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Gabrielle Richardson
6 April 2023 | Gabrielle Richardson

The Real Review - Close planted vineyards and wine quality

Close-planted vines produce better wine, no?

Well, they must, because the classic French wines from Burgundy, Champagne, Chablis, and most other places are grown in vineyards that are close-planted, much closer than typical Australian vineyards.

Most close-panted vineyards in Australia are very young, but youth may have been immaterial as the Bannockburn pair were by common agreement the hardest to tell apart.

But it’s not that simple.

What works in Volnay or Vouvray doesn’t necessary translate to Australian conditions.

A tasting at a workshop on close-planting, conducted as part of the recent Pinot Noir Celebration Australia on the Mornington Peninsula, was inconclusive.

The tasting was of eight glasses of pinot noir, two each from four producers. One was off a close-planted vineyard, the other off a conventional vineyard of the same producer, in the same locality, and using the same winemaking. All were MV6 clone.

The wines were Bindi Darshan 2019 (close) and Bindi Original Vineyard 2019; Ten Minutes By Tractor McCutcheon Vineyard 2022 and Ten Minutes By Tractor Spedding Vineyard 2022 (close); Bannockburn Estate 2019 and Bannockburn Serré 2019 (close); and Scorpo Old Cherry Orchard 2021 (close) and Scorpo Eocene 2021. The wines were randomised and the tasters were asked to try to tell which was the close-planted in each pair. Most—possibly all of us—failed to*.

Most close-panted vineyards in Australia are very young, but youth may have been immaterial as the Bannockburn pair were by common agreement the hardest to tell apart, although the Serré vines were mature (average age 39 years).

So, what drives vignerons like Bindi’s Michael Dhillon and Ten Minutes By Tractor’s Martin Spedding to plant vines at high density, which is estimated to cost at least four times as much to establish?

The panel laid out the advantages and drawbacks of high-density.


  • The entire vineyard is involved; there is no idle land.
  • Greater lignification (the stems are woodier, which is useful for whole-bunch fermenting).
  • Roots drive deeper, making for stability of moisture status.
  • Saves irrigation water (Spedding said it uses half the water).
  • Smaller bunch and berry size, which increases concentration.
  • Shading of the fruit-zone, so less sunburn risk, and leaf-plucking is safer.
  • Grape yield per vine is reduced so more goodies go into each berry.


  • Setup cost is estimated between four and five times that of a conventional vineyard.
  • Fungal disease problems are increased in wet seasons.
  • ‘Normal’ vineyard machinery doesn’t fit the rows.
  • Reduced yield per vine may be seen as a disadvantage depending on quality and yield per hectare.
  • In cool, high-altitude sites, the vines don’t set fruit if they’re too close.

“You wouldn’t do it unless you had a fantastic site,” said Dhillon.

Spedding and Dhillon both have very small crawler tractors to work their high-density vineyards, and these, while expensive, have an added advantage of reducing soil compaction: “less than a single human walking down the row.”

What is a high-density? The Burgundy and Champagne standard is one metre by one metre, which results in 10,000 vines per hectare. Traditional Aussie vineyards have as few as 2,500 vines per hectare. The panel, consisting of Spedding, Dhillon, climatologist Greg Jones and viticulturist Tim Brown, agreed that anything less than 1.5m spacings is high-density.

Read more here: 

Time Posted: 06/04/2023 at 11:46 AM Permalink to The Real Review - Close planted vineyards and wine quality Permalink
Gabrielle Richardson
8 February 2023 | Gabrielle Richardson

Decanter - Australian Pinot Noir: 25 exciting wines to try

With the popularity of lighter-style red wines showing no signs of abating, it might be time to swap your Aussie Shiraz or Cabernet Sauvignon for a Pinot Noir. Tina Gellie picks out 25 cool-climate Australian Pinot Noirs to try.

There’s 4,948ha of Pinot Noir across Australia (source: Wine Australia 2022), which represents just 3.7% of the total area under vine.

It might be the fourth most planted red variety, well behind Merlot with about 8,500ha, but truly small fry when you consider the country has five times as many plantings of Cabernet Sauvignon, and a whopping eight times as many for Shiraz.

