Glass Half Full with Gusto

Image source: Photographer Ian Waldie

How about raisin’ a glass to effervescent Dale Potts, who as Helen Flanagan discovers, lets his passion chase the dream.

A wine connoisseur is someone who has a deep appreciation and understanding of wine – from flavours, aromas, characteristics, and wine making to the art of service – such as ever-smiling Dale Potts, who is maître d’, sommelier and event host extraordinaire at Gusto Riverfront Restaurant.

Dale’s passion for hospitality was ignited 50 years ago when at the age of twelve, his parents were managers at the El Paso Motel in NSW’s Port Macquarie.

Tired coach passengers stayed overnight, and Dale would don a bowtie and serve three-course dinners, polish glasses in the bar, watch cocktails being shaken not stirred as well as replenish empties from the cellar, as instructed by George Truby, a master of wine, and world expert in Champagne.

Edging further north to Ballina at the family’s El Rancho Motor Inn and Restaurant when Dale – fresh from high school – and his dad ran the acclaimed Kings Court Restaurant where amongst the French specialties, were nightly ‘performances’ involving flambée coffees and table cooking.

Cashed up and 22, the self-confessed National Geographic tragic went backpacking around Europe, Middle East, and South Asia, cheffing on double decker buses, tasting amazing wines on the 11,000km journey and having everything, including his passport, stolen.

Never stopping, he was a groom in Vienna; competed as a top dressage and show rider for Australia; met Prince Phillip; and in-between myriad other escapades, was manager and chef at a steakhouse in northern Germany. Phew!

Feet firmly back on Aussie soil, Dale landed his first big gig when John Cook bought the Ballina Beach Resort and appointed him general manager with hands-on responsibility for the successful restaurant, endless weddings, conferences, and events.

A 30-year prosperous business relationship ensued, and he is eternally thankful, especially for the intro to now-wife Jo. Followers of Dale would not be surprised knowing he was also a lecturer at the Southern Cross University’s Hotel Management School and his lecture on customer service was titled Walk and Talk!

The magnetism of Noosa attracted John Cook and Dale to the new Noosa Lakes Resort. Later bought out by a hotel group, Dale and his family moved to a coffee plantation near Byron Bay, where he developed a blend called Lattetude.

John Cook not only suggested he should sell his coffee in Noosa but stepped up to the plate and purchased Gibsons’ Homewares and Cafe in 2006.

“What an incredible 15 years with next level everything,” recalled Dale who managed the café while Jo ran the retail side. “Even wine events with five courses and five wines were a sell-out. I was in my element!”

During uncertain times in 2020, Dale decided on a sabbatical. Just prior he had completed a wine harvest vintage in Kamptal, Austria picking Grüner Veltliner grapes and Riesling for Loimer on the Danube. He yearned for the international qualification of the Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET), completed it, and received a Distinction.

He followed with vintage in the Hunter Valley, picking and making wine in the Barossa for vigneron Adrian Hoffman, also picking for Torbreck, Rockford and Ringland wineries.

“Oh, what a learning curve in the vineyards, the wineries and with winemakers every day doing ferments, pour overs, finings, barreling, intense cleaning and so on, before another day of harvest began,” he recalls.

In-between, Dale completed ten Noosa Triathlons with his endearing friend and wine enthusiast David Peel.

“We launched our own wine label SOMe SEM, purchased the entire 2017 vintage of Semillon in vats from Mitchells in the Clare Valley, bottled and sold it off the pallet direct from the winery,” he said.

“David and of course wife Helen, were delighted to see his name on the label for the Noosa Wine Co. Sadly, David passed away recently and is missed terribly.”

Naturally Dale has a brilliant cellar, a collection spanning 40 years and a 1000-plus decanter collection.

“There’s a 25-year vertical, that’s every vintage of Wynns Coonawarra Cabernet from 1996,” said Dale who is also an avid Riesling collector.

“I especially love aged Riesling, and Semillon is a fave; plus a fine collection of Chardonnay for my wife and wine-savvy children.”

With Dale’s glass-and-a half attitude to life, imagine his excitement when Gusto owner Timothee Lepoutre, who we all know as Tim, invited Dale for coffee. Say no more.

“Tim is an outstanding entrepreneur whose work ethic is infectious,” effuses Dale, who is also passionate and enthusiastic with service, always acknowledging people and remembering their names. “He has an amazing palette and naturally an outstanding knowledge of French wines. He and wife Chloe have revitalized the space next to Gusto in a private très chic dining room, overlooking the terrace and the Noosa River, with new bar, wallpaper, chandeliers, and beautiful accoutrements.

“From a dinner with six courses and matching wines to stunning celebratory events such as birthdays, weddings, and business functions for up to 36, all are unforgettable.

“Oh, by the way, I’m creating a wine list for Tim’s new venture called China Dina, so I’m thinking Chinese food and aromatic wines with good acidity are perfect matches. Hmmm … everything happens for a Riesling!” 

About the Author /

Noosa’s sophisticated charm, vibrant food culture and the magnetism of a subtropical paradise surrounded by national parks, inveigled Helen’s manic world and flipped it on its side. She pursues the good life with gusto, instinctively understanding the joys of travel, the art of story-telling, a candid review and surviving another reno whilst thriving on the motto Live Laugh Love!

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