Michael Pyrgos is the familiar face you may have seen around town while making the agonsising decision of what wine to match your meal. For the uninitiated, it’s always best just to leave it to Michael. He’s a Sommelier who has graced several of the Gold Coast’s finest dining establishments including The Fish House, Hellenika (Gold Coast), Fins, Videre at Royal Pines and Vanitas at Palazzo Versace.
In his wine career to date, Michael has also won 3 ‘glasses’ (the prestigious awards for a wine list, the equivalent of chef hats for food) as a sommelier in three different venues. Only the best wine lists in the country receive 3 glasses, so yeah, you could say Michael knows a thing or two about the delightful grape juice we all love. We caught up with Michael to give us the low-down on all things wine, but most importantly, how to match it to cheese….
How long have you been a Gold Coast local?
I moved from Cyprus to Australia in 2000, lived in Canberra for a while, then moved up to the Gold Coast in 2001 after a mate showed me photos and told me he was moving up. I knew then that the GC would be my new home.
What do you love most about living here?
The thing I love the most about living here is the laid-back lifestyle and of course, the weather.
Tell us about your career thus far?
I grew up from a young age in restaurants – being Greek, someone in the family always owns a restaurant! There was never a dull moment working in this industry from Greek taverns, to hotels, to fine dining restaurants, I have always had fun. The greatest part about a career in hospitality is that you learn something new everyday and you meet so many different people from all walks of life.
Tell us about the role of being a sommelier.
There was always wine on the table growing up and we were allowed to have a dash at lunchtime. I knew it as only white wine or red wine (never named by the grape). My wine journey started when I arrived here in Australia. I very quickly fell in love with the Canberra Riesling, Hunter Semillon and of course, the Barossa Shiraz. It was all about different varieties, vintages, terroir and labels. There was so much to learn about wine and the only way to learn was to drink the wine. I started buying wine each week from the bottle shops and every week it was a different grape and different area. It was educational and at the same time a lot of fun. I attended every tasting I could and loved listening to others talk about wine. My first Sommeliers role was at the Palazzo Versace Hotel. Their policy back then was that the Sommelier had to taste every bottle that was opened, as you would never serve anything you wouldn’t drink to a customer. I loved that policy…
What is it that intrigues you about the wine industry?
Good question. Years ago, it was all about putting well known, big name wines on a list and almost to try to include as many as possible, to make a list look “great”. Nowadays, things have changed for the better. Chefs are more involved and provide their input on wine lists, as there is nothing better than choosing the perfect wine to compliment and enhance an amazing dish, rather than just having a wine chosen purely for its name. This means that restaurant wine lists are much smaller however, a lot more interesting. Wine lists are also ever-evolving, for example ten years ago the organic wine selection would have been at the very end of the list, whereas now they’re much more popular and likely to be at the beginning of a list. How things change.
For the uneducated (us), what type of wines would you never buy a cheaper version of?
A common question I’m asked is what should I and what shouldn’t I be buying. My answer to this is ‘Drink what you like and like what you drink’. Everyone’s palate is different, as is everyone’s budget.
Thoughts on organic wines…
Organic wines are the way of the future. Don’t let the term ‘organic’ scare you though, especially when it comes to wine making. Wineries have adapted to sustainable farming methods which means they aren’t using artificial chemical fertilisers and pesticides like they used to. Not only is this better for us as humans, it’s great for the environment, thus nowadays we are given a choice for organic, biodynamic, preservative-free and vegan friendly wines.
Are organic wines healthier?
The answer is yes.
Tell us how you would match wine to cheese?
Let’s keep things simple with this one.
These are a few basic wine and cheese rules, however it is important not to stress about getting the pairings exactly right, instead go with what you enjoy.
Let us in on a secret, what are your best wine and cheese matches?
Sweeter style wines work wonderfully with ‘stinky’ cheese. The sweetness in the wine helps balance the funk in the cheese and makes it taste creamier, so next time you are eating a washed-rind or blue-veined cheese, try a late harvest dessert wine or a port and enjoy the magic. These are my favourite cheese and wine matches.
Are there any other food additions I should add to my cheese platter that match with wine well?