But with the global trend for lighter-style reds showing no signs of abating, this is good news for the country’s Pinot Noir producers. Particularly as even the most expensive represent a value alternative to Burgundy as well as premium-priced examples from neighbouring New Zealand.


Martin Spedding makes four single-vineyard wines, wth Coolart Road always the biggest, boldest and most darkly fruited. Grippy, textured tannins and a firm acid line give great structure to the umami-like flavours of mushroom, beetroot and black cherry. Lingering smoky incense and rose petal notes lift the finish.


This estate Pinot is now split into the Up the Hill and Down the Hill cuvées, but in this vintage was a barrel selection of Martin Spedding's four vineyards. This is seductively savoury wine, with bold earthy beetroot and undergrowth tones to join autumnal plum and black cherry. Vanilla chai oak spice and supple tannins too.


Practically a Coolart Road single-vineyard wine with just 5% Wallis fruit blended in. It's a wonderfully pure expression of ripe black cherry and raspberry fruit kept arrow straight by focused, racy acidity and satin-textured tannins. Dark, earthy notes add savoury complexity.

Read more here: 


Time Posted: 08/02/2023 at 12:04 PM Permalink to Decanter - Australian Pinot Noir: 25 exciting wines to try Permalink
Gabrielle Richardson
14 December 2022 | Gabrielle Richardson

Introducing the Mills Chardonnay

The Mills Vineyard, located in Merricks North on the Mornington Peninsula was planted by the Mills family in 2000 to Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.

The Chardonnay produced from this vineyard has shown a consistent quality and depth of flavour that has resulted in it being an important component of our Estate Chardonnay over the past six years. What became very clear over the years is that the quality of the Chardonnay was head and shoulders above the Pinot. As a result, in 2017, the Pinot Noir was replanted with Chardonnay (Clone 96) with an increased density (75cm spacing).  The first vintages of the young Chardonnay block are very promising, with great concentration of flavour - rich and layered.

In 2021, we decided, for the first time, to elevate the Mills Chardonnay to a single vineyard bottling - a reflection of the quality and long-term cellaring potential of this wine.

Purchase the Mills Chardonnay

Time Posted: 14/12/2022 at 2:31 PM Permalink to Introducing the Mills Chardonnay Permalink
Gabrielle Richardson
7 December 2022 | Gabrielle Richardson

2021 Single Vineyard Releases

We're pleased to announce the release of our 2021 Single Vineyard wines. The 2021 vintage was outstanding, the first in many years to rival the landmark 2015 vintage.  Great acid retention and concentration of flavour have resulted in wines of great balance and fine detail.  

2021 Vintage

Moderate temperatures throughout a wet spring and flowering resulted in healthy canopies with slightly lower than average yields. Above average rainfall over the summer due to La Niña was moderated by dry spells and moderate temperatures resulted in slower ripening. This resulted in some late season botrytis, which further reduced our yields. Great acid retention and concentration of flavour has resulted in wines of great balance and fine detail. The wines are outstanding and will reward further with cellaring. 

The Wines
Time Posted: 07/12/2022 at 11:00 AM Permalink to 2021 Single Vineyard Releases Permalink
Gabrielle Richardson
6 December 2022 | Gabrielle Richardson

2023 Good Food Guide - Two Hat Award Winner

We are thrilled to have retained our 2 Hats, awarded the Best Wine List in Victoria and named a Finalist for the Best Regional Restaurant in the 2023 Good Food Guide Awards.

We are so incredibly proud of the whole team who helped us during our rebuild and their perseverance throughout the six lockdowns. We'd also like to thank our guests for their continued support over this time.

Good Food described the restaurant as 'An exemplary winery dining room with outstanding views and locally focused tasting menus from chef Hayden Ellis.'

Read more here:



Time Posted: 06/12/2022 at 1:36 PM Permalink to 2023 Good Food Guide - Two Hat Award Winner Permalink
Gabrielle Richardson
25 November 2022 | Gabrielle Richardson

Why you should be drinking Ten Minutes by Tractor - The Australian

"The Mornington Peninsula must surelv be one of the most desirable places on the planet for a winemaker to make a living. Rolling green hills close to the serene beaches of Port Phillip Bay on Melbourne's doorstep, it's a compelling location that unsurprisingly has drawn plenty of dreamers from all walks of life.

