I've always liked the word convivial, which is defined by Webster's Dictionary as "relating to, occupied with, or fond of feasting, drinking, and good company". And here is where we will share all things related to feasting, drinking and good company - with a little travel thrown in for good measure. Consider it our "at the table" section where you can find food and wine pairings, recipes, restaurant reviews, travel tips, and more. And once we get started we hope that you'll share your table - photos, friends, travels, and wine pairings with recipes. Welcome to our table, please make yourselves comfortable.
Ever since Jen Parr with VALLI Wines was named 2020 New Zealand Winemaker of the year, we've been thinking of a way to celebrate Jen in a special way. We thought of Jen-uary but it was a little late to celebrate a month at the end of the month, so we decided to celebrate Jen in Feb with VALLIntines for everyone!
To celebrate Jen Parr and all things VALLIntines, we are offering complimentary ground shipping on all purchases of six or more bottles of VALLI Wines during the entire month of February. Limited quantities are available, so buy some VALLI Wines now so you'll be sure to have them ready to go to celebrate all things Jen and VALLIntines all month long.
You could even put together your own VALLIntines sample pack - one of each of the four Pinot Noirs from Central Otago combined with one each of Riesling and Pinot Gris. We'll be offering tasting notes next week on the comparisons of the four areas where Jen makes the wines for VALLI - Bannockburn, Bendigo, Gibston and Waitaki. Taste them side-by-side and learn about Otago wines from the south island of New Zealand.
Valli Vineyards Press Release:
High profile Central Otago winemaker Jen Parr of Valli Vineyards has been named the 2020 New Zealand Winemaker of the year by Australasia’s leading wine magazine Gourmet Traveller WINE. Parr who was one of six finalists for the prestigious title last year as well, received the award at a dinner at Auckland’s Grand Hotel Monday night (Jan 20). “Jen Parr couldn’t be more deserving of this award – especially as she is the only person to have been nominated as a finalist two years in a row. Her experience and attention to detail serve her well when creating wines of great quality and sense of place that are bound to delight any discerning wine lover” says Gourmet Traveller WINE editor Judy Sarris. Winemakers cannot enter these awards themselves, nor can they be nominated by others.
Born in Oregon but now living in Wanaka Parr has had a stellar career since moving to Central Otago as assistant winemaker at Olssen’s (now Terra Sancta) in Bannockburn where she became head winemaker in 2009. She joined Valli in 2015 and is also a consultant winemaker for several other producers including Wild Earth, Kinross, Stewart Town Vineyard, and Black Quail. Parr says she owes her success to those around her: “While the Winemaker is the Year Awards is focused on individuals, none of us got here alone. We all have countless people who have helped us get where we are today. I have had the privilege of working with some of the most talented Winemakers and Viticulturists in the business. The Central Otago Wine Community has been a tremendous support to me and an integral part of my success. The competition that exists amongst us is of a healthy nature and serves purely as a motivation for us to work hard and not let each other down.”
She is an accomplished Wine Judge and is very active in the local wine industry, having served twice as the Chairperson for the Central Otago Pinot Noir Celebration. She was one of nine Mentors nationally in the Women in Wine's Pilot Mentor Programme in 2018 and has been very involved with the organisation of both the National and Central Otago Winemakers Workshops.
Valli Vineyards founder, pioneer winemaker Grant Taylor describes Jen Parr as: “The most thoughtful winemaker I know. We are a small team of three winemakers who just click. I don’t think the Rolling Stones in their heyday worked together as well as we do. We share everything but perhaps nothing as much as our pride in each others’ successes”
The finalists for the Winemaker of the Year competition are chosen by a judging panel chaired by Bob Campbell MW, alongside industry stalwarts Cameron Douglas MS and Liz Wheadon. Ms. Wheadon is a new addition to the panel after the passing of Raymond Chan in 2019. Chan had a profound impact on the New Zealand wine industry throughout his life and shared a close relationship with Parr. In 2016, he named Valli Vineyards as his “New Zealand Winery of the Year”. His presence was missed at the awards dinner as Ms. Parr noted in her acceptance speech.
Other individuals recognised on the night were James Millton of Millton Vineyards in Gisborne who was awarded the Leadership Award and Jason Flowerday of Te Whare Ra Wines in Marlborough who received the Viticulturist award.
Jen Parr is no stranger to awards and recognition for her work. She has received countless gold medals and trophies for her wines including ‘Platinum Best in Show’ at the Decanter Asia Wine Awards and ‘Champion Wine of Show’ at the prestigious New Zealand International Wine Show. At the same show, she became the first person to receive the ‘Champion Winemaker Award’ in 2012. In 2018, she was awarded Winemaker of the Year as part of the NZ International Aromatics Competition.
