History of the Drayton’s Family Wine Makers

Hunter Valley is known for its collection of vineyards and winemakers, and the Drayton’s are one of the original winemaking families of the region, as well as one of the only family-run winemakers still in service.

Their story began over 150 years ago when Joseph Drayton first stepped foot on Hunter Valley land. Born in 1825 in England, Joseph moved to Sydney with his family when he was twenty-seven years old, but he unfortunately lost his wife and two of his children in the voyage over.

Once on Australian soil with his other son, he bought a plot of land that stretched across 80 acres. At first, he grew grain to sell but, at the end of the 1850s, he began to plant vines – an idea that was born from the loamy soil of the region. Later, Joseph would marry Mary Ann Chick and they would go on to have eight more children.

One of these children, William, bought the 40 acres of land adjoining the initial 80 acres and began to plant more vines in the fertile ground. He eventually married and went on to run “Bellevue”, as the vineyard was known back then, with his wife Susan Lambkin and their ten children. When he retired, he split his assets, including the Bellevue land, between his offspring, who took over the running of the vineyard.

Then, in 1947, Bellevue became the property of the newly formed W. Drayton & Sons company. By this point, the Drayton Family Wines business was thriving and had moved into the hands of fourth generation descendants of Joseph.

Towards the end of the 20th century, in 1989, Max Drayton purchased the company along with his sons, buying out his brothers and other family members. The Drayton Family Wines business is still run by Max and his two sons, John and Greg, though it has had a bit of a turbulent ride. Back in 2008 a fire tore through the winery, killing Trevor Drayton and killing his assistant – an accident that is still mourned by the Hunter Valley community.

Despite this unfortunate turn of events, the Drayton family remain very proud of their heritage which now spans back over 150 years and brings together a rich history, as well as many years of vine growing experience. The family and its business has played a major role in developing the Hunter Valley as a winemaking region, and continues to do so in the present day.

Explore our Hunter Valley Wine Tour from Hunter Valley if you’re in the region!