Ming Lianto: Cerita Keluarga Pengusaha Wine Dari Hunter Valley

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Winery yang dikelola keluarganya tengah menapaki kesuksesan di benua kangguru ini. Di balik kesuksesan itu tentu ada cerita menarik yang patut dibagikan karena begitu inspiratif. Ming Lianto, menjawab rangkaian pertanyaan dari Indomedia dengan segelas anggur yang setia menemaninya. But, of course!

Lahir di Jakarta tahun 1991, Ming diboyong ke Australia saat berusia empat tahun.
Ia menyelesaikan pendidikan dasar dan tingginya di sini. Berkuliah di UNSW, Ming mengantongi Bachelors of Commerce/Arts, majoring in International Business & Marketing yang kelak sangat berguna bagi kariernya di Hanging Tree, nama winery yang dimiliki keluarganya. Lulus sekolah, ia bekerja penuh waktu selama tiga tahun pertama di Hanging Tree, berkontribusi meletakkan landasan bisnis. Saat ini, ia membagi waktunya untuk bekerja penuh “corporate work” guna belajar hal-hal baru.

Membagi waktunya antara Hunter Valley dan Sydney, Ming menyukai kegiatan luar ruang. Hiking dengan anjing-anjingnya, main tenis, berenang, atau mengeksplorasi ngarai-ngarai yang indah di NSW adalah kegiatan waktu luangnya. Selain itu, Ming juga sibuk bereksperimen dengan pembuatan wine dan menciptakan rangkaian vegan wine-nya.
Ha! Tunggu tanggal mainnya saja, ya! Selagi menunggu, mari simak bincang-bincang Indomedia dengannya. Agar tak hilang ”rasanya”, bincang-bincang ini sengaja tidak diterjemahkan.

How did you acquire the winery? What the reason behind owning a winery
or vineyard? And, how long has your family owned it?

Mum and Dad have been passionate about wine their whole adult life and had started making their own wines as a side hobby since the year 2000. About 10 years later,
they contemplated a “semi-retirement” plan, and bought the Hanging Tree property
in September 2013.

This was the year I was spending a year abroad in Germany – but once landing back in Sydney, I drove straight up to the Hunter Valley late at night. I remember waking up the next morning, seeing the mist rolling through the Brokenback mountain ranges, and the serenity of the kangaroos and the vineyards. It was truly beautiful, and I fell so in love
with it straight away that I decided to stay full-time to help set it up.

Tell us about the Hanging Tree Wines

Set over 40 acres, our grapes are handpicked to produce a variety of sparkling, red,
white, sweet, dessert, and fortified wines. We also have over 300 olive trees which
we use to handcraft olives, tapenades, and oils.

The property itself is teeming with history and rustic charm, with a heritage Blacksmith’s Cottage & Horse Whisperer’s Lodge still standing on-site. The estate was once an old cattle farm, where a particular tree was used by the locals to hang the cattle (and rumoured bush rangers!). This tree still stands at the front of the property and we chose to keep the estate’s name to honour its history.

The cellar door is open daily, 10-5pm. Guests can enjoy a wine tasting, have a picnic or BBQ, enjoy our local cheese platters, and wander through our rose garden, olive grove, veggie garden, and the duck pond. We are family and pet friendly – with our own 3 labradors (Vodka, Muscat, and Bundy), horses, pet guinea fowls, a giant chess board,
and other fun games onsite.

You can also book your next getaway on our vineyard. Our Homestead accommodation comfortably sleeps 8 people in its 4 bedrooms & 4 bathrooms. It has 2 living rooms,
2 stone fireplaces, spacious living areas, and kitchen, BBQ, and a wrap around deck
with 2 sunrooms where you can enjoy watching the sunset over the mountain ranges.

What’s the ups and downs running this kind of business?

The best thing about running a winery is getting to meet so many different people from all over the world and see them enjoy our wine and property. I love being able to experiment with wine and showcase my passion. The wine industry itself is amazingly fun, plus I get
to talk about wine all day, every day!

