The Drayton’s are one of the Hunter Valley’s pioneering winemaking families and it is one of the few companies that are still family owned and operated.
It has been over one hundred and fifty years since the first Drayton trod on rich Hunter Valley soil. That Drayton was Joseph Drayton. Joseph was born in 1825 at Lincolnshire in England and at the age of twenty seven set sail for Sydney with his wife, Anna, and their two small boys. Tragically Joseph lost a son, a new born daughter and his wife during the voyage.
In 1853 he and son Frederick journeyed to Lochinvar and after several years moved to Pokolbin where Joseph acquired 80 acres of land. This was cleared and Joseph built the “Bellevue” homestead. In the late 1850’s, Joseph turned from growing grain to plant his first vines in the rich virgin loam of “Bellevue”.
Joseph married Mary Ann Chick and they had eight children. Joseph’s remaining son from his first marriage, Frederick, became a blacksmith. William son of the second marriage bought land and planted his vines on the 40 acres adjoining his father’s land. In 1885 he married Susan Lambkin and they had ten children, nine boys and one girl. It was William who eventually took over “Bellevue” from his father. In his sixties, William “retired” and split his assets among his 10 children - Harry, Walter, George, Leonard took over control of “Bellevue”, Ernest and Wesley took over the “Homestead” block, known as “Happy Valley”, William and Lewis were given the “Crows Nest” block (now McWilliams).
In 1947 the company, W. Drayton & Sons was formed. Eventually, the “Bellevue” property passed into the hands of the children of Harry, Walter, George and Len. The company was then run by Max, Bill, Reg, Jock and Ron (fourth generation descendants of Joseph) who were later joined by some of their children in the running of the business. By this time the company was actively marketing itself as Drayton’s Family Wines.
In early 1989, Max Drayton and three of his four sons (John, Trevor & Greg) purchased the company from other family members. Jock and the late Ron retired to Cessnock, Bill settled at his “Cedarside Vineyard” at Mount View where his interest in growing grapes still continues, and tragically Reg and his wife Pam lost their lives in a plane crash in 1995.
In 2008, another tragic chapter was added to the Drayton’s story. A winery fire and explosion resulted in the death of winemaker, Trevor Drayton and severe burning of his assistant William Rikard-Bell. The Australian and Hunter Valley winemaking community still mourn Trevor, while William returned to Drayton's for the 2009 & 2010 vintages but has since left to join another winery in the Orange region.
The family enterprise, originally started by Joseph Drayton, more than 150 years ago is now in the hands of Max Drayton and his two sons John, and Greg. Max’s 60 plus years of experience in the wine industry makes him an invaluable source of advice, not only for his sons, but also for other growers in the district. Greg has devoted his entire working life to the family company while John joined the company in 1989 after 13 years of teaching.
The Drayton family is very proud of its history over six generations and the part it has played in the development of the region that is now known as “Hunter Valley Wine Country”.