From opening New Zealand’s first winery restaurant in 1979 to continued support and commitment to the hospitality industry today.
Auckland, New Zealand (28 September, 2017) Sir George Fistonich, founder and owner of Villa Maria Wine Estate, was honoured last night with the Hall of Fame Award at the Restaurant Association of New Zealand’s annual Feast by Famous Chefs event. The honour of becoming an inductee into the Restaurant Association's Hall of Fame is bestowed on one outstanding industry personality each year who is a major contributor to the industry - not only through their own business but through belonging to the hospitality community.
Sir George founded Villa Maria Estate in 1961 and with vision and determination has steered the company to become one of New Zealand’s leading family-owned wineries. A true pioneer, Sir George knew that hospitality was a fundamental piece of the wine business. Early on he introduced wine-and-cheese evenings to introduce consumers to pairing and enjoying food with wine. In 1977, he held a series of Croatian-style lamb-on-the-spit barbecues across the country, beginning in Dunedin and travelling on to Christchurch, Wellington, Hastings and Auckland. A massive success, the barbecues drew a combined total of over 3,200 guests.
Building on these achievements, Sir George went on to open the first winery restaurant in 1979, which at the time was regarded with much suspicion among the locals who couldn’t imagine there would be any attraction in having a glass of wine with a meal in pleasant surroundings. After a two-year battle with local and licensing authorities, and against all odds, New Zealand’s first licensed vineyard bar and restaurant opened with many local dignitaries and media in attendance, including Prime Minister the Right Honourable Robert Muldoon.
"Sir George has been an avid supporter of the hospitality industry for many years and continues to be involved,” said Marisa Bidois, Chief Executive Officer of the Restaurant Association of New Zealand. “He has a well-deserved place amongst our esteemed Hall of Fame recipients".
Known as the list of Hospitality Royalty, the Hall of Fame award has been bestowed on industry greats since 1992, including Simon Gault, Michael Van de Elzen, Steve Logan, Judith Tabron, Des Britten, Tony Astle and Ruth Pretty.