Sir George Fistonich always had strong ambitions from an early age of becoming a winemaker. He leased two hectares of land from his father when he was just 21 years old and with just an acre of vines, he started making wine commercially under the name Villa Maria. Sir George has been a pioneer of the New Zealand wine industry ever since.
Sir George set up a winemaking and viticultural cadet scheme within Villa Maria, and the company was also one of the founding members of Sustainable Winegrowing NZ. Sir George was knighted in 2009 for his services to the wine industry and he received a Lifetime Achievement Award at the International Wine Challenge Awards in London in 2011.