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Tiki Wines & Vineyards at Ortega Fish Shack

By June 25, 2013No Comments
A small group of wine industry personnel and wine media joined the Tiki Wines & Vineyards team at Ortega Fish Shack in Majoribanks Street for a mid-winter lunch. It was an opportunity to meet the whole Tiki team from owners Royce and Sue McKean, to the winemaker, viticulturist, administration staff and sales representatives, as well as the marketing consultant. I don’t think I’ve even had the occasion where I’ve been in the company of all those involved in a sizeable wine business at one time in one room.

Tiki was established when Royce and Sue McKean returned from overseas work in the finance world to settle back in New Zealand, no doubt to raise their young family, and begin a new challenge. This happened to be, following advice, the purchase of around 325 ha of land in the Waipara Valley which they planted to grapes from 2004 to 2006, to become contract growers. The McKeans extended and diversified their business further by purchasing land and establishing 225 ha of vines in the upper Wairau Valley with the guidance of viticultural consultant David Jordan from 2007 to 2008. As tends to happen, the McKeans decided to produce wine under their own label, the first vintage being in 2009, with a small 1,000 cases of a Sauvignon Blanc.

Royce McKean – Tiki Wine & Vineyards

Growing the Tiki Brand and Business
From small beginnings, the Tiki label has grown remarkably in a very short period. Supplying contract fruit remains the core of the vineyard business, with around 95% of the Waipara Valley fruit and 65% of the Marlborough grapes sold to some serious and big players. However, Royce and Sue McKean have committed their resources to growing the Tiki wine brand into a significant position on the New Zealand wine scene. With an abundance of vineyard, there is the potential for much greater things.

Over lunch, it quickly became evident that Royce and Sue have an ambition to succeed in business, and have adopted wine with a passion. As with most of this country’s wine producers, Royce has had no history with winegrowing, but Sue’s father, Denis Marshall, owns the Hawkshead vineyard in Gibbston in Central Otago, so has a connection. Recognising that their strength is in business acumen and operations, they have surrounded themselves with the best expertise they could find. The very experienced Evan Ward, formerly with Morton Estate, Corbans and McWilliams, was engaged as winemaker, and James Nightingale, who was at the heart of setting up the large McArthur Ridge vineyard project in Central Otago was brought on board as viticulturist. Similarly, the administrative staff and sales and marketing team are made up of people with strong track records in their respective fields.

In a time when nearly every wine business is running lean, it is refreshing to see the Tiki team in a stage of strong growth. The McKean’s business model is based on a strong infrastructure with as much resource as possible. Royce reckons his people must be set up with the tools and support so they can succeed, and that principle applies to him as an owner too. The sales force has a presence in every significant market in New Zealand, as the McKeans know that it is continued and direct activity that sustains business as well as growing it. I sensed a very positive vibe, camaraderie and a collegial spirit among all of the team members, something that is strived for but not achieved in many enterprises.

Kalina Panfilow and Evan Ward
Production & Office Manager, and Winemaker
The Wairau Alpine Valley Vineyards and Winemaking
The Tiki vineyards in Marlborough stand out in a number of respects. Situated further inland in the Wairau Alpine Valley, the three vineyards, ‘River Terrace’. ‘Te Puki Iti’ and ‘Rewa’ are more continental in character than others in region, and set at 180-260 metres a.s.l. Their key feature is that they experience a large diurnal temperature range, and thus provide superb ripening for strong aromatics in the wines. The soils and aspect for the sites vary and each are planted accordingly for varieties. Viticulturist James Nightingale admits the climate there sits between Marlborough proper, and Central Otago, and that the weather patterns do not always follow that of the Wairau Valley, which can have benefits. But he is enamoured with the fruit emerging from the vineyards.

Winemaker Evan Ward is also taken by the character and quality of the fruit from the Wairau Alpine Valley. Having worked primarily with Hawke’s Bay fruit over his 38 years in the industry, this Marlborough fruit has an aromatic purity that is distinctively different. Evan’s winemaking philosophy is to preserve and capture as much of the fruit as possible. His approach is “analytical” and aims to make wines of great drinkability and appeal at the premium level. He is unashamedly conservative and risk aversive, to ensure the wines are right down the middle of his working parameters. As with all of the Tiki team, Evan is given the latitude to control all aspects of his work in the winemaking and style setting. So far, he has used a number of different winemaking facilities in Marlborough, but will be operating from one from now on.

James Nightingale – Tiki Viticulturist

The Tiki Wine Tiers and the Future
The Tiki wines are separated into the white label ‘Estate’ range and the grey label ‘Single Vineyard’ wines. Both tiers source fruit from either Waipara or Marlborough. The ‘Estate’ wines are varietally and regionally expressive, whereas the ‘Single Vineyard’ wines have the greater weight, richness, texture and depth, as well as speaking of the site. At present, in this early phase of understanding the performance of the vineyards, the wines are made as cleanly and safely as possible. No doubt as the vines mature and the vineyards show consistency, there will be room to move in the winemaking to make the ‘Single Vineyard’ wines show increased levels of interest and complexity.

