Queenstown vineyard a bolthole for Holocaust survivor

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Queenstown vineyard land is a bolthole for a United States-based Holocaust survivor, his daughter says. 

Irene Kaufman recently visited Queenstown for the first time to check on her dad Alex Kaufman’s Gibbston vineyard. 

Aspen-based Alex, 88, bought two blocks of Gibbston land in 2002 which produce wine for his successful boutique label, Kalex Wines. 

Irene, who hails from New York, says her father first visited Queenstown on the recommendation of an Aspen friend who owned property here. 

“He loved it here like nobody’s business – I think, having that extreme beauty like Aspen but a whole other level of beauty, just captured him.” 

A Polish Jew, Alex was captured by Nazis along with his parents and sister when Germany invaded the Soviet Union in 1941 during World War II. 

He escaped the concentration camp by jumping on to a slow-moving train, then survived in the forest for four years, earning what he could by helping villages rebuild – his other family members were killed. 

After the war he studied chemistry in Germany, then left for the US in 1950 “with literally a nickel in his shoe”, Irene says. 

Starting as a lab dishwasher at a chemical company, he ended up owning it and making a fortune. 

Irene says her dad bought land here because, as a Holocaust survivor, “there’s always this sense you should have another safe place, and he thought, this is it”. 

He also wanted another interest once he retired, and loves wine. 

Irene says Alex hasn’t been here for some time – “he’s passed the baton on to me”. 

“He really envisions it as a legacy for the family that can endure for generations.” 

Alex’s other vision is that Kalex remains a boutique label. 

“To his mind, if the family’s name is behind it, it has to be high quality and if it’s hard to get, that’s the way it is. 

“We like that we are kind of the jewel that you discover.” 

Irene says the wine, which has been produced since 2008, is “doing great guns” in California, though ironically isn’t currently for sale in Aspen. 

While in Queenstown she also met Kalex Wines co-directors Peter Waters, of Wanaka, who’s also general manager, and local-based accountant Lindsay McClean, along with other staff.