Villa Maria Estate
Villa Maria Estate is one of New Zealand’s largest and most celebrated family owned wineries. Owned by George Fistonich’s and based in Auckland, Villa Maria Estate boasts two ‘state of the art’ wineries.
The largest is Villa Maria’s new Auckland winery and Vineyard Park, which was officially opened in February 2005. It replaced Villa Maria’s original winery, built in 1969 on the site of its founder’s home in Mangere. The new Auckland winery crushes grapes harvested from the Gisborne and Hawke’s Bay regions.
A second ‘state of the art’ winery located in Marlborough, processes Villa Maria’s Marlborough harvest. Villa Maria Estate has been New Zealand’s leading wine award winner, both nationally and internationally, since the early 1980’s.
Some of Villa Maria’s many recent achievements include being named as the fourth most admired wine brand in the world and No.1 in New Zealand by Drinks International 2017. This was the third time in the last three years they have made the top 10 list. Notably, Winestate Magazine awarded them NZ Winery of the Year in 2016 which marked the 15th time in 19 years they received this accolade.
Nick Picone, Chief Winemaker
Picone had an early start in winemaking, completing his first vintage at Esk Valley Estate in Hawkes Bay when he was just 18. After completing his BA in wine science, he became Villa Maria’s youngest Assistant Winemaker at 24 with a shift to the South Island’s Marlborough region. In 2004, he was promoted to Winemaker and was awarded with the Yalumba Scholarship to attend the Len Evans tutorial in the Hunter Valley, which initiated his presence in New Zealand wine judging circles.
In 2008, Picone became Villa Maria’s Senior Auckland Winemaker, overseeing the winery’s North Island production in Hawkes Bay and Gisborne. In June 2015, he was named Chief Winemaker of the Villa Maria Group, overseeing all of the company’s winemaking, including Villa Maria, Vidal Estate, Esk Valley, Te Awa Collection, Thornbury, Riverstone and Wise Owl.
Throughout his career, Picone has received numerous awards. In 2011, he was named joint winner of the New Zealand Winemaker of the Year title at the Royal Easter Show Wine Awards. In 2012, he was honoured with The Wine Society Young Winemaker of the Year title, which is awarded to Australia’s top young winemaker. He was the first New Zealander to receive this prestigious accolade.
In addition to his long history at Villa Maria, he has also completed vintages in both California and Italy. Picone has two children with his wife Mandy, and enjoys playing guitar and sharing good food and wine with family and friends.
Helen Morrison - Senior Marlborough Winemaker
Helen Morrison’s passion for wine not only encouraged her to change her career path at Lincoln University in Christchurch, she also graduated as the top female student from her Bachelor of Viticulture and Oenology program in 2005.
Having joined Villa Maria’s Marlborough team in January 2014, Morrison is thrilled to be working for such an iconic and award-wining winemaking family focused on sustainability and environmental responsibility.
Morrison has lived in Marlborough since 2006, working previously as a client winemaker in a large custom crush Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir facility. Prior to that, she worked at a smaller family estate specializing in Riesling.
However, her passion extends outside the cellar. Morrison has been involved with wine judging in the New Zealand wine show system since 2008, progressing from associate to senior judge in 2012. She has also been on the Marlborough wine options committee for several years and hosts regular wine club tastings.
Morrison also loves the outdoors, enjoying skiing in the winter, camping, tramping and boating in the summer, as well as trying to keep fit running with her dog, swimming and mountain biking.
Dave Roper - Senior Auckland Winemaker
His passion for wine and natural ability has seen Dave Roper become an integral part of the Auckland Winemaking team.
Roper began his career in wine at Villa Maria in 2002 as a cellar hand. His flair for winemaking was apparent from the outset, and in 2005 he was promoted to Assistant Winemaker. Having developed his skill and knowledge across all of Villa Maria’s wines, Roper’s talent was once again recognized and he was promoted to the position of Auckland Winemaker in 2007.
Roper was raised in New Zealand’s Bay of Plenty by two science teacher parents and holds a degree in Microbiology, graduating from the Auckland University of Technology in 1995. Drawn toward the wine industry in 1999, he studied at the Eastern Institute of Technology in Hawkes Bay, completing a Certificate in Winemaking. During his career he has also worked vintages in Oregon and Washington State.
Roper believes winemaking “requires a strong appreciation of art plus an understanding of science, you’ve got to have both.”
Roper and his wife Angela have two girls, Stella and Holly. He enjoys live music, great food, is a keen gardener and fisherman and avid sports follower.
Villa Maria Estate welcomes visitors at both its Auckland and Marlborough wineries.
Marlborough winery and Cellar Door
P +64 3 520 8470
F +64 3 520 8471
Corner of Paynters and New Renwick Roads, Fairhall, Blenheim
The winery and Cellar Door are close to Marlborough's central vineyard area and only a short drive from Blenheim airport.
We are open 7 days a week for wine tasting and sales.
10:00am to 5:00pm
(12:00pm to 5:00pm on the weekends between June and September)
Auckland Winery and Cellar Door
+64 9 255 0666
118 Montgomerie Rd,
9:00am to 6:00pm
Monday to Friday
9:00am to 4:00pm
From a one-man band to a global brand in just 50 years
In 1961, at just 21 years of age, George leased five acres of land from his father in Mangere, Auckland and started off with just an acre of vines. He harvested his first grapes in 1962 and made his first wine under the name Villa Maria.
Throughout the 1960s Villa Maria was a one-man band, with Georges wife, Gail, supporting him in his venture. He made dry red and white wines, sourcing grapes from the greater Auckland regions. In the early 1970s he started to employ staff and the company began to expand rapidly.
Today, Villa Maria employs more than 250 permanent staff and exports wine to over 50 countries worldwide.
Our Auckland Vineyard Café is open 7 days for lunch, serving delicious food and wines. Enjoy a glass of Villa Maria wine on the terrace which overlooks the Ihumatao Vineyard, share a platter or have lunch. Lunch menu served from 11:30am - 3:30pm
Monday to Friday
9:00am to 6pm
9:00am to 4pm