There are so many additions that go well with cheese: fruit (fresh or dry), apples, pears, grapes, peaches, bread or crackers, olives, mustards, honey or jams, nuts and of course, cured meats. My favourites are fresh figs and honey – you can’t go wrong.
Tell us your favourites on the Coast…
Restaurant for dinner: Flavours on Charcoal
Bar or pub for a drink: Cambus Wallace
Café for breakfast: Blackboard
Coffee spot: The Lott
How does your weekend usually look: Sunday is usually a family day at home, a Cypriot BBQ, ouzo and a good bottle of wine is how we get through our day…
Wine is a beautiful thing: loved the world over and the perfect accompaniment to the next best thing in the world — cheese. Happily, the Gold Coast Hinterland is home to several world-class wineries, all of which are around an hour or less drive away. Pack your picnic blanket and make space in your boot for a case or two; here are the best cellar doors to take a sip at.
Cedar Creek Estate
With a tree-lined entryway and lush green surroundings, Cedar Creek is all your charming winery dreams come true. From Sauvignon Blanc to Shiraz and Moscato to Muscat, their impressive wine list is unrivaled, and you can do a winery tour with all the crew for a cracking time. Cedar Creek Estate also boasts the Arthur Hamblin Art Gallery, if sipping wine overlooking vineyards doesn’t fill your cultural cup entirely.
Where: 104-144 Hartley Road, North Tamborine
Witches Falls Winery
A self-proclaimed small but bold winery, Witches Falls are passionate about big tastes. Not only do owners Jon and Kim love the end product, but they’re also pretty keen on the growing, making and matching aspects of the fruity liquid. The three distinct ranges – Granite Belt, Wild Ferment and Prophecy – can be tasted for $10 per person, including six tastings. And be sure to try their fantastic cheese board when you go!
Where: 79 Main Western Road, North Tamborine
Passionate about sustainable wine production, Sirromet Wines state-of-the-art, family-run facilities can be found in picturesque Mt Cotton. From the award-winning 2014 Signature Collection Shiraz Viognier and 2012 Saint Jude’s Merlot to a fresh Vineyard Selection Rose, you’ll be spoilt for choice at the Sirromet cellar door. Tastings run every day for just $5 per person, and you can also choose to do a behind-the-scenes tour of the vineyard. Plus, there’s a nine-hole golf course too — before or after wine, it’s up to you.
Where: 850 Mount Cotton Road, Mount Cotton
Canungra Valley Vineyards
A picture-perfect location, O’Reilly’s Canungra Valley Vineyard is a boutique vineyard and historic Queenslander homestead dedicated to fine food and fine wine. Enjoy a wine tasting, stay for lunch or purchase a gourmet picnic basket and stretch out by Canungra Creek with a bottle of bubbles. Take the kids who can also run around and take the resident alpacas for a walk.
Where: 852 Lamington National Park Road, Canungra
Mount Nathan Winery
Mount Nathan Winery is a progression of the Gibson family’s involvement in the wine industry over generations. After developing a unique range of honey-based products in Cessnock, the winery was born. Award-winning wines include the Bubbly Brut – a not too dry and not too sweet sparkling – and the Autumn White – made up of late-picked grapes with explosions of fruit. If you’re visiting, wine tastings are direct from the barrel. Doesn’t get more authentic!
Where: 220 Clagiraba Road, Mount Nathan
Sarabah Estate Vineyard
Further along the Canungra Valley, before you begin to make your steep ascent up to O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat, is this enchanted and sun-soaked vineyard and cellar door. The folks here wear many hats as viticulturists, alpacas herders, cheesemakers and gardeners: meaning there is plenty to see, do, eat, and drink! Weekends see their Chalet Bistro open for delicious lunches and the Smoke & Vine Bar is perfect for a stone-baked pizza — and of course a glass of wine (our pick being their 2018 organic shiraz).
Where: 46 Rymera Road, Sarabah
The Overflow Estate 1895
Situated a little past Beaudesert, this ten-year-old vineyard is a spectacular feast for the eyes. Jutting out on a small arm into Lake Wyaralong, you may be forgiven for thinking you’ve come across a place of fairy tales, but alas, you haven’t; this is a place of delicious food and fine wine! Expect some delectable menu choices from their weekend seasonal menu from The Two French Chefs, and their gourmet cafe with antipasto and grazing boards aplenty runs Wednesdays to Fridays. Hardy Spanish and Italian varietals flourish here, so be sure to try the wine for a taste of Europe without the jetlag.
