Centuries of experience stand behind family winery Soljans Estate, and we’re thrilled to share a Q&A with Amber Soljan today – the younger half of the fifth generation of the iconic West Auckland estate next to Tyler Soljan.
Tell us a bit more about Soljan’s family business. When did it start?
Our family started making wine in New Zealand on Lincoln Road in 1932, a few years after my great great grandfather (Bartul Soljan) brought the family over from Croatia (in 1927). A few years later, my great grandad Frank moved a few metres down the road and started Soljans the brand in 1937.
We made a lot of ports and sherry’s at that point – as did most wineries. We also had an orchard there so we sold fruit too! As the years passed we moved further into wine as ports and sherry’s went out of fashion a bit. We stayed on Lincoln Road for about 65 years, it was the wine hub for a very long time but then as it started to be built up a lot of the wineries ended up moving further out from the city. We were one of the last wineries to do so, in 2002 Tony (my grandfather and current owner) found the location we are on now and moved us here. He worked closely with the architect to design our place right down to having sandstone on our building to tie to our Croatian heritage. We built the place from the ground up and we have been here ever since!
My family are all involved in the winery somehow – my granddad is here 8 days a week we like to say, and does everything he possible can. My nanny (Colleen) stocks and maintains our onsite gift shop, my Mum (Tonia) and my Aunt (Lisa) are both on the board of the company and are involved in any and all big decisions that come our way, my Dad (Chris) married into our family, he is the manager of the café. My brother is here full time, he is involved in a little bit of everything but his official title is management and sales assistant and I work part time here while I complete my studies.
What’s your role?
I am currently working part time here at Soljans alongside my studies. For Soljans I focus on the Social Media side of things as well as web development, general design help and evening work for our functions centre, but in reality I do whatever needs to be done on one given day, whether that be office work, front of house work or work in the warehouse or outside.
What was it like growing up in such an iconic New Zealand wine business?
Growing up in the family business was great! I would work on school holidays and learn so much about my family history. It was and is always fun when I am in a situation where someone is reading my last name and they pause and go “Soljan, like the winery?”. It actually happened to me on a plane once! It’s a really cool feeling, and it makes me so proud of all my family has accomplished. My teachers always liked it too because they knew they got a bottle of wine at the end of every year.
If you were a wine, what wine would you be?
That’s a hard question! I would probably say a Rosé, or a sparkling rosé. Rosé is a special kind of wine, it allows you to be a little bit more creative with every element of it from the flavours to the bottle itself. And it’s a little bit unpredictable, but always a lot of fun.
What’s your go-to wine at the moment?
My go-to wine is normally a Gewürztraminer or a Rosé (sparkling or still), I have a major sweet tooth so I really like the sweeter styles. From our wine range I would opt for our Fusion Sparkling Rosé pretty much every time.
Share a fact about yourself that only a few know
I can’t swim. I took swimming lessons and everything but it never really stuck. I can float but that’s about it.
Things you still want to do – what’s on your professional and personal bucket list?
I am really big on travel, so my personal bucket list is full of travel focused things, I really want to see everything the world has to offer – cliché, I know.
My professional bucket list… having my designs in public was a big element of that, which has been crossed off thanks to the Fifth Generation Range.
Dead or alive, who would you like to share a glass of vino with?
Either my Nana Mae, she past away last year and she always had the absolute best stories – and a glass of vino always leads to a few stories or Robin Williams. He was an incredible inspiration to me, and I would love to talk to him about his life and his career, everything. Also I think he would enjoy a nice glass of wine!