The other brand that is integral with Tiki is ‘Koro’ which is Maori for ‘grandfather’ and is a tribute to Royce’s great-grandfather, Chief Tiki Tere Mihi. This is the label for the limited release Central Otago Pinot Noir made from fruit from Sue McKean’s father’s vineyard. A number of other labels are also bottled, some destined for export or alternative distribution channels. These include ‘Maui’ and ‘Alpine Valley’.

All of the Tiki wines are made from fruit from vineyards certified and audited according to New Zealand Sustainable Winegrowing. The McKeans see this as being parallel to the Maori concept of ‘Kaitiakitanga’ which are principles of guardianship, protection and preservation of the earth.

The Tiki Wines and the Ortega Menu
Since Ortega Fish Shack opened in 2009, business has been booming for Mark Limacher and his team. The awards and recognition for the food and service are a continuance of the success he has enjoyed over the many years of service in the Wellington hospitality and dining industry. The lunch was another Limacher treat with excellent food courses delivered with friendliness and faultless efficiency by Mark’s son-in-law Davey McDonald. Mark takes great care and shows pride in his wine and food matching, and some of the very best pairings I have ever had have been created by Mark. Here are my impressions of the lunch. www.ortega.co.nz

Tiki ‘Estate’ Waipara Pinot Gris 2011
Still pale and youthful, this is refined and tightly held with beautifully balanced and harmonious aromas and flavours of white stonefruits, pears and a zesty mineral edge, keeping the wine fresh. Very attractive, smooth textures and palate flow are the features of this elegant and aromatic wine.
Canapes: Sashimi of the day, togarashi and tamari dressing, Corn fed duck liver pate, Cured Italian coppa with grissini
Classical canapés with varied flavour bursts and textures to stimulate the appetite.

Tiki ‘Estate’ Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2012
Quite pungent with grassy, gooseberry and cooler nettle-like aromas, similar to the Awatere, the fruit just beginning to show signs of secondary development. But rich and luscious on palate combining fleshiness with zestiness, and exotic passionfruit and tropical fruit notes emerging. Plenty of substance and fruit boldness will hold this in good stead.
First Course: A salad of smoked white warehou, goats milk Edam, beetroot and watercress. The fish quite subtle and the goats cheese allowing the beetroot and watercress to feature. Lovely nuances that picked up and connected with the wine, the salad with the herbaceousness and slight earthiness of beetroot and wine development, and an enticing draw and balance of the cheese with the wine’s acidity. This was an intricate and detailed matching of components.

Tiki ‘Single Vineyard’ Marlborough Pinot Gris 2011
This has excellent weight and presence on bouquet and palate. Building aromas and flavours of ripe white and yellow stonefruits, showing richness and round textures along with density and concentration, leading to textures and linearity. The fruit is a little less expressive than the ‘Estate’ Waipara Pinot Gris preceding, but this has more depth and nuance.
Second Course: Pan roasted fish of the day, prawn, tamarind and coriander salad, Malaysian coconut gravy
A fully flavoured course, the firm flesh and roasting providing strong and positive flavours, somewhat overpowering the subtlety of the wine’s fruit. The creaminess of the gravy meeting the weight and texture of the wine. The dish itself very well balanced and quite complete, but a little too bold for the Pinot Gris.

Tiki ‘Koro’ Central Otago Pinot Noir 2011
A dark coloured wine showing youth. Well-concentrated with ripe black fruits and a little thyme herb underlining. Quite robust and firm with grainy tannins and textures, but with excellent and powerful drive and cut. The ripeness of the fruit and the structure of the wine will see this develop very well. A real success in a vintage that has produced mixed results for the region.
Third Course: Pan seared loin of hare fillet, mushrooms, grilled polenta, Pinot Noir infused pan juices
A sensational dish, the hare cooked perfectly rare and tender, with restrained game flavours that allowed the wine to feature. The hare had the density to absorb the tannin grip and the sauces and polenta also moderating the extract. Detail connections with the mushroom and fruit. Maybe a little greenery or vegetables to pick up on the thyme herb in the wine would take this match closer to perfection?

Dessert: Catalan crepe with orange caramel sauce, vanilla ice cream
My favourite dessert at Ortega – ‘nuff said!

A Preview of the 2013 Tiki Sauvignon Blancs
As alluded to above, the growing conditions in the Wairau Alpine Valley can be quite different to that of the Wairau and Awatere Valleys, and so it was in 2012 which was regarded as a “challenging” vintage according to James. The Wairau and Awatere experienced an excellent harvest. Considering this, I’ve found the 2012 Tiki Wairau Alpine Valley wines to be a success, and my ratings for them high.

2013 is a top year in the area, and Evan brought along tank samples of the 2013 ‘Estate’ and ‘Single Vineyard’ Sauvignon Blancs. Evan has further emphasised the differences between the two tiers with selection based on style. The ‘Estate’ wine is very aromatic with a combination of tropical fruit and gooseberry fruit, and possessed soft textures making the wine approachable. There’s a core of fine phenolics that provide linearity. The ‘Single Vineyard’ wine is another beast altogether, coming from a defined parcel in the ‘River Terraces’ vineyard. Fully pungent and packed with thiol passionfruit and sweaty aromas and flavours, this has depth and concentration, yet remains luscious and plush in texture. It isn’t over the top, but is certainly a statement.

It’ll be fascinating to see these wines with some time on them, very much as the Tiki business. www.tikiwine.com

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