Where: 1660 Beaudesert – Boonah Road, Beaudesert
Words by Alex Mitcheson.
Oh cheese – you are always there when we need you. When we’ve had a hard day at work and can’t be arsed cooking – cheese. When we’re having the girls over for some vinos to unpack the week that was – cheese. When we’re trying to woo that special someone and show off our more refined side – fancy cheese. You get the gist, there’s nothing in this world that can’t be celebrated, commemorated or commiserated with this dairy decadence. With this in mind, we’ve penned a list of GC spots from north to south, where you can stock up on your fave cheesy goodies. Cheese Louise!
Tamborine Cheese Shop
Housed within the Fortitude Brewing Company precinct, Tamborine Cheese Shop will be the answer to all your cheesy dreams! Forewarning, your cheese platters have never looked or tasted this good with the addition of their cheeses. Don’t forget to snap up some dips while you’re at it because these are also drool-worthy.
Where: 165-185 Long Road, North Tamborine
The Standard Market Company
There isn’t well, anything The Standard Market Company folk do that isn’t gouda (get it?), but their cheese selection is definitely a stand-out. With an impressive selection of mouth-watering cheeses, it’s stressful choosing just one or two, so our advice is don’t – get them all, coz “this platter has too much cheese” said no-one ever.
Where: Ferry Road Markets, Southport
The beautiful Southport Market Organics store boasts a plentiful, certified organic produce department, bulk food section, and a variety of refrigerated and dry goods. It is literally a one-stop-shop for all your wholefood needs, especially the holy grail of goodness, c.h.e.e.s.e. Shout out to their strong selection of VEGAN cheeses. Yep, you read that right. An added bonus is it’s a family-owned and run business supporting local growers and manufacturers, what’s not to love here?
Where: 9/201 Ferry Road, Southport
Manolas Brothers Delicatessen
We love ourselves a Manolas Brothers fix, particularly when we’re on the hunt for a fancy flavoursome cheese or ten. This Isle of Capri gem is ever popular, with both peeps enjoying their food in-house, or stocking up on their Greek and Italian deli treats, groceries, fresh pasta, and cheese for entertaining and enjoying at home. Don’t miss this one.
Where: Shop 3G 14, 15-21 Capri Via Roma, Isle of Capri
Harris Farm Markets
Isle of Capri has become quite the hub for the cheese appreciation society (AKA everyone). Whether you purchase in the flesh or online, may we recommend the Granaggio cheese and the Pepato Pecorino cheese and…well…all the cheeses! With a loyal following, they prove that anything you can do, they can do FETA.
Where: Capri on Via Roma, 15-21 Via Roma, Isle of Capri
Grobnik European Delicatessen
This multigenerational family legacy of artisan butchery mastery is also online! And they bring traditional European handmade recipes into your kitchen – and we’re here for it. There are cured meats in every flavour imaginable, show stopping condiments and of course, the crem de la crem of cheeses.
Where: Ashmore City Shopping Centre, 206 Currumburra Road, Ashmore
Euro Food Deli
Representing and sourcing from the leading European manufacturers who are passionate about producing the highest quality products, Euro Food Deli stocks a huge selection of Russian and Polish food, as well as sweet and savoury treats from across Europe. This of course includes cheese, which is always the first item on our shopping list when we visit this suburban gem. Which is A. LOT.
Where: Shop 18b, 57 Station Street, Nerang
Barbosa Fine Food Deli
For us, a trip to Robina Town Centre goes a little something like this: swing by The Kitchens to grab a quick feed mid-shop, then leave The Kitchens with a trolley full of cheese from Barbosa, along with freshly prepared meals and delish homemade cakes. We usually then swiftly exit, coz all we can really think about at this point is getting home and tucking into said cheesy goodness. With wine of course.
Where: The Kitchens, Robina Town Centre, Robina
Ambarella Fine Food
It’s simply not possible to drive down Southport Burleigh Road and not take a sneaky detour into Ambarella. Stocking a variety of the highest quality cheese sourced from Australia and around the world, their cheesemonger includes some of the most sought-after and finest cheese varieties available. Do yourself a favour and try their goat cheese. You’re welcome.
