Since launching in 2015, Charlotte Dalton has often been synonymous with the well-documented natty wine troop of Basket Range – the thriving little pocket of the Adelaide Hills home to an inordinate number of low-intervention winemakers.
But late last year, Charlotte Hardy (the winemaker behind the label – Dalton is her middle name) upped stumps to the Fleurieu Peninsula, a far cry – and a fair drive – from the tiny Hills enclave where she made her name.
“I didn’t want my name to be known because I lived in Basket Range, I want it to be known for my wines,” Hardy tells Broadsheet. “I did feel I was Charlotte Hardy of Basket Range, whereas I want to be Charlotte Hardy of Charlotte Dalton Wines.”
She and her husband Ben Cooke (of Cooke Brothers Wines) bought a “little shack” in Goolwa and moved there in November with their two young children: Ada, two, and Sam, six months. “It’s incy but it’s warm and it’s cosy, and the beach is right there,” she says with a smile.
“It’s also nice to be away from wine all the time. We were totally submerged in it. Not just [our] stuff but the whole community. And the community was gorgeous … but it’s nice to be able to step back and come here and just concentrate on our stuff. I really miss that crew and that place but I also think there’s such exciting things coming.”
One of those things is a brand new winery and cellar door in Port Elliot’s Factory 9 complex (a little off the main drag). It will be the new home for Charlotte Dalton and Cooke Brothers Wines. Until now the pair had been making their wines “all over the place”, including their old property in Basket Range, Lodestone in Charleston and Sidewood Estate in Nairne.
The new site will be the first cellar door for both brands, but “it was never on the agenda”, says Hardy. “We were having coffee at DeGroot [next-door] and thought, ‘Imagine if there was a shed in here – wouldn’t that be amazing?’ … and it all just fell into place. And then we thought, ‘Woah, cellar door! We can have somewhere where we can connect to people.’.”
The spot they landed, known as “Shed 8”, was previously home to mixed-use creative space The Joinery, which was co-run by Ben Hewett of clothing brand Yeo Haus (now operating on the main strip). Long before that it was occupied by Australian artist David Bromley. When Broadsheet visits, Hardy reveals a couple of Bromley originals still sitting in the warehouse. There are also old, paint-splattered floorboards, which Cooke has set about repurposing for wall cladding, “to tie into the history of the space”, says Hardy.
She and Cooke are sticking with the name The Joinery to reflect the coming together of their wine labels and nod to the venue’s original purpose “way back in time” as a furniture production factory.
The huge warehouse has been split into two areas: a winery out back and cellar door out front. Hardy and Cooke are working on construction themselves, with help from friends and family – including artist and plasterer Saul Matthews, who designs Hardy’s labels.
An existing mezzanine above the winery will be put to good use. “We thought, during vintage, people can sit up there with food and watch us carry on,” says Hardy.
The venue’s licensing category (liquor production and sales) requires they sell food alongside the booze. But don’t expect measly snacks. “There’s so much amazing produce down here, and Ben’s an amazing cook … so we’re going to do different hotpots every weekend,” says Hardy.
“Also there’s … the Hoads [from Hoad Fisheries], over on Hindmarsh Island, and we go there in the morning and meet the boat and buy fresh fish, so we’re going to have that for sale on the weekends. And whatever’s around … cheese … anchovies … just so people can come in and feel comfortable.
“We don’t want to be a ‘come in and taste the wine and we’ll tell you all about it’ [sort of place] ‘cause I fricken hate that. That’s why the back of my labels never tell people what they can taste … We just want to try to keep it as a place where people want to come and hang out rather than being talked at about our wines.
“[And] we want to make sure it’s family-friendly … it’s got to be friendly for them,” she says, pointing to Ada and Sam.
Despite the Fleurieu setting, Hardy’s elegant and expressive wines will still taste of the Hills. Her shiraz, semillon and chardonnay are made with fruit from Oakbank, Balhannah and Lenswood, respectively. But she does have plans to introduce a new rosé with grapes from the coastal region. “I’m keen to do pinot so I have my feelers out – I’m really looking forward to building relationships in the industry down here.”
The New Zealand-born winemaker is also about to release a new incarnation of her Ærkeengel (Danish for “archangel”) semillon called Wahine, which is Maori for “feminine”. Cooke – whose small-batch, single-vineyard wines earned him a spot in the Young Gun of Wine top 50 this year – is gearing up to release his 2018 drops, including a Barossa shiraz and Adelaide Hills cabernet, pinot noir and chardonnay.
“Our philosophies are quite different … our wines are definitely very different,” says Hardy. “Even our branding … mine is very whimsical and pretty and rainbows and Ben’s is just … black and white. Straight to the point,” she adds, with a laugh.
The two are excited to share a space together. “I think it’s great – healthy competition and collaboration,” says Cooke. “Before the kids we used to have a lot of fun with our brands,” adds Hardy. “We were both working full-time, both consulting … and then at nighttime we’d be in the little winery in Basket Range often drinking too much beer and eating pizza. And it was so much fun. And since then our brands have been a little bit separate, so it’s nice to bring them back together … and maybe drink too much beer and eat too much pizza at night time again.”
I float the idea of joining forces on a shared label. Cooke smiles. “I think so… Hopefully this goes really well and we can buy a little vineyard and do a collab.”
The Joinery is expected to open by September.