Travis Schultz: Rice Boi’s top-selling wine may surprise you
Entrepreneur, restauranteur and all-round great bloke, Tony Kelly is synonymous with the Sunshine Coast’s dining scene. Having started out as a chef, the trade he first fell in love with, in his mother’s kitchen has led him to design, create and run a range of successful restaurants and bistro’s over the years culminating in him opening his now uber successful venues on the newly renovated and refurbished Mooloolaba Wharf.
Get him chatting, and Tony will tell you that success in the restaurant industry is all about hard work, being on top of the numbers, and offering the right product in the right location. And on any given weekend if you had walked in to his Rice Boi venue before a pandemic-induced slowdown, you’d have seen firsthand how his “secret sauce” lures in diners with its modern Asian street food, grungy fit-out and stunning harbour views.
But it wasn’t the dining menu that I was interested in when I recently caught up with Tony at his thriving eatery on a Friday afternoon. Having successfully crafted menus and wine lists in a wide range of venues, I was interested to find out which wines were most often ordered by his patrons and which wines were “on the nose”, so to speak.
It was no surprise that a Marlborough sauvignon blanc, the Tanui 2019 was one of the biggest sellers both by the bottle ($40) and by the glass ($9) but I was taken aback when Tony revealed that the biggest selling wine at Rice Boi was in fact a rose! Call it blush, pink or even “brose” (as my mate Nathan Koina does) the style is certainly on the up. “It’s a wine that is on trend, affordable and offers very good value at the price” Tony reveals. “ And these days, the quality of rose is getting better and better, even at the lower price points”.
Tony promises me that I’ll “enjoy this” as he hands me a bottle of the La La Land 2019; and he wasn’t wrong! There’s depth to the pink hue in the bottle but once the stelvin is cracked, the bottle oozes strawberries and cream even before a glass is poured. There’s plenty of watermelon, preserved red fruits and a lashing of cherry on the edges. Being such a dry style it’s easy to understand why it’s proving to be so popular as a partner to the spicy Asian offering at the Mooloolaba Wharf’s most popular dining house!
So if the crowds have a desire to “drink pink” these days, what’s not so popular? Well according to Tony, the big loser is shiraz. “ We aren’t seeing shiraz being ordered as much anymore. It’s just too heavy and not a great food match for our cuisine. Our patrons prefer lighter and more aromatic styles” he said. “Maybe the winter months will change that a bit”.
And what does a bon vivant and acclaimed chef choose to indulge in himself when a Friday afternoon tipple is on the cards? “I love champagnes and the way that they change in style from region to region; especially with some age. We recently celebrated my parents retirement from business with a bottle of 1986 Dom Perignon and it was insane the way it was now showing characters of vanilla and caramelized apples”. I wish he’d saved a glass for me!
As you’d expect, Tony has had the opportunity to sample many different wines from all across the globe during his illustrious career, so it was pleasing to hear that if he had to choose a wine to be his last ever, it would be an Aussie one. “I love the French wines, but the Chris Ringland Three Rivers Shiraz would have to be my pick. It’s got to be the best shiraz that Australia has to offer!” Not that I’ve ever sampled the ( ridiculously expensive) Three Rivers Shiraz, but I’d have to agree with him that Chris Ringland makes an outstanding shiraz – even those at the more modest price points.
Wine pairing with food is said to be an art form, but Tony is quick to dispel the myth that colours need to match. “ I don’t believe in colour matching wines to proteins. Some make sense, like a Riesling with bugs and prawns, but I don’t see any problem putting a pinot noir with the right fish dish.” And it may be his inner anarchist speaking, but it’s hard to argue with him when he proclaimed “ there are no rules; it just has to work!”.