Two-hundred guests celebrated the reopening of Vilagrad winery last Sunday, three months and 10 days after a fire that destroyed tens of thousands of bottles and much its buildings.

It was also a family affair with four generations of winemakers in attendance from Vesna Milicich, 96, down to her grandsons, the men behind Three Brothers Wines, Adam, Jacob and Kristan Nooyen along with the next generation of knee-high hopefuls.

But the family vibe didn't end there - restaurant manager Renz Marino echoed a number of friends and staff members when he said the title of family extended to the whole lot of them.

Renz has worked his way up, starting as a kitchen hand five years ago. He said he couldn't believe it when he got the call at 4am on the day of the fire.


"I stopped to get breakfast for everyone and got there at 9am. The fire was out."

His job became one of answering the phone and rearranging the many weddings and events coming up.

"Everyone was rebooking which was awesome."

Renz says there was something else that came from the ashes of the destroyed warehouse which gives the story a silver lining.

Beneath the rubble and burnt crates a number of bottles could be saved, and these tasted even better for it.

"We sent the fire wines to Mills Reef in Tauranga and got them tested. They had the same pH and everything, the fire just aged it a bit more," he said.

The fire wines reflect what has come out of the fire which took hold of 1800 sq m of the establishment.

Adam Nooyen, who took over project management of the rebuild, said not only would the offices, commercial kitchen and 100-year-old barrel room be rebuilt, but they are now looking to expand into a new wine tasting building and the festival scene.


The kitchen is currently run from two converted containers.

"It's a bit like Christchurch. It seems the world is very fond of finding out what we can do with containers," Adam said.

But it is not just replacing the old, Adam is also looking to the future.

"The next stage is the design and build of our plan to have a dedicated tasting room."

He said the new frontage would enable every guest to be greeted at the door.

"We are planning now for the next 20 years. Our wish list is quite extensive."

The three brothers are the fourth generation of winemakers at Vilagrad - the fifth were still knee-height.

"The next generation of nephews and nieces need something well thought out for newer business," Adam said, and this new business is set to include a dual venue function and hosting concerts.

The first big foray into this new market will be for the aptly named Summervines Fire Festival on October 31, when the likes of The Black Seeds and Tiki Taane will be performing across three stages.

Adam said he hoped in time Vilagrad would become a mini Mission Estate.

For musician Phil Walsh, who has been playing at the venue for 25 years, Sunday's celebration was a special event.

Phil launched his own album, Scenes from the Movie In My Head, the night before the fire.

"We played at the closing so it's come full circle. We love this place."

Phil also released an album, Hamiltune - Rockin' the Tron in the 80s, in aid of the rebuild, and raised $1309 for the cause.

Winemaker Jacob Nooyen opened the Sunday lunch with a simple statement: "We're back." So it would seem, and stronger than ever.