Founder and Winemaker
Grant Taylor is one of New Zealand’s most awarded 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, Australia, France, and New Zealand. His philosophy was to highlight the differences between subregions in Otago.
Born in Otago, Grant was educated at Lincoln College in Canterbury. In 1980, he helped establish Pine Ridge Winery in Napa, California and made wine there 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;...more
An Oregon native and graduate of Stanford University, Jen adds a depth of international winemaking experience including in the USA, France, South Africa and Australia. She has completed 17 harvests in NZ and has completed 30 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. Prior to joining Valli, 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. Since joining Valli, our wines continue to receive top recognition and Jen was awarded the Winemaker of the Year as part of the NZ International Aromatics Competition in 2018 and nominated as one of six finalists in the Gourmet Traveller WINE New Zealand Winemaker of the Year in 2019. In 2020, she was nominated for a second time - but this time she took home the title of New...more
Hollis Heidelberg Giddens
Sales and Marketing
Hollis joins us with a background in sales, marketing and design, primarily within the hospitality industry, both here in Otago and in her homeland, the United States. Like many in the wine industry, Hollis didn't take the most direct route to get here. After obtaining a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Louisiana State University, she ventured out into the world with the intention of capturing it through the lens of her camera, moving to New Zealand in 2007. However, the natural beauty, laid-back lifestyle and of course, world-class wine at her door step (not to mention a certain New Zealand-born gentleman who is now her husband) instead captured her. Her long-standing passion for wine grew as she got to know the Otago region while heading up the marketing for a group of local restaurants. It wasn't long before she made the move to the wine world, joining the Valli team in 2011, and she has never looked back. Hollis holds a level 3 certification with the Wine and Spirits Education Trust, for which she was awarded distinction. For a Mississippi girl who loves to wear cowboy boots as...more
Director and Facilitator
Yet another American import (from the North-East this time: Rhode Island). Nicole's love of Otago and her winemaker keeps her in New Zealand. She has been running in and alongside Valli in various roles for 10 years understanding the romance and grit of the wine industry in all its facets. Her main roles these days are looking at the general workings of the company and bringing its people together. From organising festivities to team meetings to picking days, she carries it all out with efficiency and zest.more
VITICULTURIST AND VINEYARD MANAGER
Starting her career in the Santa Cruz Mountains in California, Kelley was drawn back to the land of the long white cloud by its unique culture and geography plus the promise and challenge of cool climate wine growing.
Having worked in vineyards and wineries throughout the world including Burgundy, Oregon, California, Australia and New Zealand, Kelley has a broad range of experience both growing and making wine. An Honours graduate of the Viticulture and Oenology program at the University of California, Davis, and a Level II Certified Sommelier, Kelley brings a comprehensive knowledge base to the Valli team.
While she has enjoyed working with many different varieties, her focus over the past several years has been on Pinot Noir and aromatic whites, with an emphasis on understanding how various combinations of soil types and climate shape the resulting wines. It’s no wonder that managing Valli’s different sub regional vineyards is something she is particularly excited by, always with the goal to allow for each site to individually express themselves.more
Growing up in Wellington, Jordan’s life was intertwined with wine behind the scenes: sniffing corks, family vacations to Hawke’s Bay and Martinborough (which would always feature a winery and vineyard visit), and a deep fascination with fermentation, often to his mother’s dismay with many tupperwares ruined.
It was only natural that Jordan ended up studying Microbiology at the University of Otago. Fascinated by our small friends, but not wanting to get stuck in a white coat under white lights, wine seemed like a good alternative. It offered more vibrant colours, an outdoor lifestyle, while still getting to work with fascinating microbes. A postgraduate diploma in oenology at EIT followed by a vintage in South Africa and Jordan was certain that this was the life for him.
Having only worked in one half of the business, Jordan moved to Central Otago to work in the vineyards at Felton Road. Three years later saw him working between the cellar and vineyard, with a great community and many mentors. Jordan has been loving the partnership of land and wine in a beautiful...more
Administrations and Sales Support
Born in Christchurch, Kathryn is a long-time lover of Central Otago wines with a particular fondness for Valli. When a position became available on the Valli team in late 2020, she jumped at the opportunity to transfer her administration skills to a new industry.
Prior to entering the wine world Kathryn part-owned and managed several tourism businesses over her nearly 20 years in Queenstown. She has well established roots in Queenstown and the wider South Island – where she has raised two daughters along with her husband.more
WAITAKI VINEYARD SPECIALIST
Dean Browne, also known as Deano, was born and bred in Oamaru.
After working as a Forestry Contractor, Dean started his career in viticulture in the Waitaki Valley in 2008, when the growing of vines in the area was in its infancy.
Having now worked in over 12 vineyards in the Waitaki Valley and several others outside the area, Dean has learnt the skills and knowledge required to successfully provide good results. He has progressed from general vineyard work to roles of supervisor and viticulturist. With over 10 years experience Dean endeavours to work with the environment in order to produce the best grapes.
Hands on and passionate about viticulture in the Waitaki Valley region, Dean also enjoys the recreational opportunities the area provides. An avid jet-skier, waterskier and fisherman he enjoys nothing more than getting out on the water especially on a calm day.more
Waitaki Vineyard Specialist
Petra is originally from Munich/ Bavaria - not wine, but beer country. She worked for 10 years in the Tourism industry in Munich before leaving Germany in 1989 to go on her OE (kiwi slang for "Overseas Experience") for one year. After visiting India and Nepal, she arrived in New Zealand were she cycled and tramped her way from Auckland down to Milford Sound. On her way back up the South Island, she met Steve, from Oregon, and both decided to stay in New Zealand a little bit longer. Now 31 years later, they are still here and in the meantime have brought up four children, living in the Waitaki Valley for the last 30 years.
Petra started working in the vineyards at Grant’s Road in 2007 for a few hours a week but within a year it had developed into a full-time job. She has worked at most vineyards in the area, supervising an interesting mix of local and international workers. She has also worked at most of the local cellar doors and has even done a fair amount of bottling in the local winery. When you live in Waitaki, you 'wear many hats'!
Petra believes in the...more