TOM WARD | Winemaker
Winemaker and Swinging Bridge owner, Tom Ward is a passionate viticulturist and winemaker and prefers to be out amongst his vines rather than talking about his wines, or himself for that matter.
Tom is originally from Canowindra, and a farming family spanning more than 150-years. It was when he turned his attention to the family vineyard, and further afield to the vineyards of the nearby Orange region, that his passion for making premium cool-climate wines took hold.
Over the course of his early career, Tom worked as a viticulturist in Orange across several iconic vineyards at different elevations, working in development and management for one of the industry’s largest viticultural developers. He then went back to university to study wine making, to finesse his skills from vine to wine.
Tom has a vision for excellence and along with the Swinging Bridge viticulture team are constantly walking the vineyards and sweating the details. As Tom says, “It’s all about attention to detail and it starts in the vineyard.”
Tom is ambitious, but not to be the biggest but rather to harness what the region can offer and bring out it’s best by building premium small lots that inspire greatness and resonate a clear focus on fruit quality and vine health.
Tom wouldn’t divulge what his superpower was but if you tasted the Swinging Bridge Mrs Payten Chardonnay or M.A.W Pinot Noir…you would soon know.
Tom is married to Georgie and has two children William and Eliza…all of whom are celebrated in the Winemaker series; G&A Sparkling, William J Shiraz and Eliza Riesling.
For six years, Tom was president of the NSW Wine Industry Association, which brought many opportunities to engage Swinging Bridge with the broader industry. For him, it was also important to give something back, and specifically to do so while he was still young, despite it probably being the hardest time to do it. Tom still sits on the local executive for the Orange Regional Vignerons Association.
“I’ve always been part of the sharing of this industry – it’s an important part of the learning experience and collaboration is what evolves the Australian wine community.”
RHYS BAKER | General Manager | Sommelier | Wholesale
Not every cellar door can boast it has its own on-staff sommelier and we are grateful for the expertise and enthusiasm that Rhys Baker brings to this role at Swinging Bridge.
Rhys started at Swinging Bridge in time for the June long weekend 2020, after having just moved up from Melbourne. Rhys and his wife moved to the region for a few reasons; Laura secured a job at an art gallery in Cowra while Rhys was keen to expand on his past 5 years as a sommelier by becoming better acquainted with a specific wine growing region, and lastly the move would allow them to spend more time with family and enable their one-year old son, Harrison, to enjoy time with his grandparents.
As a sommelier with 10 years’ experience in hospitality Rhys is a valuable member of the Swinging Bridge cellar door team, providing guests with an in-depth experience of both Swinging Bridge wines and the art of wine in general. He also manages the Swinging Bridge wholesale accounts.
Rhys said, “I like working at Swinging Bridge because I think Tom makes good wine, and it’s a good team.”
“It’s pretty fun to be a Sommelier. Obviously, a real passion for wine is required but it is super rewarding. I get to try a huge range of wines from all over the world and see where they fit within the scheme of everything, but most importantly I get to bring amazing stories and delicious wines to my guests. That doesn’t negate all the hard work studying, tasting, and analysing that goes into being a somm though. People think I just sit around drinking wine all the time, if only!”
He also tells us that he has no superpowers “…but I do have a pretty good magic trick where I make wine disappear!”
SIMON KALIS | Chef | and many other things
Simon started at Swinging Bridge full time in February 2020 but came to know Tom while working at Swinging Bridge in October 2019, helping to turn out wood fired pizzas and pairing food items with flavourful wines for Tom’s wine masterclasses.
Simon’s hospitality career as a Chef has spanned 13 years now, working on and off in Sydney, overseas in Scotland, on the New South Wales South Coast and the Yarra Valley in Victoria. Simon says he prefers the pace, fresh air and quiet nature of a country life. Joined by his girlfriend, a Sydney girl her whole life, he proudly boasts how they have said ‘goodbye to the city’.
Working at Swinging Bridge for Tom has been a totally refreshing experience. Simon says “I jokingly consider myself somewhat a semi-retired chef these days in that my weekly schedule includes various elements of vineyard work, pouring and selling wine to our guests, greens keeping, being a handyman, tending to our on-site veggie patch and keeping the bellies full for my much appreciative and fun work colleagues”.
(And yes we, his colleagues, love Simon and his lunchtime surprises.)
In Simon’s time off time he loves exploring the many local forests and waterways, gathering edible mushrooms, herbs and berries to use in his kitchen at Swinging Bridge and harvesting game meat and reeling in a trout or two.
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