Grant Taylor - Owner and Winemaker
Grant Taylor is one of New Zealand’s most awarded Pinot Noir winemakers, earning a string of gold medal and trophy accolades throughout his long career. However, none surpasses winning the trophy for ‘Best Pinot Noir’ at a major International Wine Competition in London an unprecedented four times – a feat achieved by no other winemaker in the world.
Grant established Valli in 1998 after eighteen years of winemaking experience in the USA and New Zealand, the philosophy behind which was to highlight the differences in three Otago sub-regions: Bannockburn, Gibbston and Waitaki.
Born in Otago, Grant was educated at Lincoln College in Canterbury. In 1980, he helped establish Pine Ridge Winery in Napa, California and worked there as assistant winemaker until 1986. In 1987, he helped build another Napa winery, Domaine Napa, and worked there as head winemaker until 1993.
Lured back to Otago in 1993 by the promise of large and plentiful trout, clean air, fewer people and the potential he saw for Otago wines, Grant signed on as winemaker for Gibbston Valley Wines. At that time, only 20 hectares of grapes were planted in Otago; today there are over 1700.
As a pioneering winemaker in Otago, Grant has produced the first vintages for many of the region’s well-known labels including Bald Hills, Carrick, Felton Road, Hawkshead, Mondillo, Mount Edward, Mt Difficulty, Perrigrine, Rockburn (aka Hay’s Lake), Thyme Hill and Van Asch.
Grant has kept his American ties along the way, helping to establish Oregon’s renowned Pinot Noir producing winery, Archery Summit, in 1995. He has consulted there for many vintages since.
In 2006, Grant left Gibbston Valley to concentrate solely on Valli.
Having now completed over 40 vintages, he looks forward to the next 40 and how much knowledge they will bring in helping to understand Otago’s potential.
Jen Parr – Winemaker and Wine Judge
An Oregon native and graduate of Stanford University, Jen joins the Valli team with a depth of international winemaking experience including in the USA, France, South Africa and Australia. She has completed 13 harvests in NZ and is approaching 26 vintages overall.
Here in Otago, Jen was the head winemaker for Olssens (which went on to become Terra Sancta), from 2009 till 2014. Her wines regularly grace the pages of wine and food magazines, often making Top 10 lists. In recent years, Jen received 5 Trophies for Pinot Noir and Pinot Noir Rosé including ‘Champion Wine of Show’ in 2012 where she was the first winemaker to receive the ‘Champion Winemaker Award’ at the prestigious New Zealand International Wine Show. Beyond her commitment to making consistent, top quality, site expressive wines, Jen is very open-minded and inquisitive, putting her at the forefront of innovation and experimentation with skin contact Pinot Gris, fermentation techniques and earlier picking to preserve freshness and restrain alcohol.
Jen loves to share her tremendous passion for wine and winemaking, teaching others about wine and its endless potential for enjoyment. She is an accomplished Wine Judge, and has plans to commence her Masters of Wine in the near future. She is very active in the local wine industry, having served twice as the Chairperson for our Central Otago Pinot Noir Celebration. When tempted by winemaking jobs further afield, she realised that her heart is here in Central Otago and in 2015 was delighted to join forces with one of her favourite winemakers, Grant Taylor, to help craft what she believes to be New Zealand’s most exciting Pinot Noirs: Valli.
Duncan Billing - Assistant Winemaker and Viticulturist
“Having a vineyard manager who understands so well that his fruit determines the wine quality and wanting to see it through to the end is the key to our success.”
- Grant Taylor
Duncan has worked in the Central Otago wine industry for almost 10 years, primarily developing and managing vineyards. He has also worked a number of vintages with Grant at Gibbston Valley Wines, as well as one of Oregon’s iconic Pinot Noir producers, Steve Doerner of Cristom.
Duncan is never happier than when turning the fruits of his labour in to wine. When the harvest finishes, he signs up for winemaking and another couple of months of 80+ hour weeks.
Tim Valli - Property and Maintenance Manager
Tim is Grant’s first cousin and the only Valli family member in the company carrying the name. His background is in forestry, farming and horticulture. He has worked vintage in Napa Valley and Otago.
Since 2005, he has been Grant’s right hand man during harvest and in the off-season is responsible for maintenance of the property and helping Duncan in the vineyard.