meet the team
Led by winemaker and general manager Tom Carson, the Yabby Lake team is a dedicated group of long-standing, passionate wine and hospitality people who bring a raft of expertise to this dynamic operation. We love what we do here at Yabby Lake, and we hope that it shows!
Scroll below to read their stories.
our team - their stories
Winemaker and General Manager
Yabby Lake General Manager and Chief Winemaker, Tom Carson also holds several wine judging roles including his current post as Chairman of the Royal Melbourne Wine Awards. Previously, Tom was the youngest Chairman to preside at The National Wine Show in Canberra, and over the years he has judged at a number of capital city and regional shows, and sat on the Qantas Wine Panel from 2004 until 2015.
Tom graduated from Oenology at Roseworthy Agricultural College in 1991. His first vintages as a winemaker followed at Tim Knappstein in the Clare Valley (1991 & 92) and it was here that Tom discovered the potential for pinot noir in Australia, working with the first two vintages of Lenswood Vineyards Pinot Noir. Tom first travelled to Burgundy in 1992 and in between two consecutive vintages, returned to Australia as assistant winemaker to James Halliday at Coldstream Hills (1993 & 94).
In 1996, Tom took up the opportunity to realise the vision of the Rathbone family, new owners of Yering Station in the Yarra Valley. During his 12 years at the helm, the winery met with significant international acclaim including 'International Winemaker of the Year' at the 2004 International Wine and Spirit Competition in London. During this period, Tom returned to France for several vintages - Burgundy (2000 at Domaine Bernard Moreau in Chassagne Montrachet) and Champagne (1996 at Champagne Devaux, Bar-sur-Seine & 2002 - Les Gras and Haas, Chouilly on the Cote de Blanc). In 2002, Tom was named the Dux of the Len Evans Tutorial which marked the beginning of his wine judging career.
Tom joined Yabby Lake in 2008 and his vision for the direction and potential of Yabby Lake Vineyard and Heathcote Estate has seen some exciting recognition in recent times.
Winemaker and Winery Manager
Chris has been with the Yabby Lake family for 15 years now, with an in depth knowledge of the two vineyard sites and their evolution over this period. Chris’ exposure to the wine industry began at an early age when his grandfather was a grape grower, turned winemaker in the Yarra Valley. From 1993 to 2001 he worked with his family to successfully create a wine and tourism business in the Yarra Valley.
Chris has undertaken a number of overseas vintages including two vintages in Burgundy. His greatest highlight so far was working with Pinot Noir from Vosne Romanee and Gevrey Chambertin. Chris enjoys the nature of winemaking and its constant learning curve. Each vintage is different, and from one vintage to another you accumulate a little bit more knowledge that you can apply to the following year. This is why Chris admires and finds the process of making wine so refreshing - there’s always something new to learn, always an opportunity to better the quality of the wine. Chris’ wine of choice is (you guessed it) pinot noir, and chardonnay his favourite of the white varieties.
Luke has been part of the team at Yabby Lake and Heathcote Estate for more than a decade. Having grown up in the local industry in Heathcote, Luke began his career in the vineyard picking fruit on the weekends whilst he was still at high school. After completing high school, Luke went on to study a Wine Science Degree while continuing to work for us at Heathcote Estate. He has a keen interest in wine show judging and to date has been involved in the Melbourne, Victorian and Heathcote wine shows.
Luke has also completed the AWAC Advanced Wine Sensory Course in Adelaide (2012) and worked five vintages overseas including two vintages in Burgundy (Domaine Bernard Moreau during 2011 and 2013), one in 2009 in the Rhone Valley, France (Saint Joseph) and two at Escarpment in Martinborough, New Zealand. Luke finds inspiration and pride in the ‘grass-roots’ process of creating a wine, guiding its evolution from the bunch of fruit in the very beginning to the end product in the bottle. The additional opportunity for travel is also a bonus and allows him to indulge a great love for pinot noir.
Chef Simon West has been cooking on the Mornington Peninsula for many years and his in-depth understanding of the wines and produce of the region is evident in his ever-changing menu at Yabby Lake. Simon joined the team in late 2014 and brings vast experience in creating food that highlights and complements the purity and character of cool climate wines, and in particular pinot noir and chardonnay.
Simon began his cooking life at Paringa Estate and later at Montalto, where he became sous chef. Simon was then enticed by Tasmania’s incredible produce and moved there in 2004 to Meadowbank Estate in Cambridge, near Hobart, where he attracted much critical acclaim during his tenure. After a five-year stint away, Simon returned home to Port Phillip Estate – where he was appointed head chef for the much-anticipated opening of their stunning new restaurant and cellar door. Prior to his arrival at Yabby Lake, Simon was at nearby Heronswood, home of the renowned Diggers Club, with its incredible kitchen garden and many heirloom varieties.
At Yabby Lake Simon has created a menu that is unpretentious and relaxed, yet there is a beautiful refinement and finesse in its simplicity. This approach provides the perfect environment to explore the individual characteristics of the wines and of course to take in the surrounding vineyard views – a truly wonderful way to spend an afternoon! Simon notes he takes inspiration from the pure, simplicity of the food experiences we often enjoy most when travelling through the wine regions of France or Italy. There is always a strong synergy between the ‘terroir’ of the wine and the food in these great regions, and the marriage of the two is effortless.
This classic approach, and his focus on fresh, seasonal, cool-climate ingredients are two signature elements ever-present while dining at Yabby Lake. Simon’s experience in the region and strong relationships with local food producers allows this philosophy to come to life and makes for a great match with the clarity and sense of place evident in our wines.
Vineyard Manager, Yabby Lake
Baden has been with Yabby Lake since 2017, working initially with Marty Sampson, the long time vineyard manager. Upon Marty’s retirement in late 2020, Baden took on the responsibility of Vineyard Manager. Responsible for the overall management of the property, Baden is hands-on year round throughout the entire process, from pruning in the winter, to guiding the vines through the growing season and of course for harvest. He manages a small permanent team which grows to include a number of contractors at the busy times of the year.
Born to it, Baden’s interest in viticulture began in his childhood, when, during most summers he would be running around the vines of his family’s vineyard on the Mornington Peninsula.
On track to complete his Bachelor of Viticulture from Charles Sturt University in New South Wales, Baden is mixing the theory with the actual.
Of all the varieties under vine at Yabby Lake, Baden’s fav would be Chardonnay and in true MP style, following a close second, Pinot Noir.