Strong women role models are not particularly myriad in the US wine business. More female winemakers have emerged in the past 20 years but they have a long way to go before they dominate. It happens more across the oceans than where the Women’s Sufferage Movement began.
Like in New Zealand. I do a happy, girl-power fist pump when I see a lady step out from under a cushy corporate winemaking job and reach soaring success on her own. Meet Jules Taylor, former winemaker from multiple award-winning New Zealand winery Kim Crawford Wines. And on her own label, Jules Taylor.
Jules started making wines eleven years ago and in 2000, was appointed winemaker at Kim Crawford. After the winery was sold to Constellation Brands in 2008, she decided to go her own way. She now concentrates on her namesake brand’s Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris that she’s been producing since 2001 but in small, unreachable-on-our-shores amounts.
I’m grateful she donned the courage to increase production and brave the over-crowded, international wine market. And purely for selfish reasons — because now I can afford incredible pinot noir for under $20, which borders on vestigial these days.
I sat down with Jules a couple of weeks ago and tasted her wines with lunch. As well as on their own. I was, quite honestly, blown away by the quality of wine produced by this modest, Marlborough-born girl. While she was at Kim Crawford, her Sauvignon Blanc consistently won 90+ scores from all the fancy wine mags. In a not-so-thinly-veiled diss, Jules casually mentioned the 2009 Sauv Blanc was the first vintage in years that didn’t reach that threshold. Coincidence? Probably not (my review of the 2009 here versus the 2008). She now pours her talent into the eponymous Jules Taylor label, distributed in FL, GA, CA, NY, IL, TX, CO, NJ and MA. If you can’t find them, ask for them by name at your friendly, neighborhood wine shop. (Available in Tampa Bay at Bern’s Fine Wines and Ed’s Fine Wines)
Jules Taylor 2008 Pinot Gris Marlborough
Refreshingly dry with a soft, well-roundedness and drinkability. Gushing with peaches, pears and a creamy mouthfeel. I would call this luscious, in every sense of the word. But not over the top juicy or fruity — it’s elegant and has balancing acidity and a tart green apple finish.
Sweetness: 2 out of 10
Rating: 4 stars out of 5
Food pairing: Light pastas with seafood and any dish with a tart acidity component
Availability: Fine wine shops
Jules Taylor 2009 Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough
2009 was apparently a fantastic vintage in Marlborough, so Jules had quality ingredients to work with. Aromas of fresh cut grass and grapefruit but those tastes are restrained on the tongue. Racy lime, passionfruit, and ruby red grapefruit take the forefront but aren’t overly raucous. This expertly-crafted Sauvignon Blanc is light-bodied with bright acidity and a deliciously long, refreshing finish.
Sweetness: 1 out of 10
Rating: 5 stars
Food pairing: Lemon and olive oil sauteed shrimp, crab legs, fresh goat cheeses
Jules Taylor 2009 Pinot Noir Ballochdale Estate Marlborough
Smells like cranberry and dark cherry and those don’t run away after you taste. A bright, fun, restrained pinot noir that isn’t a fruit bomb. How refreshing! Supple, shy tannins, fresh dark fruit and good acidity define this beautiful wine — as only New Zealand can produce.
Sweetness: 1 out of 10
Rating: 4.5 stars
Price: $18- $22
Alcohol: 14.5 percent
Food pairings: Grilled salmon without a spicy rub, earthy cheeses