One of the pioneers of winemaking (albeit fruit wine) in the Matakana district was Alexis Migounoff, although his product was marketed as a remedy rather than an enjoyable tipple.
Migounoff was a Russian who arrived at the Matakana Wharf on the Kotiti in August 1914.
In memories recorded by his daughter, Nina Bell, the family’s journey to their new farm in Takatu Road was described as “a ride into the wilderness”.
“It was just one stretch of ti-tree, fern, rushes and gorse, and amongst all this there were great big potholes where the gum-diggers had been digging kauri gum – some holes were nearly 15-feet deep and nearly the same across.”
Before the family was able to establish their dairy farm, they grew melons to export to Auckland. It wasn’t unusual to load 600 to 700 melons on to a boat at the Matakana Wharf and the melons weighed on average around 20-30lbs (9kgs to 13kgs). Nina recalls that “they sold for a good price of around a shilling to two shillings each”.
The family’s income was also supplemented with the sale of duck and chicken eggs, potatoes, maize and cucumbers.
In later years, Migounoff suffered from rheumatic fever, which left him severely crippled, so he started doctoring himself with grapefruit juice. Nina records that slowly but surely her father’s condition improved. In fact, before the grapefruit season was over, he was “practically well again”.
To overcome the seasonality of his ‘remedy’ he started to experiment with winemaking. The result was a product he called Lemora, which took two years to mature “to perfection”.
Each year, Migounoff produced larger quantities and eventually obtained a licence to sell it. More and more “patients” were trying it out and soon testimonials galore were pouring in. One fan wrote, “Thank you so much. I’ve thrown away my crutches after many years of suffering.” Even Dr Shaw, in Warkworth, was prescribing it and it was sold in chemist shops.
Lemora was prescribed for rheumatic fever, sciatica and arthritic conditions.
The business was so successful that eventually Migounoff moved his cellar to Greenlane in Auckland.