LEIGH CLARNETTE, CHIEF WINEMAKER
A graduate from South Australia’s Roseworthy College, Leigh Clarnette began his winemaking career in 1984 at Millers Chateau Yarrinya in the Yarra Valley (now known as DeBortolli’s). In 1986, he became one of Tarrawarra Estate’s first winemakers, and was part of the team that produced the quality sparkling wine base for Domaine Chandon’s first venture in the Yarra Valley.
In 1990, Padthaway Estate in South Australia was calling. Leigh was instrumental in setting up the first winery in the district, installing the first traditional wooden Champagne press in Australia housed in a refurbished woolshed.
Leigh returned to Victoria in 1993 and continued specialising in sparkling wines at Seppelt Great Western for the next six years, winning several trophies on the wine show circuit. The 1995 Seaview Chardonnay Blanc de Blanc won Best Sparkling in Decanter magazine, while his 1996 Seppelt Great Western Vineyards Shiraz and Chalambar Shiraz were both Jimmy Watson runner-ups.
In 1999, Leigh joined McPherson Wines in Nagambie as Chief Winemaker. He designed and set up a new bottling facility, paving the way today for the winery to produce two million cases per year.
Leigh continued to consult through the Nagambie area until 2003, and then moved over to the Pyrenees region as Chief Winemaker at Taltarni’s Clover Hill Vineyard. Between 2003 and 2006 he created Taltarni's Heathcote Shiraz, which won several gold medals and was the driving force behind the Three Monks concept, now one of Taltarni’s leading brands.
In 2006, the opportunity at Montara presented itself and Leigh was appointed chief winemaker, where he continues to utilise his vast experience and share his passion for creating beautiful wines from high quality fruit.
Image: Marcus Thomson Photography
SIMON FENNELL, ASSISTANT WINEMAKER
Simon joined the Montara team after almost 20 years in the wine and brewing industries.
Being born and bred in the Penola/Coonawarra region, wine was the inevitable vocation of choice. After completing studies in Horticulture, he cut his teeth in the vineyards and cellars of Coonawarra.
After four years with the Southcorp Wine Company, Simon went on to manage and establish a 100 acre vineyard in Wrattonbully for Glenhurst Wines. Following this position, he studied further in the area of brewing science before spending four years brewing and consulting in the emerging craft beer science. Employers and consulting customers included Lawrence Victor Estate Brewery, Steam Exchange Brewery, Bridge Road Brewers, and Barossa Valley Brewing.
The wine bug bit once more in 2009, and Simon returned to Coonawarra to take up a laboratory role with Penley Estate, working for one of Coonawarra's finest producers.
Simon became a Victorian for the first time in 2012, crossing the border to take on an Assistant Winemaker role at the iconic Bests Wines, Great Western. He worked alongside the Thomson family and Senior Winemaker Justin Purser in creating multiple trophy and award winning wines from the Grampians region.
In May 2016, Simon was appointed Assistant Winemaker at Montara, working with industry veteran Leigh Clarnette. “I have always liked the Montara site,” says Simon. “With mature vineyards pushing 40 years of age, a wonderful aspect, and an amazing lineage of winemaking excellence in the Grampians region, I am really excited about contributing to the ongoing evolution and development of the Montara Wines brand.”
In his spare time, Simon enjoys playing the piano in local soul/funk band Orange Whip, barracking for the mighty Geelong Cats, and spending time with his wife Ro and children Gretta and Jono.