There are downs in every business and ours is no exception. How much wine we can make is governed by the weather and climate – some years, it has been a big struggle where all our hard work on the vines throughout the year amount to nothing when we face bushfires, hailstorms, and floods. It was also tough going into lockdown with COVID – it made us realise how important e-commerce was, and that was something new to us.

Running your own business is a full-time job, but when it is your passion, it does not feel like work, but a lifestyle – and you learn to love both the ups and downs.

What’s the strategy to be in the business with your family members?
Is it hard to be professional? Personally, how do you manage working with them professionally? And how do you avoid conflict? What’s the best and challenging thing to work with them? In the family, who else involves in Hanging Tree Wines and what are their job?

You can’t avoid emotional conflict, but communication is key. We all have our own strengths and weaknesses, but we leverage this by constructively discussing our ideas together. Most importantly though, we love each other, we have fun, and we respect
each other’s decisions and opinions.

I am the Homestead & Events Manager, looking after the accommodation, running Wine Club member events (like our annual Burning of the Canes bonfire, Olive Harvest Festival etc) and weddings & other functions. On weekends, I am normally out and about – travelling along the East Coast in my van doing wine festivals & shows, running food
& wine pairing events, or private in-home tastings. I also look after the social media marketing and our website.

My sister-in-law, Mavis, also helps with marketing for the Chinese market and is a wine guru! She runs wine education classes, and food & wine pairing experiences down in Sydney.

Venus (Dad) thinks of himself as the property and vineyard care-taker – but in fact, he is the mastermind behind the business! His mind is always stirring with long term plans and ideas, and I am so lucky to be able to learn from him.

Sylvia (Mum) looks after all the finances, the wine production, and all other decisions.
We call her “Sassy Sylvia”, or… “The Boss”!

Hanging Tree was close during lockdown and reopened in June.
Since then the visitors tripled. What have you done to attract people to come?

The Hunter Valley has been bustling since re-opening, as Australians are travelling
in their own states and choosing to support local.

We have been so fortunate with positive word-of-mouth, Google reviews, and Trip Advisor reviews. I think focusing on customer service and memorable experiences where everyone feels welcomed, and are free to relax and wander around, is important.

We also have a strong genuine following on Instagram & Facebook.
Our dogs are also great mascots!

Congratulation on Hanging Tree Wines being honoured for its excellent cellar door attraction, with a ‘Tourism and Hospitality’ award at the Cessnock Customer Service Awards. Can you describe what that means to you as the owner?

The award was given to our Wine Club manager, Ken. He is the happiest, most welcoming person, and his love for people is genuine. He (and the rest of the team) is like family to us – we call him “Uncle Ken”, and we even named a wine after him: “Uncle Ken’s 2019 Shiraz Durif”.

The award means so much to us – we never expected that our little boutique cellar door would get this much recognition and love. It is all thanks to our amazing team and we are so proud of them.

Tell us the best wines of Hanging Tree Wines that make people coming back
for more.

We produce a whole array of wines in an easy-drinking style. This ranges from a classic Hunter Valley Semillon, new-world Chardonnay, big bold reds, sweeter style Shiraz, sparkling Shiraz, to fortified port and muscat.

Our most popular wine is the Sparkling Moscato. We have been making this since our
first year here, and it has always been our most popular wine. It is made in our fruit-driven style with notes of strawberries, lychees, fruit tingles, and toffee apple. It is almost too easy to drink – and can be paired with fruit salads, brunch, spicy Indonesian foods, or by itself on a warm sunny day!

What is you hope and dream in 2021?

My hope is that we can all get past this pandemic together, and for everyone to stay safe. For Hanging Tree Wines, we will continue working tirelessly to produce wines that everyone can enjoy and continue creating a special place where everyone feels welcomed. We look forward to seeing you soon! [IM]

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