A Vintage Career

 - Tim Bracher 


Scratch the surface of most vignerons and there will generally emerge a story infinitely more interesting than what they grow on the vine or create in the barrels.

The vineyards that cover the Peninsula’s hills and dales hold a wealth of backgrounds and experiences concerning their owners.

However, they don’t come much more varied and interesting than that of Andrew Mc Cutcheon - the force behind a Main Ridge wine network, intriguingly called ’10 Minutes by Tractor’.

Wine making is yet another chapter of a life story that criss-crosses careers and countries.

As he prepared to head for Bilbao, Spain in his role as Melbourne representative on the Great Wine Cities of the World, he paused to speak to ‘Peninsula Wine Country’ about his life’s journey.

Andrew was introduced to life on the Peninsula when his father moved the family from South Yarra in 1951. He built one of the country’s first passive solar houses on 20 acres of bushland in Baden Powell Drive, Mt Eliza.

Port Phillip offered a lot more challenge than Albert Park Lake for the young sailing family.

Father and son honed their skills in Flying Fifteens on trips between Mornington and Portsea, before heading interstate to win a handful of Australian titles in the class.

Following in his well-known father’s footsteps, Andrew emerged from Melbourne University during the mid 1950s with an architecture degree and worked on office buildings in Melbourne and Sydney.

Social issues were not just talked about in the strongly Methodist Mc Cutcheon family, but were also acted upon. It was no real surprise, therefore, that, after deciding to study Theology, Andrew took his newly married wife, Vivienne, to work with young people in a depressed South Glasgow parish. During summer months, they headed to West Coast’s Isle of Iona to help restore the crumbling 11th century abbey on the small island so significant in Scottish history and religion.

After two years in Scotland, followed by a course at the World Council of Churches in Geneva, the young Mc Cutcheons headed overland by car back to Australia. Andrew became an ordained minister and they spent most of the 1960s living, working and raising their family in the Housing Commission estates of inner Collingwood.

It was a time of social change in inner Melbourne, when the Government’s Slum Reclamation Act was forcing the break-up of close-knit networks of people, as they were moved to the outer suburbs.

Andrew’s work in assisting the people around him was recognised in 1969 when he was awarded a Churchill Fellowship to study public housing, social planning and urban renewal in Europe and the USA.

Upon return, he used his overseas experience to establish a planning division of his father’s highly regarded architectural firm, Bates Smart McCutcheon. The new venture won favour under the Whitlam Government’s environmental and social justice emphasis. They worked on planning projects with Tom Uren’s Department of Urban Affairs throughout Australia.

During the late 1970s he turned his urban renewal skills to personal advantage when he renovated a couple of Fitzroy terraces, before being invited to be the Tenant Representative for the North Richmond Housing Estate. Helping the Tenants Council pinpoint and address their major problems became his daily activity, until he won ALP pre-selection for St Kilda. He beat Brian Dixon in the crucial seat, to join the inaugural Cain Government in 1983.

Andrew’s social conscience had found early political expression when he was elected to Collingwood Council in 1965. Seventeen years of inner city council representation proved to be a formidable training ground for state politics.

As a backbencher, he chaired Ian Cathie’s Housing Committee and in 1985 was asked to assume his first ministerial portfolio, Water Resources and Administrative Services. During the next eight years, his clear thinking and grass roots understanding of community issues, saw him also assume the portfolios of Ethnic Affairs, Local Government, Planning, Public Works and the Arts.

However, it was his years as Attorney-General that provided the greatest challenges.

“The role had traditionally gone to someone with legal knowledge, so my appointment caused a lot of concern among the establishment.” “They called me the Architect-General, but I think that I was able to bring an objectivity and lay perspective to the very complicated criminal justice system.” “I was concerned that the traditional adversarial court system created winners and losers, and therefore engendered a lot of destructive feeling in the community.” “I not only looked for ways to better manage the system, but actively sought ways to resolve issues.” “We increased the experimentation with neighbourhood dispute resolution processes to keep people out of the courts.” “We also looked for ways to better detect abuses and to streamline procedures, so that people didn’t get lost within the system.” He also fondly remembers the reform achievements during his period as Minister for Planning and Urban Growth.

“It was a really genuine effort to harness and better coordinate the various government areas which had a role in community planning: health, education, roads, public transport and local government.” “It was an interesting but huge task to brow-beat the separate bureaucracies into giving up a little bit of power and working together.” “We had achieved a break-through using this approach to tackling the salinity problem, but ultimately it was very difficult to break the stranglehold of the empires. Shifting the juggernauts took longer than we had.” After politics, Andrew and Vivienne began thinking about the 15 acres of pasture they had owned for years at Main Ridge.

They planted it out with vines in 1993 and Andrew made use of his skills and knowledge to assist the Mornington Peninsula Vignerons Association (MPVA), the Victorian Wine Industry Association (VWIA) and the Peninsula’s regional tourism body.

While he was serving on the VWIA, Melbourne was approached by Bordeaux to become a member of the Great Wine Capitals of the World.

“Bordeaux was searching the world looking for new recruits, which was recognition that the old players recognised that the New World was doing some things differently and better than they had traditionally done.” “Melbourne was invited, rather than Adelaide, because we are well ahead in terms of being a ‘world city’ and we’re surrounded by some marvellous wine regions.” Andrew heads the Melbourne division of the eight city network:

Bordeaux, Florence, Porto, San Francisco, Santiago, Melbourne, Cape Town and Bilbao.

The network emphasises the development of trade, winery tourism and education. Its website (www.greatwinecapitals.com) is managed by Andrew’s Melbourne team.

With strong backing from John Brumby’s Department of Innovation, Industry and Regional Development, Melbourne will host the 2004 Assembly. It will be a major opportunity to showcase the Australian and Victorian wine industry. The Mornington Peninsula is likely to be one of the field-trips for the gathering.

Even within the midst of all his external activity, Andrew Mc Cutcheon still manages to run a successful wine operation.

A feasibility study he commissioned in 1996 showed that 15 acres did not constitute a viable wine business. Again, calling upon his lateral thinking, he invited other small nearby operators to join him in a cooperative.

The three family cooperative shares knowledge, machinery, promotion and the wine making skills of Ric McIntyre (pinot noir and chardonnay) and Alex White (sauvignon blanc and pinot gris).

“We met one day to discuss a joint name.

Someone described themselves as being about ’10 minutes by tractor’ away from the others, so the name seemed appropriate, marketable and it has stuck.” The first vintage under the name was released in

2000 and you can now either buy their wine in

80-90 restaurants or through the cellar door facility and café in Roberts Road, Main Ridge.

Their recently introduced ‘Mornington Peninsula Discovery Lunches’ are offered on selected weekends throughout the year.

The progressive meal combines 10 Minute by Tractor wines with local cheeses, terrines, provincial casseroles, strawberry desserts and farm made ice cream, finished with coffee and Sunny Ridge strawberry liquor.

Contact: Ten Minutes by Tractor Wine Co.
Cellar Door - Roberts Rd, Main Ridge Ph: 5989
6084 www.tenminutesbytractor.com.au/

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