Current Issue #477

Inside Charlotte Hardy's Fleurieu sea change and new cellar door

Jonathan van der Knaap
Charlotte Hardy and Ben Cooke

Just shy of a year since her Hot 100 Wines win, the winemaker behind Charlotte Dalton Wines has swapped the Adelaide Hills for the coastal community of Port Elliott.

“We bought a shack down here a few years ago and used to come down for the weekends, and once we had kids it became really hard to leave,” Hardy tells The Adelaide Review. “We moved into the shack last November, just before our second child Sammy was born. Just for a change – a real proper sea change.”

Hardy and Cooke initially planned to commute back and forth from the Adelaide Hills where their respective winemaking operations Charlotte Dalton Wines and Cooke Brothers Wines were based. Once the pair made the initial leap, however, the pull of the coast ensnared their work lives too.

“As soon as we moved everything started falling into place. Before we were living in Basket Range, making a little bit of wine in the shed and using other wineries as well because we couldn’t make our whole production in the shed. We were spread really thinly.

“Then we moved down here and suddenly the shed became available at The Joinery, and everything’s in one place. It’s just nice to have everything together. I really miss the hills, and miss all our friends… but it’s not like we’ve moved to Mars.”

Jonathan van der Knaap

A 200m² space set among a hub of Port Elliott creatives and producers such as De Groot Coffee Co., their new home at The Joinery allows Charlotte Dalton and Cooke Brothers to overlap in new and complementary ways. “We’ve played around in the shed with some collaborations before, but we haven’t put our separate brands in the same place,” she says. “It will be interesting because we’re very different winemakers, but we’ll be each other’s labour, so to speak.”

The pair’s new set-up also gives them the flexibility to navigate the structural challenges and labour demands that make winemaking and parenting an often-difficult combination – particularly for women in the industry. “It was really important for me that my brand could survive having children – it is really hard to have a family in the industry because the hours are demanding,” she says. “I had to leave my employment as a winemaker because I couldn’t work 14 hours anymore, so this has made it accessible for both of us; we can keep our businesses, we share all of the childcare and all of the work.

“I feel so lucky, I don’t know any other business that’s been able to do it, and it’s allowed both our brands to grow, because our 100 per cent focus has been on our family and our brands. It’s like everything fell into place.”

Jonathan van der Knaap
Hardy and Cooke with their children Ada Pixie and Sammy (and dog Keith)

With walls flecked with coloured paint from its original occupant, the artist David Bromley, the new digs will also include a cellar door – a first for Charlotte Dalton Wines that came as a suggestion from the local council. “It wasn’t even on the radar for us,” she says. “We thought, hell, why not, and now we’re really excited.”

The relaxed, pool-table-inclusive outlet encompasses both Charlotte Dalton Wines and Cooke Brothers Wines, with the pair hoping to dispense with any “wine wankery” to instead focus on making sure no one who walks through the door feels awkward or out of their depth.

“Ben has said right from the start that he wants people to come in here and drink their coffee and read the newspaper,” she says. “Obviously, we’re there and we’re excited for the opportunity to talk to people about the wine, because we don’t often get to be on the front line. That’s exciting, but more than that we just want it to be a comfortable place.”

Eleven months on, Hardy’s 2018/19 Hot 100 Wines win for her 2018 Charlotte Dalton Wines Eliza Pinot Noir alongside the family’s seaside upheaval has made for a whirlwind year. “What a rollercoaster!” she reflects on the win. “It was such a shock, I almost didn’t come – it was 45 degrees and I was nine months pregnant!”

Hardy graces the cover of our January edition
Sia Duff
Hardy on the cover of our January edition
Jonathan van der Knaap

“[The win] really gave me confidence in my winemaking, confidence in my brand… and then the Pinot sold out in five seconds flat which was just amazing. It’s such a wonderful award, and having been a judge for 2019/20 last week, it’s just so nice to get different people involved on the judging panel rather than a classic wine show with all professionals. It’s so flattering to be rewarded by that broad range of palates, rather than just professionals who are looking for technically correct wines.

“I now know that the next person who wins gets to have the amazing 12 months that I’ve just had – it probably made me take it more seriously. The next person has huge opportunities in front of them… so you’ve got to make it count!”

And, while Hardy’s new base is on the coast, the heart of Charlotte Dalton Wines remains in the Adelaide Hills soil that underpinned her celebrated Pinot. “I still work with the same growers, if I lost any of them I would be heartbroken. That’s the basis of my brand, so moving location and wineries, that won’t have any impact on the wine whatsoever other than the fact that it’s easier because it’s all in place.

“I probably will try and make a Rosé from down here because I’d really like to get involved in the local industry, but I’ll never leave the hills – it’s the best place on earth, and the growers I work with are the best on earth. In my opinion!

The Joinery opens to the public on Sunday 10 November

The Joinery
Shed 8, Factory 9
89 Hill Street, Port Elliot

Open Friday – Monday, 10am – 3pm

charlottedaltonwines.com.au
cookebrotherswines.com

Related Article

Hot 100 Wines: Charlotte Hardy is all about the paddock

Walter Marsh

Walter Marsh

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Walter is a writer and editor living and working on Kaurna Country, and The Adelaide Review’s Digital Content Producer.

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