As Melbournians and regular visitors all know, what makes Mornington particularly special is that it has managed to retain a bucolic, laid-back style thanks to its mix of pretty landscapes, quaint seaside villages and holiday vibe. There is also an artisanal side, where small producers from a variety of industries flourish."


"Spedding's key aim for the wines is substance without weight, which they artfully achieve, although the yields in recent seasons has been low, with production essentially halved in the past three vears, so they are rare birds. "We have amazing savoury characters that draw you to the glass. But most important is the clear and defining characters of each site, which is reassuring”. He is right about that."

Read more here: 

By Angus Hughson

Time Posted: 25/11/2022 at 1:56 PM Permalink to Why you should be drinking Ten Minutes by Tractor - The Australian Permalink
Gabrielle Richardson
2 July 2021 | Gabrielle Richardson

Coolart Road in Focus


Coolart Road is our northern Peninsula, “down the hill” vineyard in the Tuerong region. It is our lowest vineyard at 72m. First planted in 2000, vines are now 21 years old. Since some replantings in 2012 the vineyard is now 100% Pinot Noir and we are currently in transition to our organic certification. 

On average Pinot Noir ripens here 2-3 weeks earlier than our “up the hill” vineyards. Coolart Road typically delivers darker, fleshier fruit characters, possessing both power and grace.

The D block, sitting at the back corner of our Coolart Road property, consistently provides us with some of the highest quality Pinot from this whole site and so there’s no coincidence that these 2013, 2015 and 2017 Pinots have all been made from fruit grown purely from this block.

What makes the D Block so special?

The D block is quite protected by its tree-line surrounding however still receives sufficient airflow to moderate the microclimate.  The rows on this block run north to south with a very slight gradient and the soil seems more consistent across the block which provides the vines with the same conditions throughout. This results in consistent flavour and tannin profile in all the fruit that we pick from this site.

The Pinot clone planted here is MV6 - a fantastic clone that consistently shows depth and power and always with a beautiful perfume. MV6 or the ‘Mother Clone 6’, comes from a selection taken in the 1970’s from vines that had been grown from cuttings brought into Australia by James Busby in 1832. Busby’s cuttings were taken from Clos Vougeot, in Burgundy and has a soft canopy, small bunches and berries which are characterised by concentrated plumy characters, and very good structure.

The fruit itself is robust and versatile and have experimented over the years with different percentages of whole bunch and  fermentation management regimes to assess the impact on quality. Despite the difference in winemaking, D block always performs very well.

Vintage Overviews & Tasting Notes


After good winter rains the 2013 vintage ended as one of our driest and earliest vintages on record. The favourable weather throughout bud burst and flowering set up the ideal conditions for a very good vintage. 

Tasting Note:

This was the first Coolart single vineyard wine that we released. It is a wine that is looking younger than its years displaying dark cherry, tobacco leaf, pine resin and delicious savoury notes. Upfront tannins showcase the hallmark Coolart structure while savoury notes balance the softening dark fruit characters. 

Tech Notes:

  • 80% whole bunch pressed after 15 days on skins
  • 15 months aging :: 20% new French oak barriques
  • 13.8% alcohol


Following heavy rainfalls in the winter, the 2015 growing conditions on the Peninsula were exceptional. Mild and consistent temperatures over the summer and a cool and dry autumn produced beautiful fruit, balanced yields and healthy canopies. The resulting wines have bright fruit, great balance and persistence. One of our very best vintages.

Tasting Note:

A very well balance and complex wine.  Notes of violet, blackcurrant and strawberry jam are balanced with hints of autumn leaves, tobacco and cloves. Beautiful fine tannins coat the palate balanced by a juicy mouthfeel. This is a very interesting and complex wine but also has a good potential for aging.

Tech notes:

  • 100% destemmed; all whole berries
  • 15 months aging :: 24% new French oak barriques
  • 13.8% alcohol


Following an average rainfall and relatively warm winter, October was our third wettest on record (96mm v 62mm average) and November saw our second coldest maximum and minimum temperatures (19.3° v 20.9°, 9.6° v 10.9°), consequently the budburst interval (budburst-flowering) was our longest ever – 87 days v an average of 75 days – and flowering was our latest ever (5 December v our 21 November average). In the end, due to the excellent February and March, hang time (budburst-harvest) was average – 205 days v an average of 203 days – and harvest date was close to average – 1 April v an average of 28 March. Yields were down because of the problems around flowering but summer and early autumn saw long, slow ripening – perfect for our Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.

