West Auckland vineyards and wineries in 1960 were small, mixed holdings (Figure 2.1). All but a few of them combined growing grapes with orcharding, and most ran some livestock on the rest of their property. A few still practised market gardening. Over 90 per cent were owned by people who at the time were called Yugoslavs, after their country of origin, but colloquially known as ‘Dallies’ because many came from the Dalmatian coast of Croatia. They were family enterprises sometimes involving two families and more than one generation. The average size of vineyards in Henderson-Oratia was 5 acres (about 2 hectares) but much smaller if the three largest vineyards and wineries – Corbans (130 acres), Averill’s (35 acres, later Penfolds) and Western Vineyards (34 acres) – all owned by non-Croats – were omitted.
On average, 70 per cent of the wine made on these Croatian holdings was sold directly to the public, mainly from the cellar but sometimes by door-to-door hawking in Auckland and other regions. Cellars were small, unpretentious buildings adjoining the family home. Brick and concrete blocks were favoured building materials.
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Most had a small, adjoining distillery for turning grape residues into alcohol for fortifying their ports, sherries and liqueurs. Co-operative ‘stills’ were illegal. The spectre of prohibition still hovered, although weakened by the experiences of the Second World War. A visit to one of these wineries – say that of Mate and Melba Brajkovich in Kumeu, or George Mazuran or Peter Fredatovich in Lincoln Road, was as friendly and welcoming as at
In Auckland, properties were small, wineries were modest, and the proprietors were often grape growers, orchardists, winemakers and shopkeepers on the same day. Yozin’s building still stands on Swanson Road, no longer used and surrounded by suburban homes any family holding in France or Italy. At this stage of their evolution, only the wine was different. From about 1960, the second, New Zealand-born generation of Dallies were beginning to work on the family holdings. They brought change.
These West Auckland enterprises were on the doorstep of a city that was beginning to expand rapidly. The northwestern motorway opened in 1958. Roadworks to double its capacity and to widen its bridges began immediately. Although it was not obvious at the time, those Dalmatian families who owned larger parcels of land, or continued to
‘He rules by force of personality,’ noted Cooks Wine Bulletin in April 1971.