A true independent operation, Marlborough based Mount Riley Wines shows that Kiwi family businesses are thriving in New Zealand’s wine industry.
When you think of the term ‘family business’ your mind might conjure up images of a modest operation with limited reach. For founder of Mount Riley wines John Buchanan, however, modesty is merely a family trait as the literal fruits of his labour, and that of his family, are enjoyed all over the world.
Although John started the business in 1992 after working for several wine companies, you could argue that the seeds were planted decades earlier during his childhood spent in Marlborough “My mother was brought up on a farm here and as a child I spent countless hours at my Grandparents’ farm, so I had a deep attraction to this place. Things have gone full circle now as my grandchildren come here to visit me” he says.
That connection to Marlborough and his family roots in the region has remained strong. Unlike a large corporation, he says, Mount Riley approaches things with the values you would use when dealing with your own family members. “We consciously try to know all our staff members family situations and try to approach any staff decisions as you would a family decision. In short we try to apply the ethical and moral standards inside our business that you would apply in dealing with your own family.”
Thanks to the support of his daughter Amy and his son-in-law Matt who are the General Manager and Chief Winemaker respectively, the business is thriving as they not only bring capability to their roles, but an invaluable dedication strengthened by their family ties. “We are all involved and have been for years now, so we all know the vineyard sites very well and have an expectation of the different qualities that the grapes from each of our vineyards bring to Mount Riley. We are all proud of the wines we produce, and the wines carry our name so we all put a lot of effort into making them the best we possibly can” says John.
One wine the family has worked hard to produce, and which is experiencing extraordinary popularity is the Mount Riley Bonnie Rosé. “Initially, Rosé was thought of in New Zealand as a Summer wine, but we now sell it well throughout the year.” explains John. Made from a blend of Pinot Noir, Merlot and Pinot Gris grapes, the Mount Riley Bonnie Rosé incorporates some of the colour from the grape skins but not as much as red wine, so it is very delicate and refined. The Pinot Noir and Merlot grapes also provide red fruit flavour and structure whilst the Pinot Gris adds floral aromatic lift and palate weight.
When asked what meals he enjoys with the Mount Riley Bonnie Rosé, John said “Rosé is fantastic as an aperitif. The foods we like to pair with our Rose include chicken or niçoise salad, salmon, lamb served pink, duck, veggie skewers from the BBQ and soft cheeses. There is much more you can do with Rosé as long as you understand the wine is soft and delicate, so needs to be paired with lighter foods.”
Based on John’s suggestions, we recommend our Cucumber and Salmon Salad with Mustard and Fennel, Sam Neil’s Honey-Roasted Duck Legs with Apricots or our Grilled Eggplant 'Bruschetta' to pair with a glass of the Mount Riley Bonnie Rosé.
Like a fine wine, it seems as though Mount Riley continues to get better with age. And thanks to Matt and Amy, John’s legacy looks to be secured for generations to come “Their children are still young so that decision is down the road, but the kids are around the winery a lot now and I would be surprised if they didn’t continue the business on….hope so but that is their call!” For now, though, it seems that Mount Riley’s family ethos will continue to thrive under Matt and Amy’s stewardship.
Pick up a bottle of Mount Riley Bonnie Rosé or any Mount Riley wine at your local stockist or shop online at mountrileyshop.co.nz
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