I like the Belle General.
Not because of the old converted general store that it used to be, nor the quasi utilitarian beach house–farmhouse eatery that is now. It’s more to do with the entirely rounded package of a big-city confident café propped on the side of the sea on NSW north Coast – Ballina.
It is one of those wineries frozen in the 1990s. And for that I love it.
I had tried their wine a while back in mid 2000s while working at SPICE magazine as their winewriter and it notched something in my hippocampus. So in 2011 while cruising past that region we stopped in for a squiz.
We tried the 2008 Shiraz (of which we bought a 12 bottle case and promptly went back to purchase another), their Pinot (yet to open) and a bottle of the 2008 Chardonnay.
I must admit at the time of tasting the Chardonnay had not yet come together, which I why I gingerly only bought one bottle. How wrong I was.
Having a few years of age, and being sent across the other side of the country, it was cracked open on a balmy QLD afternoon. We've all had those moments where wine dominates the afternoon, and this was one of them.
So I’ve been missing my favourite Perth haunt of Pho Hyunh since moving states in April this year.
The Gold Coast, as it does many things to excess, does not do Vietnamese cuisine far or wide.
The best offerings are the quasi-Chinese restaurants with folded napkins on the table.
I tend to use folded napkins and serviettes on tables as a dead giveaway the clientele is not authentic. Look out for sauce/napkin/chopstick consoles on tables and god awful tacky hyper fluro/sparkly/faux-gold furnishings. If it's got V-pop karaoke, even better.
Made from seriously small quantities of hand-harvested dry-grown single-vineyard grapes, wines from the Laissez Faire are as rare as they are self-making. From the Porongurup region of Great Southern, this shiraz is juicy, plush and uber smooth. Steering this fermentation to dryness (zero residual sugar) is just one of the accomplishments for this wine (as often in the case with natural or indigenous yeast fermentation—they often don’t finish fermenting). The clarity and pureness to come through on the palate; strawberry and blackberry on the fore, herbal tones on the aftis something worth stopping to ruminate over. Not a hint of oak gives this wine lushness and an approachable demeanour, something an unacquainted red drinker can appreciate. 96 points.