New Zealand Population Map

Grape growers and corporate organisations

In 1968, Roger McLernon was among the first grape growers in Gisborne to be offered a contract by Montana. As McLernon recounts, the same week that Frank Yukich talked to him, he chartered a plane and flew down with Rolph Porter. I got given a 33-year contract – a bob a pound and a refrigerated truck and a cheque before the grapes left the place. And I suddenly came of age and actually made some money.

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In typical Yukich fashion, Frank went one stage further, probably because he had already decided on his strategy for Gisborne.

Roger McLernon was working for Wohnsiedler at their Waiherere winery at the time, although he did not initially mention this to Yukich. The table grapes he had sold were Albany Surprise and Seneca from a vineyard planted by his father. When they met in Roger’s lunch hour the next day Yukich told him:

‘If you put your backside up and your head down for two more years, you can come to Montana and be the manager. I wasn’t the manager, I was the assistant manager for approximately eight months, and I’ve been the winery manager ever since in Gisborne.

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