Where: 1 Santa Maria Court, Burleigh Waters
Golosi Food Emporium
The word “Golosi” means glutton or greedy in Italian and #guilty. This food emporium right in the heart of Burleigh houses some of the finest local and international products. The selection changes on a regular and seasonal basis and we’re talking meats, antipasti, dips, freshly baked bread, olives, and of course, cheese. Pick up some beautiful blooms while you’re there.
Where: 3/45 James Street, Burleigh Heads
With a name like Quince Fromagerie, you know you’re going to find a whole lotta cheese and sir, we are here for it. A boutique providore (situated in Cornerstone Stores) boasts European and select-local wines, spirits and cheeses, this Currumbin favourite imports limited edition and hard-to-find products. Gaze adoringly into the cheese room, and can we please have one of these in our abode?
Where: 570 Gold Coast Highway, Currumbin
Rob Roy Deli
Run by a chef and a sommelier and no this is not the start to a joke, but if there are two people who know good cheese, it’s, well, a chef and a sommelier! Their sensational range of cheese and charcuterie can be freshly cut to order, and mark our words, you’ll legit want to buy Fifty Shades of Gruyere at this new kid on the block.
Where: 20 Bay Street, Tweed Heads
Words by Bianca Trathen.
When it comes to wine growing and producing, whether you know it or not, Australia is up there in the world with some of the best. And although we might not have the legacy and history of our European cousins, we still knock out some fantastic drops!
Whether you’re a fan of Euro classics or enjoying wines from our very own Terra Australis, we think a well-rounded wine list, and therefore drinking experience, should be celebrated. So next time you feel like the wine selection should be just as good as the food, we’ve gone to great lengths to find the Gold Coast venues with great wine lists and cellars where you can sip to your heart’s content.
La Bella Cellar
If you haven’t come across this humble ode to all things Italian and delicious, then we suggest you go about booking yourself a table pronto. One sentiment many people share through gastronomy is to match a country’s food with their wine. Here at La Bella Cellar, you have countless opportunities to do so with a carefully curated list displaying hard-to-find Italian regions and varietals. But if you feel like Australian wine is just as good — and it is — they have a clever section where you can experience the same grapes and styles but from good ol’ Straya.
Where: 9/3 Deodar Drive, Burleigh Heads
Nineteen at The Star
A five-star venue overlooking the ocean and 19 floors up is the perfect place to enjoy an exceptional wine, and Nineteen at The Star is precisely that. Not to mention they have a walk-in, glass window wine room filled with hundreds of bottles of the very finest wines from across the world. Of course, the team at Nineteen are absolute stars when it comes to wine knowledge, not to mention pairing said wines with their dishes. Treat yourself to a delicious time at Nineteen; it’s pure magic.
Where: The Star Gold Coast, Casino Drive, Broadbeach
Combining art and food in a brand-new opulent setting, HOTA’s Palette restaurant hinges its menu closely on what is featured within the current exhibition in the adjacent gallery, meaning you’ll be eating with your eyes as well as your mouth. Executive Chef Dayan Hartill-Law believes strongly in freshness and seasonality, mirrored by their Australian/New Zealand dominant wine list, showcasing some fantastic producers in our own backyard. If you feel the need to keep things as close to home as possible, you’ll just adore their ‘local list’ with wines exclusively from nearby Granite Belt and Mount Tamborine regions.
Where: Ground Floor, HOTA Gallery, HOTA, 135 Bundall Road, Surfers Paradise
Social Eating House + Bar
A casual, fine dining venue in the heart of Broadbeach, Social Eating House + Bar is the perfect place for an-award winning feast plus a glass of wine or two to match. The wine menu is broken down into easy-to-choose sections, including light and aromatic whites, light to medium body reds and bigger shiraz, to name a few. The team are highly knowledgeable and can certainly help you find something to suit your tastes.