Like many in the wine industry, her path to winemaking wasn’t a straight line. A native of Oregon, she graduated from Stanford University in California with a degree in English Literature. She then spent a few years in Software sales which moved her to London where her love for wine began to blossom. She eventually quit her job and headed to Gaillac in the southwest of France to pick grapes.
She says she acquired her winemaking skills in the vineyard and winery rather than the classroom. “Aside from annual technical workshops and seminars, I took the old-fashioned route and learned by apprenticing. I debated going back to study wine in a classroom setting but I had just paid off the student loans for an expensive university (after nine years!) and instead decided to use my life’s savings to travel and learn from winemakers who inspired me. I worked three harvests a year for four years to expedite the learning process and had my sight set on living in NZ from the first time I came here in 2003.” While working in Gaillac, Parr made up her mind to work harvests in Australia, South Africa and New Zealand. It took 70 letters to land a job with Villa Maria in Marlborough. After Villa Maria, she worked two harvests at Craggy Range and one at Muddy Water before landing a job as assistant winemaker with Olssen’s in Central Otago, where the rest is history.
Valli Vineyards was founded in 1998 by pioneering winemaker Grant Taylor. Based around the estate vineyard in Gibbston, Valli produces single vineyard wines highlighting the different sub-regions of Otago. In 2015, Jen Parr joined Grant in the winery where the pair aims to create wines with honesty, integrity, and most importantly, a sense of place. When you drink a Valli wine, you are enjoying more than just a wine: you are experiencing a place. www.valliwine.com
The new year brings perspective and new focus for all of us. Each new year allows each of us the opportunity to view things in their true nature and relative importance, as well as to learn from the previous year and create new focus.
We started 2019 as a new wine boutique wine company offering unique wines from small family-owned producers in an exceptional part of the world, New Zealand. We must admit that this past year has been a huge learning curve and we are grateful to people who have shared their knowledge, experience and insights.
With all we have learned, we’ve neglected to notice that our customers, whether it be a Master of Wine or a new wine consumer, also want to learn and be educated, especially when it comes to New Zealand Wine. So, this year we resolve to do more to share more about the wines, the people and especially the place that makes these wines so special.
In the coming weeks, we’ll share more stories about the wines in our portfolio, the way we enjoy them and the people that make them. You’ll hear more about New Zealand travels, food and wines from sources we’ve discovered and can’t wait to share as well as our own original writings. And we’ll ask you to share too by giving you the opportunity to discuss your travel adventures, your enjoyment of New Zealand wine and food. Stories to share and compare, to communicate and build a community.
The French have a phrase, “joie de vivre” or zest for life. This year we vow to share our passion for vines and wines. And we hope you will enjoy it and share your experiences as well. Cheers!
Q: "How do you think Central Otago compares to Pinots from elsewhere in NZ? What about elsewhere in the world?"
A: "Central Otago has the only semi-continental climate in NZ as well as a dramatic landscape which both contribute greatly to the character of our wines. More sunlight hours, generally dry weather, great diurnal range and highly engaged people all contribute to our identity. The wines range in style from playful to serious with the best examples showing refinement, energy and sense of place. I think the unique fruit purity with underlying structure is what sets us apart from other New World Pinots. The freedom from the confines of tradition and spirit of adventure sets Central Otago apart from Burgundy. For a country of 4.5 million people, New Zealand is lucky to have several small regions making great Pinot Noir. The wines from Central stand out to me because they tick all of the boxes: they are pleasurable, intellectual, and memorable." - Jen Parr, Valli Wines, Winemaker
Q: "What do you like about working with Pinot?"
A: "I think all of the descriptions of this variety have been said before: it is elusive, the heartbreak grape, etc. I believe people dedicated to growing and crafting Pinot Noir are true romantics. To love Pinot Noir is to cherish intrinsic beauty. The old adage “it’s what is on the inside that counts” is certainly true with Pinot. It is not the “supermodel” in the wine world. I believe its beauty is tarnished by polish and hidden by artifice. Internal beauty can be overlooked without genuine contemplation. Pinot Noir seems to attract adventurous and intellectual winemakers and I’m continually inspired and motivated by my peers." - Jen Parr, Valli Wines, Winemaker
Be sure to read the full article in Forbes Magazine.
Harvest 2019 is nearly upon us, and we are blessed with settled warm dry weather conditions which are bringing the fruit on beautifully. The vineyards could not look better, so there is a great sense of excitement and anticipation in the air!
Our 2018 Chardonnays were racked from Eggs and barrels last week and are now safely in tank for finishing and stabilising. The quality of these wines is fantastic, with excellent purity and concentrated power. We are super excited about these wines and look forward to bringing them to the market in due course.
