It's not every day that a wine from a practically unknown Kiwi wine region wins a prestigious international trophy. So you can imagine the joy and jubilation in the Waitaki Valley last week when a second international victory was announced.
First Forrest Estate won the trophy for Best New Zealand Pinot Noir at the London International Wine Challenge with its 2009 John Forrest Collection Waitaki Pinot Noir, and then, just a day later, a second Waitaki wine, the Ostler Caroline's Pinot Noir 2010 was awarded the trophy for Top Pinot Noir at the Shanghai International Wine Challenge.
I had thought of the Waitaki as being my special little secret, but now I suspect it'll be on the radar for many a wine fan.
The valley is sliced through by the Waitaki River, which sits right on the border of South Canterbury and North Otago, inland from Oamaru.
The landscape may be gobsmackingly gorgeous, but make no mistake - it's hard country with an extreme growing climate. Two major international trophies for Waitaki pinot noirs in as many days is an extraordinary endorsement for those who've plunged in and shown what's possible on what many growers view as the "climatic edge".
Doctors John and Brigid Forrest saw the region as having huge potential for grapes and invested in it over a decade ago. Another Waitaki pioneer, Jim Jerram of Ostler Vineyards, also undertook extensive research and decided the area was worth the risk and planted his tiny vineyard on limestone slopes above the river in 2002.
"What is truly gratifying is that our Caroline Pinot was seen to stand out against global competition including examples from the ideological home of the grape - Burgundy in France," says Jerram, who sees his Shanghai win as particularly significant as the New Zealand industry eyes the emerging Chinese wine market, which is dominated by European brands.
For John Forrest, planting his Waitaki vineyard meant he was well on the way to completing his vision to own grape-growing land in all the great New Zealand wine regions, including Marlborough, Central Otago and Hawke's Bay.
And for the team at Forrest Estate, the honour of being named New Zealand's premier pinot noir at the prestigious International Wine Challenge by judges such as Oz Clark, Tim Atkin MW, Charles Metcalfe and a host of the world's top wine palates, is testament to the Forrest's unwavering commitment to producing superior wines from the region. But you'll have to work quickly to get yourself a bottle of this special wine because only 200 cases were produced.
What I love about the wines from this region is that they have tension, concentration and magical minerality.
"To read the judges comments saying our wine was restrained, pure and a joy, makes me very happy," says Forrest.
"The Waitaki has great things to come and I am now even more excited than I was 10 years ago about the potential of the region; just watch out for the limestone expressive chardonnays."
A GLASS OR TWO A DAY KEEPS YOU HAPPY, THEY SAY ...
I love the UK's Daily Mail newspaper, not just because it's a must-visit for pictures of how gawky Angelina Jolie looked as a child or the latest Coro Street star being caught falling face-first on the footpath outside some nightclub or another celebrity snapped looking fat; but because it delivers headlines such as "Two glasses of wine a day for middle-aged adults makes your life better".
I'm not quite middle-aged yet, but I certainly agree with what they're implying. When 5.30pm rolls around and I'm trying to cobble together something to feed my family, having a glass of wine sitting there on the kitchen bench to savour and sip from makes the whole task far more enjoyable.
I may have one more during dinner or afterwards - especially if Neighbours at War is on. The Daily Mail's report quoted research from Boston University School of Medicine, which found from a sample of 5400 people aged 50 that the "regular moderate drinkers", that's those who drank no more than 14 standard drinks a week, scored much higher in each section of the "Health Utilities Index" than those who did not.
The sections covered factors such as dexterity, emotion, mobility and understanding. The authors of the report said that it was unclear exactly why continued moderate alcohol consumption seemed to have such a beneficial effect.
Well, I for one, love a mystery.