James Halliday Top 100 Wines of 2020
Red Claw is the second label of Yabby Lake, one of the finest producers on the Mornington Peninsula. The Red Claw Pinot Noir is made in a similar way to the Yabby Lake Single Vineyard Pinot Noir, but in a more approachable style that is ready to drink on release. It's still elegant and refined but the emphasis is on bright, juicy fruit that is more expressive when young. Arguably the best value Pinot Noir produced on the Mornington Peninsula.
"Hand picked and sorted, open-fermented with 25% whole bunches, matured in used French puncheons. Bright crimson-purple; the fragrant bouquet weaves a tapestry of red berry blossom with a darker note picked up on the complex palate and its long finish." James Halliday
"Hand picked and sorted, open-fermented with 25% whole bunches, matured in used French puncheons. Bright crimson-purple; the fragrant bouquet weaves a tapestry of red berry blossom with a darker note picked up on the complex palate and its long finish. Drink to: 2029; Price: $30.00; Date Tasted: Nov 2020; Alcohol: 14%." James Halliday - 95 points, Top 100 Wines for 2020 and Special Value Wine ★
"Medium ruby core to a brick-red rim. A subdued nose, black cherry and some undergrowth noted. What the nose may lack the palate more than makes up for. Concentrated black cherry fruit and dark loam savoury elements fill the mouth. Definitely in the fuller spectrum for the variety but has a glide and drive which speaks of much higher priced examples. It lingers long with a fine and dry tannin profile. Drink 2021-2026." Stuart Knox - 92 points
James Halliday Top 100 Wines of 2020
Special Value Wine - Halliday Wine Companion ★
Tom Carson is widely regarded as one of the top winemakers in Australia. Tom graduated as winemaker in 1991 and began his career with Tim Knappstein in Clare, where he met his wife Nadège. It was here that Tom discovered the potential for pinot noir in Australia, working with the first two vintages of Lenswood Vineyards Pinot Noir. He then moved to the Yarra Valley, where he worked at Coldstream Hills as assistant winemaker to James Halliday in 1992 and 1993, then Yarra Edge and finally Yering Station in 1996.
The historic Yering Station was purchased by the Rathbone family in 1996 and is also the site of the Yarrabank joint venture with French Champagne house Devaux. Tom worked at Yering Station for 12 years, helping put the winery on the map and the Rathbone family realise their vision. He produced many outstanding wines from a number of grape varieties during his tenure, but perhaps his greatest success was the creation of the Reserve Shiraz Viognier, which swept all before it in wine competitions in the early 2000s. Carson was also named 'International Winemaker of the Year' at the 2004 International Wine and Spirit Competition in London.
During the first stages of his career Carson also worked five vintages in France, three in Burgundy and a couple in Champagne. These included vintage at Champagne Devaux in 1996 and vintage at Burgundy with Bernard Moreau in Chassagne Montrachet in 2000. Carson said what he learnt in Burgundy was "respect for the land and the vineyard. The time-honoured wealth of knowledge in Burgundy is something you can't pick up in a four week vintage. It comes from generations of farming. But it puts some perspective on what we're doing in Australia. We can't rush it.”
In 2002, Tom was named the Dux of the Len Evans Tutorial. "There have been many impressive performances at the Len Evans Tutorials which would have impressed even the great man himself – whose palate memory was legendary. But Tom Carson's feat at the second tutorial in 2002 is probably the stand-out. He correctly identified the six Domaine de la Romanée-Conti grand cru vineyards blind, a feat that was all the more impressive as every wine was from a different vintage." Huon Hooke, The Real Review.
This event also marked the beginning of Carson's wine judging career. He become the youngest Chairman to preside at The National Wine Show in Canberra and over the years has judged at a number of capital city and regional shows. He is currently Chairman of the Royal Melbourne Wine Awards.
In 2008, Tom Carson left Yering Station and was appointed General Manager and Chief Winemaker of Kirby Family Vineyards, owners of Yabby Lake on the Mornington Peninsula. His arrival added lustre to the winery and its wines. Yabby Lake has afforded him the perfect opportunity to explore his passion for chardonnay and pinot noir, and under his helm, Yabby Lake has scaled new heights with these two Burgundy grape varieties. One of his major claims to fame was in 2013 when he became the first winemaker to win the coveted Jimmy Watson trophy at the Melbourne Wine Show with a pinot noir, the 2012 Yabby Lake Block 1 Pinot Noir.
