Ivan Milicich Snr had few possessions when he left the village of Podgora on the Dalmatian coast, Croatia in 1893, but he had skills, strength and a deep abiding love for his homeland and people. These attributes continue to influence subsequent generations of his family in New Zealand.
For over a decade Ivan Snr worked as a gum-digger and on contract jobs, saving to help his brothers emigrate and to buy his own land. In 1906 he began to grow grapes on his small dairy farm at Ngahinepouri and in 1922 he obtained a license to make and sell wine. This was the beginning of a Waikato family business which is now in its fifth generation. The winery is now known as Vilagrad, where the great-grand sons of Ivan Milicich Snr make award winning wines using both modern and traditional techniques.
Each generation brought changes and extensions to the family business.
Ivan's grand-daughter Nelda, and her husband Pieter Nooyen, current owners, replanted much of the vineyard with classic varieties of grape and began to serve their table wines at the restaurant and function centre which now defines Vilagrad Winery.
While maintaining some of the traditional varieties.
Vilagrad Winery continues to produce ports and sherries from their almost 100 year old vines planted by Ivan Snr.
The vineyard demonstrates both nationally and internationally, that fine wines can be produced in the Waikato. This is shown by the great grandson's continuing award and medal winning successes with their Vilagrad wines.
Four generations on, the 3 great-grandson's of Ivan Snr continue tradition by releasing their own label called '3 Brothers'. Specialising in 3 different varietals from 3 well-known regions in New Zealand; these wines capture the essence of each region. Applying their combined knowledge within the industry the 3 brothers have created recipes, wine, and music to complement.