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The Kirby Family

The Mornington Peninsula has long been a place of familiarity for founders of Yabby Lake Robert and Mem Kirby. It was only natural with the couples vast knowledge of the region and their great passion and love of food and wine that by the early 1990s the time was right to go about developing their vision of producing an iconic Australian family wine business.

Today, the family legacy continues with the second generation, children Nina and Clark carrying on the tradition of entrusting talented people - some of the industry's best - to deliver their vision for exceptional Australian wine.

"For everyone at Yabby Lake, the wine making is all about persistence and vigilance, coupled with a deep-seated passion for making supreme wine.  Of course you also need a seriously good dose of patience and humour, and that's just the starting point. Then you need to add the creative elements-the sense of adventure, the intuitive approach, the thirst to progress and to continually perfect." The Yabby Lake Team

  • Tom Carson

    Tom Carson

    Since stomping grapes as a child in Heathcote, General Manager and Chief Winemaker of the Yabby Lake stable, Tom Carson has come full circle.

    Tom Carson, the youngest Chairman to preside at The National Wine Show in Canberra, Panel Chair at The Royal Sydney Wine Show and a member of the Qantas wine panel - 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 much 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.

      
  • Keith Harris

    Keith Harris

    The founding Vineyard Manager of Yabby Lake, Keith retains intimate knowledge of each and every vine established more than a decade ago.

    Keith realised his calling for viticulture more than 20 years ago after carving out a successful career in sales and marketing. His wine story began in the vineyards of Hoddles Creek in the Yarra Valley after a freak hail storm on his own property wiped out his orchards and led him to help out his neighbours with their crop - which happened to be pinot noir and chardonnay grapes. Very soon it became clear that his instinct and passion for viticulture would make him a pivotal part of the vineyard's success and later, he would go onto play an integral role in the hand over, training and development of staff with new owners BRL Hardy.

    In 1997, Keith accepted the opportunity to join the Kirby family and their team as they set about the establishment of Yabby Lake. The opportunity also allowed him to settle in the Mornington Peninsula, where his own extended family had settled years before. Keith has been with Yabby Lake since day one - from soil surveys, clonal selection and planting to the hand-nurturing of each vine season after season.

    From the beginning, Keith has fostered the winery's philosophy to produce the best quality fruit possible, applying all the necessary principles to make the fruit as good as it can possibly be. Despite early success, he believes we have yet to see the best the vineyards can deliver.

     
  • Chris Forge

    Chris Forge

    At Heathcote Estate since the first vintage, Chris lends consistency and experience as winery manager and winemaker. Chris's exposure to the wine industry began at an early age when his grandfather was a grape grower in the Yarra Valley. From 1993 to 2001 he worked with his family to create a successful winery tourism business in the Yarra Valley. Chris has been the winery manager and winemaker at Heathcote Estate since the first vintage in 2002.

    Each vintage presents a unique set of climate and vineyard conditions, as a result the growing and harvesting season is the most exciting time of the year for Chris. Chris's interest in the industry has seen him undertake a viticultural tour of Spain and Portugal with Dr Richard Smart and an extensive wine tour of France.

     
  • Alistair Bennallack

    Alistair Bennallack

    In his role as Director - Business Affairs for the Kirby Family, Alistair has been involved with the development of the Yabby Lake wine business since day one.

    As a Chartered Accountant with over 18 years experience in the finance, entertainment and wine industries, Alistair is involved at an executive level with all aspects of the Yabby Lake business.

    Alistair has played a key role in bringing the Kirby Family’s vision for Yabby Lake to life – from the planting of the first vineyard more than 12 years ago to our position today as an international business constantly developing innovative ways to take our wines to the world.

     
  • Vin Harrop

    Vin Harrop

    Vin brings extensive international and local experience to his role of Vineyard Manager Heathcote Estate. Vin grew up on a farm in Central Victoria and from an early age sought a career in the agriculture and horticulture industry. He developed an interest in grape growing and the world of wine through family friends who own a vineyard and winery in Rutherglen. He started his career at Bendigo Wine Estate where he spent six years as a viticulturist and assisted as vintage cellar hand at the company's contracted winery.

    In 2002, Vin received Graduate Honours for a Diploma of Horticulture (Production) Viticulture from The University of Melbourne. In 2004/2005 Vin undertook vintage at Domaine Chevrot et Fils, Burgundy, France. Whilst travelling through Europe he visited some of the world's renowned wine regions including Rhone Valley, Bordeaux, Rioja, Tuscany, Umbria and Alsace. For the past eighteen months, Vin has been Vineyard Manager at Heathcote Estate.

     
  • Tiffyn Smillie

    As Marketing Manager, Tiffyn is responsible for the brand marketing and communications across all three wine labels in our stable. Tiffyn began working in the wine industry a decade ago and is an active and passionate ambassador of the Yabby Lake wines and the wine industry in general. A graduate of RMIT, Tiffyn's past experience includes marketing and communications roles for the Rathbone Wine Group and strategic marketing and brand communications specialists Dig Marketing Group. She is also an alumni of the Wine Communicators of Australia Guns to Gurus program.

     
     
  • Erin Taylor

    Erin Taylor

    As Export and Production Coordinator, Erin plays an integral role in Yabby Lake's expanding export business. Erin coordinates the day-to-day logistics of the export operation. From wine allocations, order entry, all elements of customer fulfilment to compliance and export logistics, dry-goods procurement and administration. Her experience in the accounting and export department of a leading Australian wine exporter has added specialist knowledge to her Bachelor's Degree in Business. As an avid pinot noir drinker, Erin has found a perfect fit - for her career and cellar.

     
  • Larry McKenna

    Larry McKenna

    Winemaker and founder of Escarpment with Robert and Mem Kirby, Larry has firmly established himself as a leading winemaker in Martinborough and is particularly renowned and respected as one of New Zealand's pre-eminent Pinot Noir winemakers. Referred to by various wine writers and authorities as the 'Prince of Pinot Noir', Larry has built a solid reputation for understanding and gaining the best out of this typically stubborn and capricious grape and has played an integral role in helping shape the development of pinot noir in New Zealand.

    Born and bred in Adelaide, Australia he graduated from Roseworthy Agricultural College in 1976 and has nearly three decades of winemaking experience under his belt. After travelling for a stint through Europe, he 'cut his teeth' with fellow Roseworthy student, John Hancock, at Delegat's Wine Estate in Auckland, New Zealand. In 1986, Larry left Auckland to take up the position of CEO/Winemaker at Martinborough Vineyard in the Wairarapa region. From 1986 to 1999 he grew this company from 20 to 160 tonnes and firmly put Martinborough Vineyard and himself on the world map as one of the pre-eminent New World Pinot Noir producers and winemakers.

     
  • Fab Nicolao

    Fab Nicolao

    Working with the Kirby family businesses since 2004, Fab works with Yabby Lake on sales and marketing strategies and maintaning distributor relationships, both within Australia and overseas.

    After training in accounting at Latrobe University, Fab soon launched a career in the restaurant industry and owned and operated Arrivederci Restaurant on the Gold Coast from 1983 to 1989. After succesfully establising the restaurant in Queensland, he moved south and ran the Melbourne restaurant of the same name from 1990 to 2004.

    In 2004, Fab began consulting to Village Roadshow on food and beverage for Gold Class, including the food and beverage direction for expansion to the US, and is now the Village Roadshow Food and Beverage Director.

    Since 2006, Fab has concurrently worked on sales and marketing strategies for Yabby Lake, for both domestic and export markets, and plays a key role in maintaining distributor relationships in both markets.