Wine Tasting: Soljans Estate Winery; Auckland, New Zealand

Winery/Producer: Soljans Estate Winery; Tony Soljan and Aaron Bilcich wine makers.

Appellation: Grapes are grown in: Kumeu, Marlborough, Hawke’s Bay and Gisborne, New Zealand.

Tasting Room and Location:
Soljans Estate Winery
366 State Highway 16
Kumeu, Auckland, New Zealand

Grape Variety Tasted: Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, Gisborne Pinotage, Kumeu Pinot Gris, Fusion Sparkling Muscat and Founders Tawny Port.

Tasting Price: $6.00 (NZ$) about $4.50 (US$)

Comments: We visited the Soljans Winery on an organized tour of three winerys in the Kumeu area just north of Auckland. And, it should be said right from the start that we are generally not very positive about this kind of wine experience; however, we had a very limited amount of time in Auckland and wanted to get a glimpse of the grape growing area and its wineries and this was the best way to do it. We chose to only write up the Soljans Winery because the other two were simply not noteworthy and had disappointing wines.

The Soljans vineyard history goes back more than 80 years when the grand father of the current owner, Tony Soljans, established the family vineyard in Auckland, New Zealand. In 1937 Tony’s father established Soljans Wines and using the latest wine making equipment produced sherry and other wines that were in vogue at that time. Than in the 1970’s Tony, the third generation of Soljans wine makers, assumed responsibility for the family business and introduced Soljans table wines. Tony built the current Mediterranean style facility in 2002 that includes the winery, a tasting room and cafe and because of its proximity is the first vineyard on Auckland’s Heritage Wine Trail.

Our group was greeted outside the tasting room by Tony Soljans who gave us some background, described their grapes terroir and took us into the vineyard to see Chardonnay grapes that were about a week away from harvesting. After a step by step tour through the wine making facility Tony took us into the barrel storage area and described all kinds of interesting tid-bits about the wine making process…such as what’s involved in ordering French barrels and smelling a brand new one that had never been used. Tony was knowledgeable and enthusiastic about growing grapes and making wine. It’s often said vineyard owners have lots of character…and Tony sure fit the mold. He provided an outstanding wine tour and his history and love of the vineyard sure made it a “must visit” winery if your ever in Auckland.

Recommendation from the tasting: Great wines, and although we didn’t eat in the cafe the menu look delicious and the setting superb. Tony Soljans gave an outstanding tour that only a vineyard owner can do. We bought the Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc (which we tasted at the winery) and the Barrique Reserve Chardonnay and we would strongly recommend both the tour and wines. As we were leaving the winery Vicky and I both commented to each other about how much better this visit was compared to wine tasting at similar size California vineyards…the Soljans Estate Winery gets four thumbs up from us!!!