of clay which provides stability to the vines. Underneath the clay is sandstone, which means that water is retained at significant depth, perfect for the vine's deep roots. The vines are stabilized with a Lyre trellis system which provides maximum sunlight to the grapes. Most importantly the grapes are handpicked, which results in the highest quality of grapes and therefore the highest quality of wine.
As they progress into the winery, the grapes are carefully crafted into the finest wine that can be produced. As previously mentioned, Michael, the winemaker of the estate, spent a year with the elite winemakers in Burgundy, gaining as much experience as possible, which he used to create his own world-class chardonnay. All wines are fermented with indigenous yeast, which provides uniqueness of flavour, and an extend lees contact with malolactic conversion. The wines show a new and exciting freshness and, depending on the level of oak, an additional layer of rich toastiness.
Kumeu River, in recent years, have been well recognized for their top-quality wine and 2014 a tasting took place which really put Kumeu river on the map. A blind tasting was formulated by Stephen Browett where Kumeu River was put up against some of the best Burgundian whites. The wines were put to the test with some of the best palates in the world providing their honest opinions. The result of the tasting was extremely impressive with all Kumeu wines (apart from one!) being rated higher than the whites from France. And yet Kumeu River Estate is still progressing and growing with many professionals in the wine business excited to see what their future holds.