Home to breathtaking views at every turn, incredible local produce and, of course, some of the most prized Pinot on Earth, Central Otago is paradise for Jen Parr, winemaker for the highly-acclaimed Valli Vineyards.
We asked Jen for her guide to wining, dining and life in this wild and wonderful place.
A spirit of adventure
For Jen, ‘making wine was never a question’. Originally from Oregon, she travelled to New York, San Francisco, London and South Africa on her journey from financial software sales rep to one of the most awarded and well known wineries in New Zealand. Wine was always calling her, and eventually it brought her to Central Otago.
“I would describe this region as ‘beatnik’”, she says, speaking from her home in Wanaka where she is temporarily holed up thanks to an unexpected drop of September snow. “Its personality is derived from the energy of the place, the energy of the people. It’s that spiritedness, that open-mindedness. Everybody comes here with that spirit of adventure.”
Local favourites from a Pinot aficionado
An adventurous spirit is something shared by many in the region and, being a wine lover as well as a winemaker, it doesn’t take much prodding to get Jen to reveal some of her favourites outside the Valli vineyards.
“Our region is a big family, all working together with this sense of shared energy,” she says, listing Dave Sutton at Te Kano, Rudi Bower at Quartz Reef, the team at Maude Wines, and Bannockburn’s Felton Road as members of that family as easily as if she was naming blood relatives.
As Jen shares some of her top spots in Wanaka (Federal Diner, which is ‘overlooked for dinner’, Cork, which serves local wine by the glass and offers winemaker nights, and Rippon ‘for the views as much as the wine’,) she notes that, in her neighbourhood, it’s common to be sitting in the same restaurant as your winemaker – and to end up having a chat.