An Oregon native and graduate of Stanford University, Jen Parr has called Wanaka home since 2008. She has extensive international winemaking experience including in the United States, France, South Africa and Australia in addition to 18 harvests in New Zealand. Jen assumed her role as Winemaker for Valli Vineyards in 2015 and also makes wine for a handful of other boutique Otago producers. Jen was recently awarded the 2020 Gourmet Traveller Wine Magazine NZ Winemaker of the Year. Outside of work, Jen loves skiing, mountain biking, tramping and long walks with her dogs.
How old were you when you had your first wine ‘moment’?
“One of my earliest memories of wine was discovering Silver Oak Cabernet from the Napa Valley, CA and ordering a bottle (the most expensive bottle I'd ever purchased) at a restaurant overlooking the Pacific Ocean in Big Sur, CA.”
What does your own wine cellar look like and what is your most recent addition?
“I haven't got around to cataloguing my cellar but I suspect I have around 1000 bottles. My most recent purchase was a mixed case of Oregon Pinot Noir and Champagne and English Sparkling wine.”
In the last 12 months, which grape have you drunk the most of?
“It's winter so I drink a lot of red wine and my cellar is weighted towards Pinot Noir so we enjoy a lot of Pinot. I also love exploring Italian reds in winter.”
In the last 12 months, what’s the most exciting region you’ve discovered or re-discovered?
“Focusing on NZ, I have really enjoyed re-discovering Marlborough Chardonnay. This is a region famous for Sauvignon Blanc, and I think Chardonnay (due to the low volume of production) is overlooked. Every region in NZ produces world class Chardonnay and Marlborough has so many great ones to choose from and at a really reasonable price. I almost don't want the secret to get out but that seems quite selfish!”
What has been your most memorable wine and food moment?
“In 2002 (my first harvest), the owner/winemaker surprised the picking crew with a road trip to a 3 Michelin Star restaurant (Michel Bras) in the Aubrac region in the SW France. We had no idea where he was taking us and when we arrived the views, wine and food were legendary. It was the first time I'd experienced a 6-hour lunch.”
Wine styles continue to fluctuate. Where do you think the wine-style pendulum is swinging?
“Style in wine mirrors fashion in that trends resurface (I'm still waiting on bell bottoms to come back). Although to be honest, I believe great wines aren't as much about style as provenance - style is secondary to sense of place.”
What do you enjoy most about judging at the NWWA?
“It is wonderful to judge this show with a great group of wine industry professionals and NW staff who have a vested interest in the show. It is wonderful to discover some great value wines and help the New World customers find these gems.”