The last three years have taught Martin and Karen Spedding a thing or two about resilience – and patience. Their winery, Ten Minutes by Tractor, perched high in the hills of the Mornington Peninsula, was dealt a devastating blow when a fire tore through the estate in February 2018, destroying the acclaimed restaurant and cellar door, a $500,000 wine collection and several vintage tractors.
The Speddings and their team rebuilt and the restaurant reopened in late 2019, only for the COVID-19 to hit just a few months later, shuttering the new dining and cellar door operations for most of 2020.
It was a worrying time for the family business but it “certainly helped strengthen us and build resistance and it fired up our creativity as well,” says Martin of the most challenging period they’ve faced since buying the winery in 2004. But things are finally looking up. The newly reopened restaurant has expanded, with a new private dining room for 24, plus a large outdoor terrace for sipping away the summer. Head chef Adam Sanderson’s six-course seasonal tasting menu is driven by fresh produce from local growers. “We’re excited for people to come back and experience it,” says Martin.
They have other reasons to be grateful. The business employs up to 50 staff depending upon the season and many of them have been able to retain their jobs during COVID. Martin tells how the restaurant quickly pivoted to The Art of Dining In – an at-home meal service “to stay connected with our customers and keep some cash flow coming in”. Staff from across the business were also retasked to work in the vineyards and the winery.
Previously the CEO of a tech company, Martin gave up the office life in favour of a “wine change” when he and Karen purchased Ten Minutes by Tractor from its original founders: three families who had joined their neighbouring Main Ridge vineyards together in a co-op in 1997, the properties all 10 minutes by tractor apart. And while they’ve diversified the business, winemaking remains the lifeblood.
Ten Minutes by Tractor produces between 10,000 and 14,000 cases a year depending upon the crop and while it predominantly sells in Australia, it’s also exported to about 10 countries across Europe, Asia and the US. This international market proved a godsend when nationwide restaurant shutdowns saw the winery’s local sales collapse (restaurants account for more than 50 per cent of wine sales). “During COVID we actually picked up about three or four new export markets which was surprising and obviously very welcome,” says Martin.
Pinot and chardonnay are the winery’s signatures (standout vintages, Martin says, include 2015, 2017 and the upcoming 2019 collection) and Mornington’s diverse landscape makes it a great location to live and grow grapes. “It’s such a beautiful place and so unique. It’s so compact and in very short spaces you can move from the rugged coastline on the western side to the hinterland and the rolling hills and then the golden-sand beaches of Port Phillip Bay on the other side. There are walking tracks, bike trails, golf courses, more than 50 wineries and some of the best places to enjoy food and wine that you’ll find anywhere in Australia.”
“We’re able to efficiently manage those business expenses with the Card, plus it has real benefits for our cash flow,” says Martin. “It was a quick process to set it up and it’s an efficient way for us to manage business expenditure, whether it be for the vineyard, winery or in managing the restaurant. And, of course, the points earn is a big factor that will help cover the cost of flights interstate when we’re doing trips to see customers and to fly internationally for various export markets once overseas travel resumes. I’m guessing we’ll earn about half a million Qantas Points with the Card over the course of a year.”
But first, Martin and Karen are looking forward to using their Qantas Points to see more of their family. Just a few days after the NSW/Victoria border reopened in November, Martin was back in the air for a very special reunion – making a trip to Sydney to visit his daughter Gabby and 14-month-old grandson, who he’d only seen once in 10 months. “I missed his first birthday. There’s been a lot of missed milestones in 2020. It’s been a year to forget but it’s also reminded us of the things that are important to us.”
They’ll also use their points to see more of Australia – “We’re all quite excited about the opportunity to do a lot more domestic travel; we’ve talked about going to Broome or up to the Northern Territory” – and once international travel resumes, they’re planning a trip to Canada to visit his in-laws, as well as family time in Fiji or Hawaii. “But we won’t be taking any holidays for a while,” Martin smiles, as he looks forward to the months ahead. “We’re certainly hoping that a lot of people will be getting out of the city and back into the regions. I think we’re all looking forward to an uneventful but very busy summer.”
Martin Spedding’s top business tips | Ten Minutes by Tractor
Create an experience that keeps people coming back: “We really have to be the best we’ve ever been,” says Martin. “I think the COVID fallout has pushed us really hard to keep striving to do better.” Case in point: Ten Minutes by Tractor’s new and improved cellar door. “Over the next 12 months we’re putting a lot of effort into our new tasting rooms and planning a new wine gallery, which is really about providing a great experience for people who come and visit us; something that’s memorable and different rather than just a very straight forward tasting of the wine. People are looking to immerse themselves and learn in impactful ways. Those experiences are what people love about travel. Even if they haven’t got time to do everything on this trip, that’s a reason for coming back and doing more next time.”
You’re stronger as a team: Ten Minutes by Tractor started as a co-operative and this spirit lives on among the Speddings and their fellow peninsula winemakers. “Our region is dominated by small family-owned wineries and growers of apples and cherries and other produce so we work very closely with the other wineries to promote the region and cooperate across a range of issues that impact the industry,” says Martin. “We compensate for our size by working together to share knowledge and experiences so we can continue to improve everything we do and to embrace sustainable agricultural practices to protect the health of our soils and our vines.”