Tasting note:  With such tiny yields it’s a pleasure just to see this wine at all, with the perfect season great for quality but miserable for yields. Coolart is the earliest picked of the Ten Minutes by Tractor vineyards and you’d expect this to be a beastly wine. But it’s not – rather, it’s joyously plump and ripe, a wine of red raspberry easygoing flavour, yet with tannins and grip. Great balance of fruit flavour and structure.

Tech notes:

  • 10% whole bunch pressed; destemmed portion all whole berries
  • 11 months aging :: 30% new French oak barriques
  • 13.0% alcohol
Time Posted: 02/07/2021 at 11:40 AM Permalink to Coolart Road in Focus Permalink
Gabrielle Richardson
24 May 2021 | Gabrielle Richardson

Queen's Birthday Long Weekend 2021


We are pleased to be reopening in time for the upcoming long weekend. However, now with the current restrictions in place, we have had to postpone our Wine Club event, Masterclasses and Terrace entertainment to the weekend of 24 & 25th July.


New Release Tastings at the Cellar Door

Sat - Mon | 11am-5pm | $20pp including a branded Plumm glass

The release of our 2020 10X Chardonnay, Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir will also coincide with the long weekend and will be available for tasting at the cellar door and for purchase online from 11 June. 

We will be offering tastings in the cellar door starting from $20pp which will include a beautiful Ten Minutes by Tractor branded Plumm glass (RRP $42).  The tasting fee component will be waved for our Wine Club members. 

Visit the link below to reserve your tasting.

Winter Menu Launch & Museum Wine Pairings

Sat - Mon | Lunch & Dinner

We will be launching some new dishes on Winter Wine Weekend and will also be offering a special wine pairing featuring new release wines alongside a selection some of our best wines from over the past decade.

We encourage you to make your reservation promptly as we anticipate high demand over this weekend.

To make a reservation call 03 5989 6455 or visit the link below.

Purchase the 2020 10X New Release Wines

The 2020 10X wines showcase what was a long cool vintage with great elegance, depth of flavour and bright natural acidity. Because our yields were significantly reduced in 2020 there will be very limited availability of these wines and they are likely to sell out in the coming few months.

Time Posted: 24/05/2021 at 3:50 PM Permalink to Queen's Birthday Long Weekend 2021 Permalink
Gabrielle Richardson
12 May 2021 | Gabrielle Richardson

Good Food Month 2021: Making Waves


Join us on Saturday 25 June as we explore some of Victoria's best and most innovative winemakers.

Lunch or Dinner reservation, 25 June
1333 Mornington Flinders Rd Main Ridge VIC 3928
$190 per person for 6 course tasting menu or $300 with matching wines 

Winemaking is a craft developed over thousands of years but some winemakers are making waves with new techniques and styles. Join us as we explore some of Victoria’s traditional and most famous wines, up against some wonderful varieties and styles showing Victoria is also on the bleeding edge of wine innovation. Each of these exciting and iconic wines will be paired with a six course tasting menu featuring the best produce the Mornington Peninsula has to offer.

The Menu

Red Hill Truffle snacks 

Mossy Willow beetroots, goat cheese, macadamia, apple balsamic

Flinders mussel, tartar sauce, beach succulents, sea lettuce crisp

Mushroom Forestry parfait, king oyster, lovage, wombok, shiitake cracker

Tuerong Dorset Down lamb, celeriac, black garlic, kale, pomegranate

Mary's meyer lemon, white chocolate and yuzu cream, verbena, dehydrated honey

Brown butter, slippery jack butterscotch, mandarin leaf ice cream

Time Posted: 12/05/2021 at 4:57 PM Permalink to Good Food Month 2021: Making Waves Permalink
Gabrielle Richardson
16 December 2020 | Gabrielle Richardson

Qantas Travel Insider: This Mornington Peninsula Winery is Making a Grand Comeback


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

Time Posted: 16/12/2020 at 12:45 PM Permalink to Qantas Travel Insider: This Mornington Peninsula Winery is Making a Grand Comeback Permalink

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