While Covid lockdowns have paused the restaurant side of things, wineries still need to go about the job of producing wine. Vines still need to be pruned, soil health needs to be maintained and wine still needs to be bottled. We spoke with Tony Lee co-founder and winemaker at Foxey’s Hangout to see how things are faring on the Mornington Peninsula.
“Our work hasn’t changed much. All our full-time staff are continuing to come to work because we are working in vineyards. It’s just that we don’t have any customers. We went through last winter pruning our vineyards with our full-time restaurant staff, so they’re getting pretty good at it. The difference is last year we had JobKeeper.”
Aside from the obvious issue of revenue, Tony cites the challenge of maintaining a connection to his customers when they’re no longer walking through the door each weekend.
We work to communicate with them by email, by phone, by social media because when we re-open, everyone from Melbourne is going to want to come back to the Mornington Peninsula. From Christmas till June this year, we were busier than we’ve ever been and that will happen again this summer if we get open.
“We’ve also been talking with our restaurant customers and while last year there was light at the end of the tunnel, there’s not that same view this time. We’ve been trying to cheer them up with a few bottles of new vintages to take home and drink. I think there was more joy last year than this lockdown.”
Tony’s background as a chef is on display when pressed to nominate what it is he’s currently missing most. “I miss the camaraderie of doing service on a weekend. We have a strong connection with our staff. We all start at the same time in the morning, do mise-en-place together, and at 11 o’clock when we open everyone goes to their section. At the end of the day, we all sit down and have a meal together, then clean up and then finish together. It’s the starting together, having a meal together and finishing together that builds that extra-ordinary camaraderie and we all miss that.”
Of course, there are some silver linings to be found in the endless rounds of lockdowns. “We have lots of wine-training sessions, wine-tasting sessions and wine-drinking sessions. We’re constantly thinking and talking about wine and our staff are getting better and better at communicating about wine.”
To close, we share some wise words from a hospitality veteran of 40 years – “It’ll be a beautiful summer down here on the Peninsula when people are let out. All the restaurants will be full which is good because they’ve been closed for a long time. But there are places that are doing it hard and I’d like to encourage everyone to keep supporting a restaurant or winery that you love. Buy some takeaway food or some wine. Some industries are having a good pandemic but hospo is one that is doing it tough and I think it’s the support from loving customers is what’s getting a lot of people through.”
WHAT: Foxey’s Hangout
WHERE: 795 White Hill Rd, Red Hill
WHEN: Open 7 days 11am – 5pm wine sales and tasting, lunch Friday – Monday
MORE INFO: Foxey’s Hangout