Published 1 Dec 2020
By Mark Brandon
“To mark the resumption of travel following the pandemic shutdown, even as other state and territory borders remain controversially closed, a panel of seven experienced tourism and travel identities was formed asked to name their seven most inspiring wonders of tourism in Victoria…
Respondents, ranging from tourism industry leaders and executives to a leading author and television personality with a love of travel favoured some rugged attractions in our diverse state backyard….
GEOFF MANCHESTER, Intrepid Group co-founder and director
MALLACOOTA A great feeling of isolation, especially following the drive through the Gippsland forests. So many Victorians never venture out east; the Mallacoota Caravan Park is green, spacious and rarely busy and there’s beaches, walking and fishing. See visiteastgippsland.com.au
TEN MINUTES BY TRACTOR RESTAURANT Set in the hills of the Mornington Peninsula near Red Hill this is an intimate space with creative food and an amazing selection of local wine. See tenminutesbytractor.com.au
WALHALLA An 1860’s goldmining town that is now the proverbial ghost town. It feels like it is in the middle of an ancient forest, but the whole area was once denuded of timber, which was used for the gold mining. The cricket ground is spectacular, being the only flat area around. See visitwalhalla.com
MELBOURNE’S FARMERS MARKETS. With so many of us renewing our interest in cooking, sourcing food from individual grower at farmers’ markets adds to the experience. Collingwood Children’s Farm market is in a spectacular location, while the Alphington Market is a practical option held every Sunday. See mfm.com.au
BRIGHT While it is the place in Victoria for autumn colours, it is still a place to visit all year, with snow, on-road and off-road cycling, wineries, restaurants and the Ovens River to laze around in during summer. Great cider at the pub! See visitbright.com.au
GREAT WESTERN. May not sound like a town and there is not much to it, but it has two of Victoria’s best and most historic wineries in Best’s & Seppelt. Best’s often have some very old wine for sale, while Seppelt has its famous drives, the underground cellars with millions of bottles stored. See visitvictoria.com
PENINSULA HOT SPRINGS. This is the type of sustainable tourism development we should replicate around the state. It has grown over the years, but maintains the feel of a small establishment and they have a great focus on the customer experience. See peninsulahotsprings.com
To read more, visit: https://www.traveller.com.au/victoria-best-places-to-go-the-seven-highlights-of-the-state-named-by-the-experts-h1oe94
We are pleased to announce the release of our 2019 10X Pinot Noir and 2018 Estate Pinot Noir, which are now available to purchase through our website and cellar door. These wines are from two outstanding vintages on the Mornington Peninsula and we are very excited to share them with you.
In lieu of tasting these wines at our cellar door, we invite you to to view a short tasting hosted by Martin and Imogen as they discuss our new release Pinots.
10X PINOT NOIR 2019
“Easily the prettiest 10X Pinot in some years, this entrée to the Ten Minutes by Tractor Pinot range is a very likeable wine. It’s round and red-fruited through the mid palate, every bit the classic, generous Mornington Pinot, yet with subtle mushroom nuances and a flutter of compact, but real tannins.”
– Andrew Graham for TMBT
ESTATE PINOT NOIR 2018
“Using fruit from both ‘down the hill’ and ‘up the hill’ imbues this Pinot with welcome layers of flavour. There’s bright fruit, but it dovetails into something darker, the tannins nicely bitter in a savoury fashion. The detail, the completeness of a Pinot that is perfectly mid-weight and assured in its regional style.”
– Andrew Graham for TMBT
We continue to remain open and are very appreciative of your ongoing support in helping keep our business and the local economy running.
The health and safety of our customers and the Ten Minutes by Tractor team, as always, are our number one priority. We have always upheld the highest standards of health and hygiene practices across our business, but given the current situation, we are taking additional precautions to ensure the safety of all.
- Ensuring we are fully aligned with the Australian Government Department of Health guidelines and updates.
- Removing tables in the restaurant to increase the space to 1.5 metres between tables. This policy has also been implemented in the Cellar Door.
- Reducing covers in the restaurant by up to 50% to allow for greater social distancing.
- Separating groups in the Cellar Door so tastings are conducted at least 1.5 meters apart.
- Sanitising all public areas consistently throughout the day including all surfaces, doors, handles, bathrooms, EFTPOS machines, across all aspects of the business including the office, cellar door, restaurant and winery.
- As you would expect, all staff are regularly washing hands and utilising hand sanitiser before and after interacting with customers. Hand sanitiser is also now located throughout the restaurant and cellar door.
- We have a strict wellness policy and all staff are adhering to social distancing guidelines, so while we warmly welcome guests, this will be without any physical contact.
As you can appreciate, this is an ever-changing climate, and we are closely monitoring the advice and recommendations from the government and health organisations. We will make sure to keep you updated if and when things change.
Here at Ten Minutes by Tractor we love what we do and strive to continue to make your experience at our Cellar Door and Restaurant as enjoyable as possible.
Martin, Karen & the Ten Minutes by Tractor team
For reservations or more information please visit our restaurant page or call 03 5989 6080.