Following our theme of innovation, we have a spectacular ‘whole berry ferment’ wine to share with you. I have tried many ‘Orange’ wines that have been fermented on skins and left for long periods to age on skins, and to be honest, I usually find them excessively phenolic, bitter and often oxidative. So I have tried a very different approach! Handpicked Chardonnay was gentle de-stemmed through a specialist Socma destemmer, resulting in whole berries and no stems. We then foot crushed the berries before fermenting in an open top fermenter in a chilled barrel room. As soon as the ferment was dry, we transferred the young wine to a concrete egg for 11 months maturation. The result is spectacular!! Lifted aromas of orange rind, mandarin peel and floral notes lead to a richly textured well-structured pallet with no bitterness or astringency. Instead exotic fruits, suave texture and beguiling aromas seduce. Truly unique and full of expression! Watch this space….
Here in Australasia, we are just releasing our highest level of achievement with Chardonnay, the remarkable ‘ZEN’. This is a World First wine, being the inaugural wine ever made in a French Oak Egg. This is utterly compelling wine, and un-like any other you have ever tried! Purity, concentration, power and richness define this very unique wine. The oak is seamlessly integrated, and the terroir of the vineyard is fully expressed. Made from dry grown old vine Mendoza Chardonnay, this highly differentiated wine is only available in tiny quantities, as we only produced 110 dozen for the world. Talk to Ann soon and secure your allocation folks!
We are very excited to be represented by the lovely Ann Feely and Mondiale Wines and look forward to sharing our unique wines of Hawke’s Bay with the Chardonnista of America!
March 3, 2019
There was a time in my life that I only drank Chardonnay. There was a time in my life that I drank anything but Chardonnay. And then I discovered white Burgundy, more specifically the wines of Puligny-Montrachet, home to the most expensive chardonnays produced on the planet. Which is a way of saying that it was a very expensive habit and one that I really can’t afford, even when I lived nearby. Part of the portfolio I used to manage included two of my favorite Chardonnays – Domaine Leflaive from Puligny-Montrachet and Kumeu River from New Zealand. I swear, when tasted blind, on some occasions I could not tell them apart.
One of the reasons I was excited to go to New Zealand was that one of my last visits would be at Kumeu River. Their Mate’s Vineyard Chardonnay had been one my favorite New Zealand Chardonnays. That is until I discovered two Chardonnays from Hawke’s Bay from the same vineyard, Skeetfield, that truly tasted like white Burgundy. Both Tony Bish and Rod Easthope produce stunning examples of Chardonnay off the same vineyard and, since they are both in the Mondiale Wines portfolio, I recently had the chance to taste them side by side. I highly recommend it.
When I arrived in New Zealand, the New Zealand Winemaker of the year awards were just about to be presented and Tony Bish was one of the six finalists. Tony was being recognized for both his work at Sacred Hill and his own Tony Bish Wines. Reading his background on the awards website made me very excited about meeting this skier turned winemaker turned legend. When I found out his winery was also a wine bar called Urban Winery, I was all the more intrigued and excited. Speaking with Tony and his wife Karryn a day or two after the awards ceremony, I was awash in their thrill of the awards ceremony, including Karen’s pictures with Sam Neill of Jurassic Park fame, owner of Two Paddocks and one of the funniest follows on Twitter.
Tony is still a shareholder and consultant at Sacred Hill but since 2013 he has been focusing exclusively on Chardonnay and is producing his wines at the Urban Winery in Napier. Having his own winery has allowed him to experiment with concrete and wooden eggs including a 2,000-liter Taransaud Ovum. The Ovum is the beautiful wooden egg that graces the cover of our website. We will import just a few cases of the Zen Chardonnay, the first Chardonnay in the world made exclusively in an Ovum. While the Fat & Sassy Chardonnay is machine harvested, the grapes for the rest of his wines are handpicked and whole bunch pressed at Sacred Hill. The juice is then brought back to the Urban Winery where all but the Fat & Sassy are fermented in concrete eggs.
I’ll let the winemakers share in future blogs about their winemaking techniques and why they like to ferment in concrete and/or wooden eggs, but for me, in reviewing my tasting notes from my visit with Tony, I was struck by how much structure and mouthfeel was present in each wine made using eggs. Repeatedly, my notes say, “tastes like white Burgundy”. And then, after tasting the Skeetfield Chardonnay, I wrote my highest compliment yet – “investment level wine”, meaning I think the wine has an ability to gain or retain value, to become a collectible wine, just like some of the greatest white Burgundies. For me, that’s the highest compliment I can pay a wine and the man that made it.