While working on his day jobs over the years at Yering Station and Yabby Lake, Carlson managed to find time to start his own wine Yarra Valley label Serrat. He and his wife Nadège planted their first hectare with Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Viognier in 2002, followed by a second block of Shiraz in 2003. Further plantings of a range of varietals took place in 2007, 2010, 2016 and 2017. James Halliday awarded the 2014 Serrat Shiraz Viognier his Wine of the Year in 2014 and it would be fair to say that the Serrat yearly release is one of the most anticipated events in the wine calendar for wine cognoscenti. In addition, Carson was named the 2023 Halliday Wine Companion Awards Viticulturist of the Year, an award that celebrates the individual whose wines in that year's Companion most fully exemplify best practices in the vineyard.
About the winery
Tom Carson (winemaker) and Keith Harris (viticulturist)
Yabby Lake is one of the finest producers on the Mornington Peninsula, renowned for producing impeccably balanced premium wines from Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Syrah that are highly expressive of variety and site. Business couple Robert and Mem Kirby, who had been landowners in the Mornington Peninsula for decades, established Yabby Lake Vineyard in 1998.
The Kirby's located and planted the vineyard in the sub-region of Mooroduc, one of the lower-lying areas of the Mornington Peninsula with an altitude between 40 and 91 metres. Today it comprises 50 hectares of vineyard, which is mapped in detail into 33 sub-blocks. The main focus at Yabby Lake is on the Single Vineyard range, sourced from the best fruit grown in the vineyard, and the flagship Single Block wines (about 250-case bottlings). In addition, they also produce an earlier drinking range of wines under the second label Red Claw, which can incorporate some bought-in fruit.
The Kirby's established the north-facing Yabby Lake Vineyard under the direction of viticulturist and vineyard manager Keith Harris, who continues today to excel in the role. From the very 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.
Larry McKenna, founding winemaker and CEO of Escarpment Wines in Martinborough New Zealand, oversaw the early vintages. Renowned Mornington Peninsula winemaker Tod Dexter was later employed in 2004, applying his specialist knowledge of the region. Then in 2008, Tom Carson left Yering Station and was appointed General Manager and Chief Winemaker of the Yabby Lake stable. Yabby Lake has afforded him the perfect opportunity to explore his passion for chardonnay and pinot noir, and under his helm, Yabby Lake has scaled new heights with these two Burgundy grape varieties. One of his major claims to fame was in 2013 when he became the first winemaker to win the coveted Jimmy Watson trophy at the Melbourne Wine Show with a pinot noir, the 2012 Yabby Lake Block 1 Pinot Noir.
In 2008, Robert and Mem handed control of the family's vineyards and brands to their children Nina and Clark, who carry on the tradition of entrusting some of the industry's most experienced wine professionals to deliver the Kirby family vision of producing exceptional Australian wine.
Yabby Lake purchased a vineyard in the heart of the Coal River Valley in late 2022, expanding its footprint to Tasmania. The 12-hectare property already has five hectares planted to 80% pinot noir and 20% chardonnay, with a further five hectares ready for planting. Tom Carson says the purchase is a strategic long-term investment in Tasmania and in the potential of Pinot Noir in that state; "For Yabby Lake it extends our commitment as Pinot Noir specialists in Australia." The fruit from the 2023 harvest will be transported to Yabby Lake for winemaking.
Victoria is home to more than 800 wineries across 21 wine regions. The regions are Alpine Valley, Beechworth, Bendigo, Geelong, Gippsland, Glenrowan, Goulburn Valley, Grampians, Heathcote, Henty, King Valley, Macedon Ranges, Mornington Peninsula, Murray Darling, Pyrenees, Rutherglen, Strathbogie Ranges, Sunbury, Swan Hill, Upper Goulburn and Yarra Valley.
Victoria's first vines were planted at Yering in the Yarra Valley in 1838. By 1868 over 3,000 acres had been planted in Victoria, establishing Victoria as the premier wine State of the day. Today, the original vineyards planted at Best's Wines are among the oldest and rarest pre-phylloxera plantings in the world.
Victoria's climate varies from hot and dry in the north to cool in the south and each wine region specialises in different varietals. For example, Rutherglen in the north is famous for its opulent Muscats and Topaque and bold reds, while the many cooler climate regions near Melbourne produce world class Chardonnay and pinot Noir. Victoria is truly a wine lover's playground.