Where: Shop 137-138, 3 Oracle Boulevard, Broadbeach
The Glenelg Public House
Long loved by Gold Coasters as the place for sophisticated home-style cooking and consistently excellent service. And it isn’t just the wine list you should be excited about; start things off with one of their superbly made house cocktails, and you’ll peruse the sizeable collection of select wines a little easier. If you’re a fan of red wine and matching it up to a melt-in-your-mouth steak, this is the place where all your dreams can — and will — come true.
Where: 2460 Gold Coast Highway, Mermaid Beach
The Wine Barrel
As you might expect, a restaurant called The Wine Barrel has quite a selection of wine for your tasting pleasure. The Mudgeeraba gem boasts one of the very best wine lists around, and the gurus behind the bar will ensure, yours is an experience to remember. From Margaret River to Tuscany and sparkling to sherry, there’s sure to be a tipple that’ll tickle your tastebuds (and the food is the goods too). We love this place!
Where: 8/59 Railway Street, Mudgeeraba
Glass Dining & Lounge Bar
The shimmering waters and reflective hulls of nearby superyachts hopefully won’t dazzle your eyes too much when you open the drinks menu at Main Beach’s Glass Dining & Lounge Bar. Take in the extensive collection of worldly drops, and you’ll realise there is great emphasis on stellar Champagne and Australian Shiraz. So, how does starting with freshly shucked oysters and finishing off with free-range grass-fed steak sound to you — because from where we’re sitting, it sounds marvellous.
Where: Marina Mirage, 74 Seaworld Drive, Main Beach
Firmly settled as a prime lunching spot, Orzo can be found at The Oracle Boulevard Broadbeach, serving up exquisite modern seafood dishes and, of course, a wine list to match. As you might expect, the wines are of the Italian variability from various regions, and each is stunning. Whites, reds, rosés and sparklings, anything you could want to sip, and each paired perfectly with the impressive menu. Ask the team for their recommendation and prepare to be dazzled by the goodness.
Where: 1N-02, The Oracle, 12 Charles Avenue, Broadbeach
Up Southport way is the stunning little space Jafa – a wine and pizza bar boasting quite the unique array of vinos that pair perfectly with the menu. Have you ever tried an orange wine? There’s some on the menu here; trust us, it’s amazing. Not to mention an impressive array of reds from Syrah to Nebbiolo and some we’ve never encountered.
Where: 7/253 Ferry Road, Southport
Suppose your heart misses the Mediterranean Sea, as ours does. Might we suggest you take a visit to Sanctuary Cove and drop anchor at this perfect, white-washed afternoon grazing spot? Enjoy the dappled light and spoil yourself with cocktails, select dips, and imported cheeses — but make sure you have selected a suitable glass of wine to go alongside these morsels. Choose something delectable and European like French Provencal Rosé or Spanish Tempranillo, and imagine you’re on the Amalfi, even just for a short while!
Where: 38C Masthead Way, Sanctuary Cove
An institution adored by a league of perpetually hungry fans out there on our coastline. Gemellini (and the OG Gemelli) has been bringing classy Italian mealtimes to Nobby Beach for a little over five years now and shows no sign of slowing up. For wine lovers out there, you’re in for a treat. If you go by the glass, you can match great examples of European classics with their drool-worthy handmade pasta dishes. If you feel like delving into their hefty bottle selection, you can sip away and sample the best pizzas this side of Naples: sure to take you straight to Italian cuisine nirvana!
Where: 2247 Gold Coast Highway, Mermaid Beach
The Burleigh Heads gem has a carefully crafted wine list of some of the most iconic producers around, along with small and innovative winemakers making their own unique type of magic. Most of the list is available by the glass, so you’re invited to sample something unique from around the world. Each tipple is a perfect match to the exceptional modern Vietnamese food menu. If you haven’t yet had the pleasure of spending time at Jimmy Wah’s, they simply must be next on your list.
Where: 1724 Gold Coast Highway, Burleigh Heads
Often touted as the best steak restaurant on the Gold Coast, if you’re in need to satisfy the carnivore within you, then look no further. Indulge your thirst for something more refined and work your way through their vast vintage and non-vintage Champagne collection and start a lunch/dinner you won’t forget in a hurry. And if you need a follow up, their list is extensive and informs the reader on styles and grapes with a handy little introduction to each section.
Where: 2685 Gold Coast Highway, Broadbeach
Words by Alex Mitcheson.