Following two vintages at The Lane, Hardy’s next step was a less conventional one – she started up and operated a mobile wine laboratory to provide speedy chemical analysis services to Hills winemakers. The business was a success, although Hardy herself decided to take a back seat.
“I did it for a couple of years, but it turned out that I just hated lab work,” she says. “I have so much admiration for people who have so much focus and concentration, but there’s no creativity in it whatsoever; if you’re being creative, you’re doing it wrong, so I went back to work making wine.”
Hardy took up residence in Basket Range in 2000, initially house-minding but then moving into a rented historic property, where she has since been making wine in an on-site shed using grapes purchased from local growers. “I’ve always bought from the same people: the Deans, the Downers and the Goldings,” she says.
She got into making Pinot right from the start.
“Pinot is so interesting and so polarising,” Hardy says. “I find people are either completely mad for it or they just don’t like it.”
“It can also be made in very different ways, and it’s a huge challenge, because it’s really easy to make dry red wine out of Pinot. By the time it gets to the bottle, it’s easy to bash all the Pinot characters out of it.”
Hardy says retaining the wine’s so-called “Pinosity” – its intrinsic perfume and varietal character – becomes the name of the game.
“I’m really mindful of respecting the fruit for Pinot, so I don’t really do anything to it,” she says. “I bring it in, stick it in the fermenter and wrap it up in dry ice and leave it, and press it 13 days later. I use whole bunches, but I don’t ever punch down or pump over because I just don’t want to extract the green stalkiness. I like whole bunches because I like the idea of there being tens of thousands of tiny little ferments in those berries.