During the planning phase of my first trip to New Zealand, Martin Cahnbley (Planet Wine) and I were discussing which wine regions I should visit. I said that I really wanted to go to Central Otago, Marlborough, and Martinborough. Martin insisted I add Hawke’s Bay to that list. He said there were some very small, very innovative winemakers there that I needed to visit. I was not happy with his suggestion.
New Zealand is an immensely beautiful country, but it’s also difficult to get around for someone like me who does not like driving on the other side of the road. And this was a road trip – five flights within New Zealand and driving myself from winery to winery. Including one harrowing drive from Wellington to Martinborough over a mountain in the rain while gripping the steering wheel so hard my hands ached. Visiting Hawke’s Bay would mean arriving on a Friday night and visiting wineries on a Saturday and Sunday. This was also in late January when most Kiwi’s are enjoying their last days of Summer holidays before school begins. I didn’t think it would work.
I didn’t want to go for other reasons too. In all my wine studies and tasting experiences, somehow, I got Hawke’s Bay and over-ripe Merlot burned into my brain. Just like we all have Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc seared into our palate memory, I had Hawke’s Bay and Merlot forever intertwined. I was insistent on not going. Martin was very insistent on my going. That’s when I said, “I am NOT going to f***ing Hawke’s Bay!” Martin laughed at me and my ignorance, told me to relax and he would set me up for visits with two people I just HAD to meet before I left New Zealand.
Martin set me up for an appointment on Saturday afternoon with Tony Bish, former winemaker at Sacred Hill winery, who now owned his own winery and wine bar, Urban Winery in Ahuriri in Napier. Tony is still a consultant and shareholder at Sacred Hill but left to focus on his true passion, Chardonnay. Tony told me that the idea for starting out on his own came while on a trip with Rod Easthope to South America to watch the All Blacks play. Rod had been the winemaker for Craggy Range and had come to a similar decision while on the same trip. During that trip, both had visited wineries using concrete eggs and both now use them in production. Martin had set me up for a Sunday morning visit to Easthope Family Winegrowers. If they were up for a Sunday morning visit, well then, I could do it too. A visit to Hawke’s Bay offered appointments with two well respected and internationally renowned winemakers who struck out on their own and used innovative winemaking technics. How could I resist?
I’ll write separate Blog posts about my visits with Tony and Rod in coming posts. I wanted to make this post about opportunities that come along that completely change your plans – and for the better. I had started out my trip to New Zealand not really being able to define Mondiale Wines and Martin had kept telling me I needed a vision and had to define it. Not until my last two visits of the entire trip, with these two amazing winemakers, having met their families and learned more about them did I find my vision. My perception about wines from Hawke’s Bay had completely changed and maybe I could help others discover that there are truly unique wines coming from visionary winemakers in a place that deserves discovery. As I sat outside with Rod to eat lunch just before catching my flight back to Auckland, I said “you know, I didn’t want to come here. Martin made me. I am so glad he did.”
Welcome to our world of wines. I'm often asked what the word Mondiale means and how to pronounce it. Mondiale translates from French or Italian as global or world. Pronouncing it probably varies, but I say "mon" like Monica, "di" like delight and "ale" like all. Mon-dee-all. It doesn't really matter how you say it, just as long as you can find this website and explore our world of wines.
Right now, our world of wines is focused on three family-owned boutique wine producers in New Zealand. I've spent most of my career focused on the wines of France and Italy. I've studied for the two most prestigious and challenging wine qualifications in the world and I earned an MBA in Wine through studies in France, Chile, Australia and the US. I have travelled the world in pursuit of those studies, but I had not been to New Zealand.
I’ll admit that I find most of the wines from New Zealand that we see here in the US tend to be large volume producers of Sauvignon Blanc. I had sold several of them during my wine career and have been known to consume plenty of those wines myself. I've also worked with and enjoyed drinking some of the top producers of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay in New Zealand, so I knew there were some distinguished boutique producers to be found there. I knew from my research and wine studies that New Zealand was home to some innovative wine making and growing practices and maybe they might be open to a different approach to the US market.
So I called up a friend of mine, Martin Cahnbley, who owns Planet Wine in New Zealand and asked him if he knew of any great producers who might be interested in the US market. Martin imports unique producers of beer, wine and spirits from around the world into the New Zealand market and knows a lot of producers in New Zealand personally. Martin, like me, enjoys introducing his friends to each other. I met Martin in the Institute of Masters of Wine study program in Bordeaux and we immediately became friends. I had always been interested in his business model and knew I would like to do something similar in the US market.
With Martins help and guidance, in January of 2018 I visited nineteen wineries in thirteen days and fell in love with New Zealand – the wines, the food, the people, the landscape, the culture. New Zealand had it all. In coming blog entries I'll explain more about those visits, the wines and people I met along the way.